Salford Red Devils upset newly-crowned Challenge Cup winners Warrington Wolves 22-6 in their penultimate regular-season home game.
Salford’s sixth straight league win, which is a first in the Super League era, takes Salford up to third in the table tonight – with only two games to play until the play-offs begin.
This fixture controversially came only five days after Warrington’s Wembley triumph – which itself was a shock as they defeated runaway league leaders St Helens 18-4. Indeed, Wolves Head Coach Steve Price said such a small gap was “100%” a problem for player welfare – and revealed Warrington’s first post-Wembley training session was only the day before this match.
In a first half characterised by solid defence, Krisnan Inu scored the only points – a penalty kick right in front of the sticks on the 10-minute-mark. Both sides conceded a large amount of penalties throughout the opening 40 minutes, but were unable to capitalise on any of those opportunities – that pattern of attacking malaise from set-pieces was also replicated by Warrington in open play.
Frequently, the primrose and blue found themselves going laterally, and often using the left-hand side of Goodwin and Lineham which ran out of room with fast defence from Salford Winger Ken Sio.
Whilst Salford did offer more going forward, their attacking platform too often had to start from their own half – that led an over-reliance on magic from Hastings and Lolohea which has seen them through previous slow starts in this winning run, but the intensity of the Wire defence neutralised that threat. Salford Head Coach Ian Watson said his side “didn’t respect the ball enough” before the second half.
However, that changed from the beginning of the second half, with Salford’s upped intensity and reduced penalty count resulting in a far more cohesive attacking game, controlled by Scrum-Half Jackson Hastings. Indeed, it was his up-and-under kick on the 49th minute which led to Tom Lineham’s handling error that Salford Winger Ken Sio pounced on to score the first try of the match.
Sio was in again only eight minutes later, after an aerial battle on the left-hand-side resulted in a repeat set for Salford only five metres out. Once Bibby and Dudson had gone close, the Red Devils worked the ball right, into the arms of Centre Kris Welham. Welham offloaded out wide, and one pass later Sio had his second in the corner.
The break-neck pace continued from the home side, as Jake Bibby dived over the whitewash after a Joey Lussick break was finished off by the Centre, via a cool Hastings pass.
The result was confirmed by Sio’s final try of the night, with his hat-trick being completed with perhaps his easiest score: Warrington, pushing for a way back into the game, flung the ball left 20 metres from the Salford line, only for a messy Goodwin offload to be worsened by Tom Lineham.
Lineham attempted to chip the balls over the Red Devils’ defence, but only succeeded in directly kicking the ball to Sio, who won the footrace with the Wolves’ Harvey Livett.
Danny Walker grabbed a consolation for the Wire, diving on his own grubber kick with only one minute remaining.
Player of the Match: Jackson Hastings. Despite Sio’s hat-trick, the Wigan-bound Scrum-Half controlled the attacking game throughout the second half and provided the spark for the onslaught of Salford tries.