Salford Red Devils returned to winning ways in emphatic fashion after cruising to a crucial 32-16 victory over Catalans Dragons in a feisty Betfred Super League encounter at the AJ Bell Stadium on Good Friday.
Tries from Jake Bibby, Niall Evalds, Greg Johnson, Josh Jones and Kris Welham along with six goals from Robert Lui ensured The Red Devils bounced back from their defeat at Widnes to earn a crucial two points in what was a clinical display.
After the disappointment of last Thursday’s loss to the Vikings, it was clear from the off that Salford were intent on immediately bouncing back to make a statement versus the Dragons this time around.
Salford opened the scoring in the 8th minute when Robert Lui’s fizzing pass allowed Niall Evalds to break through the Catalans backline before cooly finding Jake Bibby who produced an emphatic finish in the right-hand corner, Lui added the extras to give Salford a six point lead.
Evalds soon turned from provider to scorer – Lee Mossop found Lui who broke clear of the Catalans line before playing the ball to the onrushing Evalds who had the simple task of crossing over, Lui again kicked the resulting goal.
Salford were temporarily reduced to twelve men as Weller Hauraki was sent to the sin-bin midway through the half for a dangerous tackle, however The Red Devils immediately forced a Catalans error as Lama Tasi powered through an opponent which ultimately resulted in a knock-on.
However, the visitors responded well and clawed their way back into the contest when Tony Gigot spotted a huge gap behind the Salford line and produced a looping kick which enabled Fouad Yaha to touch down in the corner, but Gigot was unable to land the subsequent conversion.
The first score of the second period arrived in the 51st minute when Greg Johnson finished off a free-flowing move after a good break by Mark Flanagan, followed by some quick hands from Ben Nakubuwai, Josh Wood and Lui – half-back Lui then kicked the resulting to extend Salford’s lead to fourteen points.
Salford were almost over again minutes later when Lui bypassed several tackle attempts before sprinting 30m and offloading to the onrushing Evalds who quickly found Wood, but the half-back was stopped in his tracks just when a try looked a certainty.
Despite a good spell of pressure from the hosts, Catalans fought back yet again and claimed arguably the best try of the tie when Yaha intercepted Logan Tomkins’ cross-field pass before racing 90m to cross over for his second, Gigot then added the extras to reduce the deficit to eight points.
The Red Devils extended their lead by a further two points through a penalty, Lui opted to kick at goal and successfully converted to take Salford up to the twenty point mark.
Lui’s penalty appeared to spur Salford on, Evalds deceived the Dragons backline with an excellent step before some slick passing from Lui and Flanagan allowed Josh Jones to dive over under the sticks and claim his first try of the season – Lui converted the resulting goal.
Unfortunately for the visitors, Salford weren’t finished there – this time Kris Welham fought off the defensive efforts of three Catalans defenders before powering over the line, Lui added the extras in what was an excellent conversion attempt.
Despite being second best for the majority of the fixture, Catalans produced a valiant effort and claimed a late consolation when Greg Bird dived over from close range late on, Gigot added the extras but Ian Watson’s men hung on to claim a crucial two points.
Salford Lineup: Evalds, Johnson, Sa’u, Welham, Bibby, Lui, Wood, Mossop, Tomkins, Kopczak, Jones, Hauraki, Flanagan
Interchanges: Littlejohn, Nakubuwai, Tasi, Burgess
Catalans Lineup: Tierney, Broughton, Mead, Williame, Yaha , Gigot, Langi, Casty, McIlorum, Moa, Bird, Garcia, Baitieri
Interchanges: Aiton, Bousquet, Simon, Jullien
Salford Scorers: Tries- Bibby (8’), Evalds (10’), Johnson (51’), Jones (68’), Welham (73’)
Goals- Lui (9’, 11’, 52’, 66’, 69’, 74’)
Catalans Scorers: Tries- Yaha (26’, 59), Bird (78’)
Goals- Gigot (60’, 79’)
Man of the Match: Josh Wood
Referee: Gareth Hewer
Touch Judges: G. Jones & A. Smith