One of the games of the weekend was first up on the Saturday of Newcastle Magic Weekends as sixth placed Salford Red Devils faced a Hull KR side confounding the critics and residing in fourth spot with no indication that they intend to give up on a play-off place or even chasing the title.
The sides went into the game on level league points, KR with a far superior points difference but while a win by more than sixteen points would lift the Robins up into second place, at least temporarily, a victory for the Red Devils would see them go above their opponents and into fourth spot in the table.
The bookies were struggling to pick a favourite, giving Salford a small start on the coupon.
Chris Atkin spilled the ball over the line with just two minutes on the clock as Salford looked to take the early initiative. On seven minutes, brilliant defence from KR prevented Ken Sio from going over in the right corner and on the next play they did even better to force Tim Lafai out of play as he went for the line down the left-hand side. The Robins were scrambling in defence.
Kallum Watkins stretched for the line but had the try ruled out by the referee after the player was called held before grounding.
After defending the first ten minutes it was KR who opened the scoring on eleven minutes with a flowing, passing move completed by Elliott Minchella as he took the final pass from Lachlan Coote to dive in under the sticks. Coote added the conversion for a 6-0 lead.
On nineteen Brodie Croft broke the Rovers line and went for forty metres before he found Joe Burgess in support to sprint home from forty metres out to open the Red Devils account. Marc Sneyd added the conversion to level the scores, it was an open game with plenty of errors from both sides adding to the excitement.
Hull KR’s James Batchelor was helped from the field on twenty-five after taking a knock in the tackle and following a ten-minute delay in play.
A Sneyd penalty from twenty metres on twenty-eight edged Salford into the lead for the first time in the game.
A thirty-third minute George King try, pushing his way through the Salford defence to ground by the uprights after taking a soft inside pass, edged KR back into the lead. Coote was again on target for 12-8 but KR conceded a penalty in the dying seconds of the half which Sneyd kicked to reduce the arrears to two points at the interval.
Twenty minutes of second half deadlock was broken on the hour mark after a KR ball steal gave Salford a penalty under the sticks and Sneyd kicked his 1,000th career goal for 12-12 as the game entered its final quarter.
A minute later a late hit from Dean Hadley on kicked Sneyd saw the KR prop sent to the sin bin, Sneyd kicking the penalty from forty metres to put the Red Devils back into the lead.
Salford were reduced to twelve men themselves on sixty-three after a late hit from Deon Cross on kicker Coote saw the Robins full back receiving extended treatment and being helped from the pitch.
On sixty-five a flying Ryan Hall jabbed the ball down one-handed by the left corner flag after taking a Kane Linnett offload. The Mikey Lewis conversion attempt hit the far upright and bounced out, KR two points in the lead.
The game was see-sawing ad on sixty-eight Ken Sio took a Ryan Brierley pass to come in off his wing and run the angle to go over. It was the fifth time in the game that the lead had changed hands, Sneyd’s conversion making the margin four points.
Salford sealed the points on seventy-three, Atkin taking the final pass from a floored Croft who wasn’t tackled by the chasing KR defence. Sneyd hit the mark for a ten-point advantage with just over five minutes remaining.
Salford had a further try ruled out in the dyiong second for a knock on, Salford easing to the 26-16 win which lefts them into fourth spot in the table.
There was no denying the excitement in the opening Magic Weekend fixture, but it was borne out of error and panic rather than an abundance of skill from either side. The lead kept changing hands and it wasn´t until the last ten minutes that Salford grabbed hold of the game by the scruff of its neck and dragged it home for the two points. It set the scene for the remaining five games of the weekend and whet the appetite for the programme ahead with a game that would have graced one of the evening slots in front of a near full stadium.
Salford Red Devils: Brierley, Sio (T), Cross (SB on 64), Lafai, Burgess (T), Croft, Sneyd (7G), Dupree, Atkin (T), Vuniyayawa, Watkins, Stone, Partington. Subs: Bourouh, Ormondroyd, Sidlow, Hellewell. 18th Man: Costello.
Hull KR: Coote (2G), Kenny-Dowall, Opacic, Hall C, Hall R (T), Litten, Lewis, Sue, Parcell, Hadley (SB on 61), Batchelor, Linnett, Minchella (T). Subs: King (T), Storton, Wood, Luckley. 18th Man: Kennedy.
Score Progression: 0-4, 0-6, 4-6, 6-6, 8-6, 8-10, 8-12, 10-12 : HT: 12-12, (SB), 14-12, (SB), 14-16, 18-16, 20-16, 24-16, 26-16 :FT.
Lead Exchanges: Hull KR – Square – Salford – Hull KR – Square – Salford – Hull KR – Salford.
Referee: Chris Kendall.