Having never met at the Magic Weekend before the Salford Red Devils and Hull KR were both hoping to register the win and collect the important two points. A win for the Red Devils would lift them into fifth spot and a play-off place, while a win for KR would leave Leeds and London fighting to avoid bottom spot in the 15:30 kick-off.
The Robins sprung a surprise a fortnight ago when they eliminated Salford from the Challenge Cup but the Red Devils were the victors, by just two points, when the sides met back in February. The Leeds and London fans inside Anfield were cheering on the Salford side against a Hull side containing six past Rhinos players.
After yesterdays festival of rugby, it was a fitting start to Sundays feast.
A smattering of early errors and squandered chances set the script for what was to follow. Dropped balls, knock-ons, and accidental contacts were the signs of two nervous sides.
On eighteen KR finally broke the deadlock as Kane Linnett found a gap in the Salford defence after a fast right to left passing move and ran strongly from twenty metres to go over for the try. Ryan Shaw added the conversion for a 6-0 lead.
Salford’s Joey Lussick disputed a penalty on twenty-four, and Shaw slotted the ball between the uprights for an eight point lead.
Confusion was caused in the Salford defence by a Shaw kick towards the post. As two defenders tried to knock the ball dead, neither made contact and Craig Hall was on hand to ground the ball for the second KR try. Shaw added a simple conversion and The Robins were into a 14-0 lead.
A late tackle from Pauli Pauli, hitting the player after the ball was passed, saw the Australian sent to the sin-bin, the Red Devils down to twelve for the last ten minutes of the half.
The twelve men got their first try with ninety second left on the clock as Lussick went from acting half back to score a two metre try, right under the crossbar. Krisnan Inu added the conversion and the Red Devils had scrambled back to 6-14 at the interval.
Another shocking defensive error, this time from Derrell Olpherts, allowed Hall to get his second tap down try after Salford failed to get the ball dead in their own goal area. Shaw kicked the extras for a 20-6 KR lead after forty-five minutes. Hull KR looked hungry, Salford simply didn’t.
After Mitch Garbutt dumped Jackson Hastings to the ground it seemed to fire Salford up and on the next play Pauli Pauli bust the KR line from fifteen metres to split the defence and dive over for Salford’s second. Inu added the conversion for 12-20.
On fifty-five Ken Sio was over against his former employers as he finished off a passing move, which had used the entire width of the pitch, to go over in the left corner. Inu hit the post with his conversion attempt, Salford still four points adrift with a nervy last twenty-five minutes to play.
Kris Welham found Sio to fly over in the corner, getting the ball on the ground before going into touch. Inu was unable to kick the touchline conversion, the sides at 20-20 with nine minutes remaining.
A high tackle by Lussick on the Salford forty enabled Shaw to kick a seventy-fourth minute penalty goal to again edge KR in front at 22-20, the crucial game winner for The Robins.
It was an exciting but clumsy game between two sides who can blow hot and cold. Neither played to their full potential but Hull KR emerged with a crucial two points to lift them above the Leeds Rhinos and into tenth place. The loss is a set back for Salford who had an eye on the play-off places, they’ve much more work to do achieve their goal. One Hull side left Mersyside Magic full of joy, the red and white side of the city.
Red Devils: Evalds, Sio (2T), Welham, Inu (2G), Olpherts, Lui, Hastings, Mossop, Lussick (T), Dudson, Jones, Griffin, Burke. Subs: Bibby, McCarthy, Pauli (T, SB on 30), Walker.
KR: Hall (2T), Crooks, Keinhorst, Linnett (T), Shaw (5G), McGuire, Drinkwater, Masoe, Addy, Mulhern, Hauraki, Tomkins, Lawler. Subs: Atkin, Lunt, Garbutt, Maria.
Referee: Ben Thaler.