St. Helens held on to deny Salford Red Devils a last minute game-winning try, to take the two points with a 14-10 victory at the Totally Wicked Stadium tonight.
Salford edged close to scoring early on, catching Saints on the back-foot. Jack Ormondroyd showed fantastic agility for a 6ft4 prop to break the Saints line down the middle before he was brought down 20 metres out. On the last, Croft fancied his chances and went for the try-line but was halted just metres from the line.
In the 6th minute Jack Welsby saw yellow for kicking the ball away in what appeared to be frustration, after neither him or his supporting teammates could reach a grubber kick that had been sent into Salford’s left corner.
Salford struggled to make use of the extra man whilst Welsby was off, but do strike just a few minutes after he returns to the field through Morgan Escare. The Frenchman, on his 150th Super League appearance, weaves through the Saints right flank to ground the ball to the right of the sticks.
The hosts finally breach the Salford line in the 26th minute with some fast hands down the right that opened up a gap for Ben Davies to stroll through.
Former Red Devil Joey Lussick came on in the 28th minute to replace the injured Jonny Lomax, and had an instant impact. The hooker sent a grubber kick towards the in-goal area that was deflected into the path of Welsby, gifting him a simple try.
Salford were awarded a penalty seconds before the half-time hooter and opted for the two, but the conversion was missed by Chris Atkin.
Half-time: St. Helens 10-6 Salford Red Devils
The first twenty minutes of the second forty was a real arm wrestle as both sides tussled for a grip of the game.
Just before the hour mark, Danny Addy made a dart for the try-line down the left flank and although he was met by a handful of Saints players, he was able to offload to the supporting Matt Costello to go over in the left corner against his old side.
Just after the hour mark, a high tackle on Ken Sio caused a scuffle between both sides, which led to Amir Bourouh and Mark Percival both seeing yellow.
With ten minutes to go, Addy was penalised for a high tackle. With the scores level at 10-10, the hosts opted for the two and nudged in front thanks to Tommy Makinson’s successful conversion.
Four minutes later, Salford are penalised again in a similar position and Makinson sent over another successful penalty-goal.
Just before the final hooter, Chris Atkin intercepted a Saints pass and ran almost the length of the field but he was brought down inches away from the try-line by Morgan Knowles, denying Salford an almost certain two points in spectacular fashion.
Welsby then received his second yellow of the game for holding Atkin down for too long, which allowed the Saints players a few more seconds to get back on their line, catch their breath and hold on to the win.
Paul Rowley’s side, which was missing the likes of Ryan Brierley, Marc Sneyd and Elijah Taylor, can be pleased with what was a highly spirited perfomance against the defending Betfred Super League champions.
St. Helens: Hopoate, Makinson, Davies, Percival, Simm, Welsby, Lomax, Walmsley, Roby, Lees, Royle, Batchelor, Knowles, Mata’utia, Lussick, McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Paasi
Salford: Escare, Sio, Cross, Costello, Williams, Croft, Atkin, Johnson, Bourouh, Ormondroyd, Addy, Watkins, Lannon, Ackers, Akauola, Gerrard, Vuniyayawa.
St. Helens tries: Davies (26′), Welsby (28′)
St. Helens goals: Makinson (1/2)
St. Helens penalty goals: Makinson (2/2)
Salford tries: Escare
Salford goals: Atkin (1/2)
Salford penalty goals: Atkin (0/1)
Referee: Chris Kendall
Image credit: Steve McCormick