Salford slip past Saints

Salford notched up their third successive win with a dramatic 22-14 victory against St Helens at the AJ Bell Stadium on Thursday.

The Red Devils move up to joint top of the table, third on score difference behind Hull FC and Castleford.

Salford head coach Ian Watson had to make just the one enforced change, Josh Jones coming into the centres to replace Junior Sa’u, who picked up a leg injury during last week’s win at Widnes.

Lee Mossop returned to the forwards, with Adam Walne dropping to the bench.

Despite an impressive victory against Warrington last week, St Helens head coach Keiron Cunningham made a few changes to the starting 13, the most notable being the return of Jonny Lomax at full-back. The England international’s last appearance was in the 24-16 defeat away to Leigh.

Tommy Makinson, who had been covering for Lomax, was moved into his more favoured position on the wing in place of Adam Swift, while James Roby was brought into the pack as Tommy Lee was named on the bench.

Only a week after Matty Smith made his return following two months out with a broken leg, fellow half-back Theo Fages went off less than a minute into the game with a head injury.

Gareth O’Brien, who has scored in each of Salford’s last 20 matches, almost went close to making it 21 but for a brilliant try-saving tackle a metre from the whitewash by Lomax.

After a tense opening quarter with both sides cancelling each other out, it was a moment of ill-discipline which helped break the deadlock, Adam Walker conceding a penalty before Michael Dobson slotted the ball between the posts.

George Griffin was unable to capitalize on Saints conceding a further two penalties in the space of a minute by scoring the game’s first try, fumbling the ball within 10 metres of the line following Dobson’s pass.

Craig Kopczak made up for Griffins’ earlier error, crossing over after Kris Brining’s pass out of dummy half to give the Red Devils an 8-0 lead with five minutes left until the interval.

Dobson helped to extend Salford’s lead further by crashing over after Kopczak’s pass three minutes into the second half. O’Brien nailed the conversion to put the hosts 14-0 up.

Alex Walmsley registered Saints’ first points of the evening, powering across from close range in the 52nd minute after Roby’s pass out of dummy half.

Moments after being denied by a brilliant cover tackle from Mark Flanagan, Ryan Morgan took a raking pass from Lomax before coming up with an acrobatic finish in the corner.

Mark Percival failed to add the extras as the Red Devils’ lead was cut to just four points entering the final quarter.

Keen to keep the scoreboard ticking over in his side’s favour, Dobson slotted another penalty between the sticks.

With the game hanging in the balance, Salford’s task of clinging on for all two points was made even harder when Robert Lui was sent to the sin bin for stopping Morgan from making a quick 20m restart.

Saints went close to making the numerical advantage count, but Percival’s kick was just too long and the chance passed the visitors by.

Just as Saints could have drawn level, Dobson dived across at the other end after Morgan failed to deal with Todd Carney’s kick. The half-back then converted his own try to give the Red Devils a 22-10 lead with less than five minutes to go.

The game continued to draw to a dramatic conclusion, Lomax being fed by Zeb Taia to reduce Salford’s lead to eight points.

Percival wasted any slender chance of salvaging something from the game as he pushed the conversion wide, meaning Saints finished the match with no points.

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