Salford Red Devils secured their position in the 2019 Betfred Super League following a clinical second half performance against Million Pound Game hopefuls Toulouse Olympique.
The Red Devils crossed for three tries inside seven minutes in the second half to pull away from the French side in the second half. Greg Johnson, Niall Evalds and Derrell Olpherts scored the quickfire tries before Kris Welham and Tyrone McCarthy also crossed in the closing stages.
Toulouse managed to close the deficit to just four points at one point with tries from Chris Centrone and Stan Robin either side of half-time. Australian duo Jackson Hastings and Joey Lussick had opened the scoring for Salford beforehand.
It was a cagey opening at the AJ Bell Stadium, but it was a returning Hastings – just fifteen minutes in – who jinked his way through the Toulouse defence to open the scoring. The halfback was the victim of a spear tackle in the process of scoring with referee Ben Thaler awarding an eight-point try. Hastings converted both attempts at goal.
The Red Devils gained control in midway through the first half when Lussick burrowed over the line from acting halfback. Hastings hit the upright with the conversion but did notch a penalty goal shortly after. Toulouse did give themselves a chance just before the break as Centrone scored in the corner following a brilliant offload from Bastien Ader.
Salford started the second half slowly conceding a goal line drop-out from the kick-off before Robin got on the end of a low kick to score just two minutes in. Mark Kheirallah’s successful conversion narrowed the Red Devils lead to four points.
Lussick looked to be over for his second of the game but video referee Chris Kendall ruled it out. However, a penalty was awarded to the Red Devils and Hastings furthered Salford’s lead marginally.
But, Ian Watson’s men managed to take control with three tries inside seven minutes. Johnson was the first to go over on the hour-mark. Evalds and Rob Lui linked up with some quick hands which created the opening for the winger who crossed for his third try in two games. Hastings converted.
Evalds would go from provider to try-scorer when Lui hit the onrushing England Knight on an inside ball and the talismanic fullback rounded Kheirallah to score. Olpherts scored the third in quick succession after Josh Jones knocked down a high kick, Hastings threw the ball wide to the winger to score. Hastings converted both.
With five minutes remaining, Welham managed to reach over the line to continue the Salford dominance. Luke Burgess – who was featuring in his last-ever game – stepped up to convert and slotted it over from the touch line in sensational fashion. McCarthy would cross in the final moments, but Burgess’ second attempt came back of the post.
Salford: Evalds, Johnson, Bibby, Welham, Olpherts; Lui, Hastings; Mossop, Lussick, Burgess, Jones, McCarthy, Flanagan. Interchanges: Kopczak, Burke, Griffin, Lannon.
Toulouse: Kheirallah, Marcon, Marguerite, Ader, Centrone; Ford, Robin; Bretherton, Barthau, Puech, Mika, Curran, Marion. Interchanges: Kriouache, Boyer, Hepi, Planas.
Salford Tries: Hastings (14’), Lussick (26’), Johnson (60’), Evalds (64’), Olpherts (66’), Welham (75’), McCarthy (78’). Salford Conversions: Hastings (15’, 16’, 34’, 55’, 61’, 65’, 67’), Burgess (76’).
Toulouse Tries: Centrone (36’), Robin (42’). Toulouse Conversions: Kheirallah (43’).
Referee: Ben Thaler.
Touch Judges: Tom Grant & Greg Dolan.
Video Referee: Chris Kendall.