St Helens returned to winning ways after a hard-fought victory over Salford at the Totally Wicked Stadium.
St Helens’ team had a more familiar look to it this week after picking a youthful lineup against Castleford last time out. From that team, only Joey Lussick, Josh Simm, Sam Royle and Ben Davies kept their spots. There was returns for Will Hopoate, Tommy Makinson, Mark Percival, Jack Welsby, Jonny Lomax, Alex Walmsley, James Roby, Matty Lees, Joe Batchelor and Morgan Knowles to the starting lineup. Sione Mata’utia, Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook and Agnatius Paasi also returned on the bench.
Meanwhile, Salford made four changes to the side narrowly beaten by Wigan on Sunday. Ryan Brierley, Greg Burke, Elijah Taylor and Sam Luckley all came out. They were replaced by Josh Johnson, Amir Bourouh, Ryan Lannon and Sitaleki Akauola.
Saints found themselves down to 12 men after just five minutes. Jack Welsby was given a yellow card after kicking the ball away after his kick went dead.
Salford were able to build some pressure, and got the first try just before the 20-minute mark. After forcing a repeat set, Morgan Escare was able to step his way clear of the defence and go over by the posts. Chris Atkin scored the conversion to give the Red Devils a six-point lead.
The hosts were able to respond with 15 minutes left of the half. Saints were able to work the ball well, and Welsby put Ben Davies over for a try out wide. Tommy Makinson missed the conversion, meaning the champions still trailed by two points.
That soon became two tries in five minutes for St Helens. Welsby kicked the ball forward, and it wasn’t dealt with by Escare. Welsby was able to pick it up, spin out of the tackle attempt and score. Makinson added the conversion to put Saints into a four-point lead.
Salford had the chance with the last act of the first half to respond. They got a penalty just over 40 metres out for a high shot and elected to take the two points. Atkin’s attempt landed short.
HT- St Helens 10-6 Salford
The second half was hard work for both sides, but it was Salford who struck just before the hour to level the match.
The Red Devils got a six again inside their own half, and they were able to use the field position well. The ball was spun out to former Saint Matt Costello, who scored in the corner. Atkin could not convert, meaning the scores stayed level.
Both sides were then reduced to 12 soon after. Mark Percival was sin-binned for St Helens after a high tackle on Ken Sio, while Amir Bourouh was binned for Salford for his reaction.
Soon after, Saints retook the lead. Matty Lees was caught with a high shot 40 metres out, and Makinson elected to kick the two points. It was in almost the same place Atkin missed from just before half-time.
With the clock winding down, Makinson elected to kick for goal again. This time, Jack Welsby was tipped in the tackle. Makinson kicked his third goal of the night to edge Saints ahead by a try.
But there was almost a twist in the tale. Salford were able to race 90 metres up the pitch after an interception, but Chris Atkin was stopped short. Welsby was then shown his second yellow card of the night for holding down.
But Brodie Croft fumbled a pass and the opportunity went begging for Salford. That proved to be the final act of the game too.
FT- St Helens 14-10 Salford
St Helens: Hopoate, Makinson, Davies, Percival, Simm, Welsby, Lomax, Walmsley, Roby, Lees, Royle, Batchelor, Knowles. Subs: Mata’utia, Lussick, McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Paasi.
Tries: Davies, Welsby
Goals: Makinson 3/4
Salford: Escare, Sio, Cross, Costello, Williams, Croft, Atkin, Johnson, Bourouh, Ormondroyd, Addy, Watkins, Lannon. Subs: Ackers, Akauola, Gerrard, Vuniyayawa.
Tries: Escare, Costello
Goals: Atkin 1/3