Salford are just eighty minutes from the Super League Grand Final after a dominant 22-0 over Castleford Tigers in the Super League Play-Offs.
The Red Devils made an electric start to the do-or-die play-off game, with Tyrone McCarthy diving on Tui Lolohea’s stab through after 11 minutes.
Salford doubled their lead just three minutes later, with Jake Bibby being awarded a try in the corner, although TV replays suggested that the centre had failed to ground the ball properly – that decision was described as a “funny old call” by Tigers Head Coach Darryl Powell.
Despite that electric start in attack, Salford had full-back Niall Evalds to thank in defence, as Cas’ Jordan Rankin broke through and raced past the entire Red Devils backline, only for Evalds’ last-ditch tackle 2m out to prevent the Yorkshire side grabbing a try from nothing.
Winger Krisnan Inu added a penalty kick before half-time, taking the score to 14-0.
HT/ Here's that Evalds tackle. Bigger cheer for this than the first try. https://t.co/ulOCy8yn1v
— Ethan Davies (@Ethan_Journo) September 26, 2019
The majority of the second half was a game of which side would blink first, with Salford’s aggressive defence proving to be the basis for the win. They kept Castleford scoreless for just the second time this season.
Following a small interlude after Cas fans threw a flare on to the pitch with ten minutes remaining, the home team sprang back into life. Salford scrum half Jackson Hastings, making his last appearance for the Red Devils at the AJ Bell Stadium before his move to Wigan, ran an intelligent J-line to exploit a hole in the Tigers’ defensive line with eight minutes left.
Hastings was by far in a way the best player on the pitch – not only did he score the final try of the evening, but also kicked sublimely to pin Castleford back, thus creating a better attacking platform for his side when possession was handed over.
Inu brought the game to a close, adding two-points in front of the posts after Cas conceded a penalty for obstruction in the tackle.
Salford now will play the loser of the other Super League Play-Off fixture this weekend – as St Helens and Wigan face off in a local derby on Friday. Castleford’s season is over, and will look to build again for another play-off charge in 2020.
If Salford were to beat Wigan or Saints, then they’d appear in the Super League Grand Final at Old Trafford for the first time – and have a shot at the biggest prize in Northern Hemisphere Rugby League.
Player of the Match: Jackson Hastings. He’s been the best player for Salford this season, and this fixture showed why. Smart kicking, leading from the front in defence, and a running try to finish? The perfect performance.