There were different agenda´s for the two sides brought together by Channel 4 for their Saturday lunchtime game as a Huddersfield Giants side, intent on a top two finish, went up against a Salford Red Devils outfit who needed the win to keep in touch with a top six finish.
The Giants were slight favourites with the bookies, but they were with the pundits in struggling to call the winners after a recent run of good performances from the Red Devils. Ian Watson was up against his former employers, and this was a fixture which he loves to win. But Red Devils coach Ian Rowley came into the game knowing the importance of the win, a loss making it very difficult for his side to make the six.
One thing was for sure, neither side could complain about the glorious playing conditions.
It was a fantastic opening three minutes for the Red Devils who created an overlap for Dion Cross to set try machine Ken Sio free down the right wing to dive in at the corner. Marc Sneyd converted from the touchline for a 6-0 lead, the home support delighted.
A mistake from Tui Lolohea gifted Salford their second try on seven minutes when Joe Burgess picked up a spilt ball and ran eighty metres down the left wing to go over in the corner. Sneyd hit the upright with his conversion attempt, Salford 10-0 ahead.
There was just over eleven minutes on the clock as Salford went in again, Kallum Watkins chasing what looked like a lost cause but managing to gather the ball and ground over the line. Sneyd added the conversion to bring up 16-0, the Giants just not at the races.
Relief came for the Giants on eighteen with Chris McQueen stealing the ball from Burgess and running twenty metres to go in at the right corner. The touchline kick from Oliver Russell drifted wide of the posts, the Giants two converted tries adrift.
The one-way traffic soon resumed, and Salford grabbed try four on twenty-five from the back of the scrum with a Ryan Brierley and Sio one-two resulting the ex-Giants man going over ten in from the right touchline. Sneyd hit the upright again, the ball bouncing away from the posts.
On twenty-nine the Red Devils got back close to their point a minute scoring with Tim Lafai gathering a delightful pinpoint grubber kick to the corner and grounding close to the side line. Sneyd was accurate with the boot this time for 26-4 as Salford put in a tremendous first half which made a mockery of current league positions.
A second before the interval hooter, Brodie Croft held down in the tackle and referee Liam Moore sent him to cool his heels in the sinbin for ten minutes, Russell kicked the penalty goal to send the Red Devils in with a 26-6 lead at the interval.
The Giants would need something special in the second half.
On forty-seven the Giants delivered on their half time roasting after a superb seventy metres move including Leroy Cudjoe and Theo Fages who put in a terrific kick to the corner for Sam Hewitt to chase and ground. Russell added the conversion for 12-26.
It was two inside two minutes for Hewitt as he twisted over the line under the challenge of two Salford defenders, to force the ball onto the ground. Russell was unable to add the conversion, the Giants ten behind with plenty of time left on the clock.
The errors started creeping in from Salford as they struggled against the Giants onslaught.
After struggling to gain any field position Sneyd took advantage of a penalty and kicked the goal to extend the lead to twelve points with fifteen minutes remaining. Salford were still holding on as the Giants dominated.
But the win was secured on seventy-five when Sneyd moved into the pocket and slotted over a drop goal to extend the margin to thirteen points.
With three minutes remaining the Red Devils got their first try of the second half when Harvey Livett chased down a Sneyd kick to the corner and collected before promoting over the line for a four pointer. Sneyd´s kick was wide of the uprights but the Red Devils had an important 33-16 win.
The Red Devils blitzed the Giants in the first half and managed to defend their lead in the second when the inevitable Huddersfield resurgence occurred. Sneyd and Croft controlled the game in the centre and used their back to exploit some poor defending down the sides from the Giants. Salford are back within a point of the Rhinos and sixth place, the Giants looking increasingly likely to miss out on a top two spot. Ian Watson will have some head scratching to do.
Salford Red Devils: Brierley (T), Sio (T), Cross, Lafai (T), Burgess (T), Croft, Sneyd (4G, DG), Dupree, Ackers, Wright, Taylor, Watkins (T), Gerrard. Subs: Akauola, Livett, Atkin, Ormondroyd.
Huddersfield Giants: Lolohea, Senior I, King, Cudjoe, Senior L, Russell (2G), Fages, Trout, O´Brien, Hill, Hewitt (2T), McQueen (T), Yates. Subs: Greenwood, Levi, Wilson, Ashworth.
Score Progression: 4-0, 6-0, 10-0, 14-0, 16-0, 16-4, 20-4, 24-4, 26-4, 26-6 : HT : 26-10, 26-12, 26-16, 28-16, 29-16, 33-16 : FT.
Lead Exchanges: Salford.
Referee: Liam Moore.