Salford’s chances of a top eight finish were boosted on Thursday night after they came behind to beat 12-man Widnes Vikings 26-12 at the AJ Bell Stadium.
Tries from Kris Welham (2), Jake Bibby, Greg Burke and Robert Lui ensured the Red Devils took home the two points to end a six-game run without a victory.
Tom Gilmore and Patrick Ah Van scored for the Vikings but couldn’t prevent their side from slipping to a tenth consecutive league defeat, which keeps them at the foot of the table.
It was Widnes who scored first after a short kick through by Joe Mellor bounced horribly for the Salford defence and allowed Gilmore the chance to gather and score under the sticks. He converted his own try.
The Red Devils hit back however, after Gilmore’s kick on half way ricocheted off Welham’s leg allowing the centre to pick up and race away to score in the corner.
Welham was in again shortly after. A slick move along the line gave the former Hull KR and Bradford man a one-on-one with the Widnes defence and he scored despite pressure from full back Danny Craven.
Lui’s conversion attempts were unsuccessful meaning Salford held just a two point advantage.
Welham was then sent to the sin bin after tackling Joe Mellor without the ball close to the line and deeming to have stopped a try scoring opportunity by referee James Child.
The Vikings took advantage of the extra man and regained their lead after a lovely kick by Gilmore exploited the space left by Welham and was caught by Ah Van in the corner. Gilmore converted from the touchline and Widnes led 8 – 12 going into half time.
However, the second half was all about Salford who scored quickly after the restart. The ball was moved swiftly through hands and allowed Bibby to cross the whitewash in the corner. Lui’s conversion missed and the scored stayed level.
Both sides found themselves in an arm wrestle, hunting for the next opportunity to break their opponents line.
The gap was found in the Vikings rearguard, as loanee Greg Burke notched a four-pointer against his parent club. The prop forward ran a fantastic line through the middle of the Widnes defensive line and was able to bounce over the line to score under the sticks. Lui converted his first of the night and minutes later scored a penalty to give Salford an eight point lead, the biggest of the night so far.
The night got worse for the Vikings 12 minutes from time as Captain Chris Houston was shown a yellow card for late contact with the head of Burke. As the former Newcastle man left the field he sarcastically applauded the referee and the yellow quickly became red, an act Francis Cummins described as one that “let his team down” post-match.
The Red Devils still had one score left in them and it came through Robert Lui, who charged down Danny Craven’s kick and ran 60 metres to score and cap an important win for Ian Watson’s men.
The win leaves Salford in 10th but just one point behind eighth-placed Huddersfield as the race for the super 8’s spots heats up.
Widnes on the other hand should start preparing for the inevitable Qualifers as their 10th defeat on the bounce all but ended their hopes on finishing in outside of the bottom four.
WHAT WE’VE LEARNED
Players vs Referees
In recent weeks it appears the respect between the players and on field officials in slipping slightly. After Matty Dawson was given a lengthy ban for shouting a number of expletives at referee Chris Kendall in the Challenge Cup Semi-Final, Chris Houston tonight thought to sarcastically clap the decision of James Child to send him to the sin bin.
If this is to be removed from the game, Houston should expect a similar length of ban to that of Dawson, seeing as both were sent off for the same offence. There is no place in the sport for the sheer disrespect of referees, regardless of whether the player agrees or disagrees with the decision
The last thing rugby league as a sport needs now is players showing a lack of respect to the officials on the pitch.
Widnes’ decline shows no signs of stopping
The sacking of Denis Betts after eight straight losses signaled the start of a new dawn at the Vikings under interim coach Francis Cummins.
However, the former Bradford coach has so far been unable to stop the poor performances and results, with many of the same problems still evident under his stewardship as they were under Betts.
If Cummins has genuine ambitions of being a Super League head coach again, he’s got his work cut out getting this Vikings side into shape and keeping them in the league.
Man Of The Match – Robert Lui (Salford Red Devils)
The Salford number 6 was in mercurial form and was a huge catalyst in helping the Red Devils towards victory, even if his conversion success rate did leave a little to be desired!
With the early injury to Jake Shorrocks, Lui could have folded and stuttered but instead he steadied the ship and directed his side around the park magnificently.
A danger throughout the night both running at the defence and with his passing, he caused Widnes all problems and scored the final try of the night which his performance deserved.
Salford Red Devils 26
Tries: Welham (2), Bibby, Burke, Lui
Goals: Lui (3)
Drop Goals: n/a
Widnes Vikings 12
Tries: Gilmore, Ah Van
Goals: Gilmore (2)
Drop Goals: n/a
Salford Red Devils: Littlejohn, Olpherts, Welham, Sa’u, Bibby, Lui, Shorrocks, Tasi, Wood, Burke, McCarthy, Griffin, Lannon.
Interchanges: Kopczak, Tomkins, Nakubuwai, Chamberlain
Widnes Vikings: Craven, Ince, Whitley, Runciman, Ah Van, Mellor, Gilmore, J.Chapelhow, Johnstone, T.Chapelhow, Olbison, Hauraki, Houston
Interchanges: Heremaia, Gerrard, Farnworth, Norman