The Million Pound Game proved more nail-biting than anyone could have ever expected. Gareth O’Brien struck a drop goal in golden point extra time to seal Salford Red Devils’ place in next year’s Super League with a 19-18 win over Hull Kingston Rovers.
It was the Robins who had a 12-10 lead at half-time and James Webster’s men got off to a great start as they opened up a 10-0 lead after 12 minutes. Adam Walker broke the deadlock in the seventh minute when he powered over after a deft pass from Lunt. Mantellato added the extras. The goal-kicking winger then showed off his finishing skills with a brilliant try in the corner. With Gareth O’Brien closing in, Mantellato went to the air and his effort was successful. However, he couldn’t convert. Salford started their fightback soon after through Ben Murdoch-Masila, who had too much power for the Robins to handle. O’Brien was off target from the tee but he made amends on the half-hour mark as he launched a brilliant pass towards Niall Evalds, who then touched down. The conversion was successful from the touchline. In the dying embers of the first period, the impressive Shaun Lunt offloaded to Ken Sio who had Ben Cockayne in support – the full-back won a penalty in kicking distance and Mantellato did the rest.
In the 55th minute, Thomas Minns extended Hull KR’s lead to 18-10 with a try that was converted by Mantellato. Salford were picking up injuries at a fast rate but they held on in defence before hitting their opponents with two sucker blows in the latter stages of the match. Hull FC bound Josh Griffin provided Niall Evalds with a brilliant flick pass and the interchange sub touched down. O’Brien couldn’t convert and there was another twist in the tale less than a minute later. A break from Griffin got Salford in position and the ball was spread wide to Greg Johnson who sparked great scenes in the away stand as the Red Devils fans couldn’t believe what they were witnessing. O’Brien, once again, couldn’t convert but his time soon came.
In the opening set of golden point extra time, Salford got to the Robins’ 40 metre line before O’Brien kicked a million pound drop goal to break Hull KR’s hearts.
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