Salford Red Devils were unable to record successive Betfred Super League victories as Widnes Vikings came from behind to triumph 24-16 in an entertaining contest at the Select Security Stadium.
The Red Devils made a bright start to the tie and almost forged an opening inside the opening ten when Weller Hauraki broke through the Widnes backline – but the second-rower was stopped in his tracks 15m from the line.
Salford burst through the Vikings defence frequently throughout the early stages and they thought their perseverance paid off when debutant Derrell Olpherts dived over in the corner after some good work from Robert Lui – but Olpherts was adjudged to have crossed the touchline by video referee Phil Bentham and the score was disallowed.
However, The Reds were finally over a minute later when Lui’s looping kick took a wicked bounce off the synthetic surface which eluded everyone except the onrushing Josh Jones whose quick hands gave Craig Kopczak the simple task of crossing over, Lui added the extras.
Widnes responded well and were denied a try by Bentham as the ball wasn’t grounded – however The Vikings crossed over from the subsequent play-the-ball as Chris Dean collected a short ball before piercing through a gap in the Salford line and powering over, Krisnan Inu converted the resulting goal.
Salford immediately recovered from the setback and restored their lead through a penalty, Lui opted to kick at goal and successfully landed the penalty to give the visitors a two point advantage.
Minutes later The Red Devils earned another penalty – this time Lui’s high kick caused mayhem amongst the Vikings line which ultimately resulted in a Widnes man knocking the ball on, half-back Lui successfully converted the kick to increase the margin separating the sides to four points at the interval.
Salford flew out of the blocks after the break and almost scored as Hauraki found Jake Bibby who attempted to flick the ball into the path of the lively Olpherts – but the winger was unable to keep hold of the ball and Salford therefore lost possession.
Despite the good start, Salford’s momentum was quickly disrupted when Lama Tasi was sent to the sin bin after shoulder-charging Ted Chapelhow.
The man advantage quickly paid off as some good work from Danny Craven and Rhys Hanbury helped pave the way for Inu to power over in the right-hand corner and surpass 100 points in his Super League career, Inu then dusted himself off and successfully added the extras as the hosts turned the game on its head.
Despite losing Tasi to the bin, Salford recovered well upon his return and restored their lead in the 57th minute when Lui’s cross field kick found Bibby who cleverly flicked the ball into the path of Hauraki to dive over from close range, however Lui’s conversion flew wide of the posts.
Hauraki’s effort seemed to pile pressure on the hosts, Craven was tackled in-goal and Inu’s drop-out didn’t reach the 10m line – Lui opted to kick at goal from the resulting penalty and successfully converted his fourth goal of the evening.
In an end to end tie, the momentum soon switched towards The Vikings as Olpherts conceded a needless penalty after obstructing an opponent, Widnes scored from a quick play-the-ball as Greg Burke crossed over the whitewash before Inu added the goal to turn the scores around once again.
Salford made another costly error minutes later as Niall Evalds fumbled the ball in front of the try line – Aaron Heremaia pounced on the loose ball before touching down, Inu added the extras to seal the victory.
Widnes Lineup: Hanbury, Marsh, Inu, Runciman, Chamberlain, Mellor, Craven, Houston, Heremaia, Burke, Dean, Whitley, Olbison
Interchanges: Johnstone, Walker, Chapelhow, Wilde
Salford Lineup: Evalds, Bibby, Olpherts, Sa’u, Johnson, Lui, Littlejohn, Mossop, Tomkins, Kopczak, Jones, Hauraki, Flanagan
Interchanges: Wood, Tasi, Nakubuwai, McCarthy
Widnes Scorers: Tries- Dean (27’), Inu (48’), Burke (70’), Heremaia (75’)
Goals- Inu (27’, 48’, 71’, 76’)
Salford Scorers: Tries- Kopczak (17’), Hauraki (57’)
Goals- Lui (18’, 32’, 38’, 63’)
Man of the Match: Niall Evalds
Referee: Ben Thaler
Touch Judges: James Child & Liam Moore
Video Referee: Phil Bentham