Gareth O’Brien helped the Red Devils get off off the mark in 2017 with a 22-point haul in a thrilling 30-20 win over Huddersfield.
The full-back scored two of the Red Devils’ four tries and kicked seven goals from as many attempts to almost single-handedly condemn the Giants to defeat in this rearranged round 11 fixture in the Betfred Super League.
O’Brien gave the Red Devils the lead with a ninth-minute penalty but Huddersfield bossed the opening quarter and scored the first try of the game through England winger Jermaine McGillvary, who profited from Ryan Hinchcliffe’s cut-out pass to grab his third touchdown in just two matches.
However, it was a rare clinical moment for the Giants, who failed to apply the finishing touches to some promising build-up and lost much of their momentum when impressive starting front rowers Sebastine Ikahihifo and Ukuma Ta’ai went off for a rest.
The visitors enjoyed the better of the second quarter, with centre Junior Sa’u taking O’Brien’s pass to scythe through for a 22nd minute try and O’Brien adding a penalty on the stroke of half-time to extend his side’s lead to 10-4.
That became 16-4 within two minutes of the restart when O’Brien cut through for a try after Michael Dobson’s 40-20 kick had set up the perfect attacking position.
It might have been worse for Huddersfield for Salford winger Greg Johnson had a try disallowed for a foot on the touchline but they responded with two tries in three minutes from centre Alex Mellor, who found a generous chink in Salford’s right-sided defence.
Danny Brough was able to convert only one of his side’s three tries, to leave them trailing by two points, and the decisive moment came on 62 minutes when Salford’s debutant centre Kris Welham swooped on a wayward pass from Brough 20 minutes from his own line to race upfield.
He was eventually brought down by Huddersfield’s scrambling defence but O’Brien had the final say when he cut through for his second try on the last tackle.
O’Brien’s fifth goal made it 22-14 but, with Ikahihifo and Ta’ai back on the field and replacement hooker Kruise Leeming causing all sorts of problems with his runs from dumy half, Huddersfield gained their second wind.
The gap was back to just two points on 69 minutes when Brough got Ta’i powering over for a try and kicked his second goal and Salford were grateful for a timely interception from Sa’u when the Giants went for the winning try.
However, the Yorkshiremen were powerless to stop second rower Josh Jones forcing his way over for a solo try five minutes from the end to clinch the victory, with O’Brien adding a late penalty to round off the scoring.