Fantastic fight back sees Saints beat Salford

A strong second half for St. Helens secured an important Betfred Super League win over Salford Red Devils at the Salford Stadium!

Paul Wellens welcomed back to his side Mark Percival in the centres, and Curtis Sironen off the bench but would reveal in-form Will Hopoate had been stood down for further checks on a possible hamstring issue.

It was a big day for the hosts, who kicked off proceedings through a Marc Sneyd boot, celebrating their 150th anniversary on the day. Perhaps wanting to start the game with strong intent the Red Devils gave Saints early back-to-back penalties and on the second the Red V elected to go for the two points with Mark Percival opening the scoring from 15m out, 0-2.

From then on Salford clicked into gear and were largely the better side in the first half. Kallum Watkins, one of a number of returning senior men for the Red Devils followed Brodie Croft close to the line and got an offload for the first try of the afternoon. Sneyd would add the kick to make it 6-2, ten minutes on the clock.

As is the case with Salford, when they’re firing well they can keep threatening to score. Two close calls were quelled, one by Andy Ackers who scooted at the play of the ball next to the line, and then a Sneyd grubber into space which Tommy Makinson leapt on.

Firmly with the territory and gifted the ball off a poor Saints kick by the halfway line, current Man of Steel Brodie Croft lofted a bouncing kick for the chasing Brierley to run onto and grab Salford’s second, Sneyd converting too for a 12-6 lead after 15 minutes.

The Red V were under the pump but looked to firm up their defence. Jack Welsby fielded a high bomb by his own line well, and Percival took the next carry and took a big shoulder charge for his efforts. It was a relieving penalty for Saints, but no card given.

After the 20 minute mark and looking to turn the screw Salford again threatened the line but the visitors were judged to be offside and the hosts chose to kick the two this time. Sneyd making it three conversions from three attempts for a 14-2 score.

The game became more of an arm wrestle following that penalty. The Red V got a couple of chances, first for Ben Davies but a misread on a pass led to the ball going out. Then Tee Ritson who had Curtis Sironen threw himself into the left edge looking to create, but a pass got judged forward.

As the half closed out, Salford pushed towards the Saints fans in the North Stand and with seconds left on the clock Sneyd slotted a drop goal to make it 15-2 heading into the break.

What was a very unusually poor first half for Saints was almost followed by a disastrous start to the second half. Makinson kicking the restart but a Salford man caught the ball with a foot in touch, allowing the hosts the chance to challenge us early following the break. However, Wellens men, probably with his words still ringing in their ears from half time, firmed up and kept the Red Devils out and forced a forward pass.

Re-energised the Red V looked much more like the team we know, Ritson made a big break on the left wing to turn the territory around. Then a Dodd sliding kick on the ground was chased by a Jonny Lomax but Deon Cross stopped him from getting to it, it could have possibly been viewed as a penalty try but not given, and Cross was sent to the sin bin for a professional foul.

After back-to-back sets on the Salford line and with the Saints faithful roaring them in front of them, Wellens men got over the line. A Morgan Knowles pass to Dan Norman came off the head of a Salford man, the referee who was right next to the action waved play on, Lees then jumped on the ball under the sticks to score a try on the 48th minute. Percival made no mistake adding the extras, 15-8.

With the wind in their sails, Saints looked far more lively, with Moses Mbye at hooker looking composed with calm distribution. Ritson again looked lively with a run on the wing, he worked back inside into the middle and broke in the middle before finally being stopped. The Saints followed that run up well to forcing a goal line drop out off a kick, and then Norman looked to have powered over and reached out to score but he was judged short, much to the prop’s surprise.

James Roby came back on but not at #9, at loose forward, a role which appears to be working well for the veteran. The captain worked it right for Makinson, who cut back in on a run and reached out for a score but again was judged short.

Makinson wouldn’t be denied for long though, much more like Saints they shaped up on the right, James Bell threw a high pass out to the star winger and Tommy dived in at the corner for the Red V’s second try of the afternoon. Just after the hour mark, Mark Percival from the sidelines kicked the goal to make it 15-14. Game well and truly on.

Salford with perhaps only their second sight line of the try line in the half threatened with a Sneyd grubber, which Ritson read well to get a 20m restart.

St. Helens made big metres and had the Red Devils on the back-foot with 10 minutes to go. On the right-edge Welsby dummied a pass out to create some space, leaving Sneyd in his wake, besting Brierley and scoring in the corner to the delight of the away supporters in front of him. Percival could not add the kick this time, leaving the scores 15-18.

Saints needed to close this one out with good defence, the likes of Morgan Knowles, Matty Lees and young George Delaney were fantastic throughout the game with their charging runs and solid middle tackling, and they kept showing up in the closing minutes.

Welsby again ran through the Red Devils’ line, looked to pass to Ben Davies but it was just a bit too much on the move and knocked on.

The hosts were getting desperate, trying to force the ball out or make Saints lose it whilst camped in their own 20. Back-to-back penalties started the game, and they would also end it, with Saints eating the time off before Moses Mbye kicked the ball out after the final hooter.

A true tale of two halves, with the Saints producing a sensational fight back to beat Salford Red Devils away, 15-18!

Match Summary

Salford Red Devils Team: Ryan Brierley, Ken Sio, Deon Cross, Tim Lafai, Joe Burgess, Brodie Croft, Marc Sneyd, Brad Singleton, Andy Ackers, Oliver Partington, Kallum Watkins, Sam Stone, Danny Addy

Interchanges: Jack Ormondroyd, King Vuniyayawa, Chris Atkin, Ben Hellewell

18th Man: Amir Bourouh

Tries: Kallum Watkins (9), Ryan Brierley (14)

Drop Goal: Marc Sneyd (40)

Conversions: Marc Sneyd (2 from 2)

Penalties: Marc Sneyd (1 from 1)

Saints Team: Jack Welsby, Tommy Makinson, Mark Percival, Ben Davies, Tee Ritson, Jonny Lomax, Lewis Dodd, Matty Lees, James Roby, George Delaney, Sam Royle, James Bell, Morgan Knowles.

Interchanges: Curtis Sironen, Dan Norman, Lewis Baxter, Moses Mbye.

18th Man: Wes Bruines.

Tries: Lees (49), Makinson (61), Welsby (70)

Conversions: Mark Percival (2 from 3)

Penalties: Mark Percival (1 from 1)

HT: 15-2

FT: 15-18

Attendance: 6,515

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