Salford Red Devils produced a dominant display to see off Hull KR at the AJ Bell Stadium, on a bitterly cold Friday night.
The home side recovered from an early Rovers try to score six times and record their first victory of the 2018 Betfred Super League season.
Gareth O’Brien proved just how vital he is to the Red Devils’ cause, as he caused problems every time he came into the attacking line.
In contrast, KR sorely missed Danny McGuire as makeshift halfback Maurice Blair failed to have any influence on the game.
The visitors opened the scoring after just three minutes, as they capitalised on Salford kicking out on the full when attempting a 40/20. From the resulting set, Chris Atkins’ low kick was pounced on by Thomas Minns, with Ryan Shaw adding the extras.
After exchanging knock-ons, the hosts responded as O’Brien’s grubber caused all kinds of problems, before the Red Devils fullback touched down. He converted his own effort to level the scores on eight minutes.
Within ten minutes Salford had forced their way in front, as off the back of two penalties Junior Sa’u charged over from O’Brien’s flat pass, picking up a converted score.
Their six point lead was extended to eight soon after, when a penalty for holding down was accompanied by cries of ‘two’. O’Brien duly obliged, making it 14-6 to his side.
Nine minutes from the break, Salford had a third try as Robert Lui ran the ball on the last and fired a cut-out ball to Kris Welham, who came up with a brilliant offload to send Jake Bibby over for a four-pointer.
KR probed for an opening late in the first 40, but they couldn’t find a way over and went into the sheds trailing 18-6.
It took just one minute for things to get worse for The Robins, as Jake Wood broke from dummy half and sent Lui over in support. O’Brien’s simple conversion from in front made it an 18 point lead.
On 54 minutes O’Brien added his second penalty goal of the evening from in front of the sticks, but Rovers replied immediately. After regathering the restart, Adam Quinlan chased down his own kick to give the visitors hope of a comeback, as Shaw’s conversion cut the deficit to 14 points.
The away side had a great chance to build on that score, but they spurned back-to-back penalties by putting the ball to ground. Soon after they wasted great field position, as Atkin kicked on the second play much to the disappointment of Tim Sheens situated behind the press box.
The Rovers boss was disgruntled again, as he watched Niall Evalds cross in the corner, with O’Brien chiming into the line and sending him over on 66 minutes.
With nine minutes left on the clock Evalds had a second, as he showed incredible strength to somehow ground the ball despite being held upright by Shaw and Heffernan.
That proved to be the last scoring play of the contest, as the Red Devils picked up the two points with a comfortable 36-12 victory.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Gareth O’Brien – The Salford Red Devils fullback is worth his weight in gold, as he produced a brilliant attacking display to terrorise the Hull KR defence. He crossed for one try and assisted another two, with six goals to his name too. Is an England call-up nearing?
Salford Red Devils 36
Tries: O’Brien (8), Sa’u (18), Bibby (31), Lui (41), Evalds (66, 71)
Goals: O’Brien 6/8
Hull KR 12
Tries: Minns (3), Quinlan (56)
Goals: Shaw 2/2
Salford Red Devils: Gareth O’Brien, Niall Evalds, Junior Sa’u, Kris Welham, Jake Bibby, Robert Lui, Jack Littlejohn, Lee Mossop, Josh Wood, Lama Tasi, Josh Jones, Weller Hauraki, Tyrone McCarthy. Interchange: Luke Burgess, Ben Nakubuwai, Logan Tomkins, Craig Kopczak.
Hull KR: Adam Quinlan, Ryan Shaw, Andrew Heffernan, Thomas Minns, Justin Carney, Chris Atkin, Maurice Blair, Lee Jewitt, Tommy Lee, Mose Masoe, Ben Kavanagh, James Greenwood, Robbie Mulhern. Interchange: Shaun Lunt, Nick Scruton, Danny Tickle, Liam Salter.