Sneyd inspires Salford to shock double over St Helens

Betfred Super League

Salford (10) 20

Tries: Cross 2, Watkins, Hankinson Goals: Sneyd 2

St Helens (6) 18

Tries: Bell, Sironen, Percival Goals: Percival 3

Marc Sneyd masterminded Salford Red Devils' first league double over St Helens since 1980 in a thrilling clash.

The Red Devils scrum half nervelessly converted Chris Hankinson’s superb try to give Paul Rowley’s team the edge after it seemed that Mark Percival had won it and sent Saints back to the top of Super League.

Sneyd had also been to the fore as two Deon Cross tries and another from Kallum Watkins had kept the Merseysiders at arm’s length, until Percival seemed to have redeemed himself with a try that gave him a personal haul of 10 points.

Saints had opened the scoring through James Bell and seemed to be grinding their way to victory as Curtis Sironen scored one try and made another for Percival in the second half.

The script read that Saints would avenge their shock defeat at the Totally Wicked Stadium in March, and that was underlined as Salford fullback Ryan Brierley was missing through injury and dangerous centre Tim Lafai limped out of the warm-up with an ankle problem.

The disruption looked evident as Brierley’s replacement Hankinson fumbled an early high ball and Bell pounced on a Percival grubber kick under the posts to give the normally clinical Saints the lead.

Salford went into the game off the back of two consecutive wins, however, and they fought back ferociously, putting the much-vaunted Saints defence - which has conceded fewer points than any other in Super League - under real pressure.

Furious finale

A sharp switch of direction from a tap, saw Cross race down short side and score in the corner to level the score and, after the Reds had forced two six-agains, Sneyd lobbed a gorgeous kick into the arms of Cross for his second.

The winger now has nine tries this season and four of them have come against Saints.

Sneyd also tried a piece of chicanery as he kicked a penalty across field for Chris Atkin to touch down, but having signalled he was going for the posts, referee Jack Smith rightly ruled that he had deliberately skewed it wide.

Nene Macdonald thought he had extended Salford’s lead early in the second half only to be pulled back for a forward pass, and the home side seemed to be flagging in the heat as big Australian Sironen burst clear to score.

Salford came again and when Sneyd raked a high kick out to the right Macdonald knocked it back and Watkins dived over after almost tripping over teammate Hankinson.

With Sneyd uncharacteristically missing the conversion and Percival nailing a monster penalty from halfway and then scoring his redemptive try, Saints seemed to be heading back to the top.

Salford had one last trick in their locker, in a furious finale running the ball from deep, with the superb Watkins flipping an underhand kick that sent Hankinson streaming down the right to make it 18-18 and give Sneyd his moment.

Post-match reaction

Salford head coach Paul Rowley told BBC Radio Manchester:

“To beat top teams you need to defend well and we did that. We played the game in the right half of the field for us, which was a challenge we accepted, as they have 54% of possession generally. We went in at 54% at half time.

“Dominating possession means you dominate territory and we were led by [Marc] Sneyd, who is a talisman and the architect of everything good. We deserved the win in a good game.

“People laud [Tim Lafai] as one of the best centres in Super League so nobody wants their best players dropping out but if I’m honest nobody batted an eyelid. We’re pretty chilled with stuff like that.”

Salford: Hankinson; Ryan, Macdonald, Lewis, Cross; Atkin, Sneyd; Singleton, Mellor, Wright, Stone, Watkins, Partington.

Interchanges: Vuniyayawa, Shorrocks, Dudson, Connell.

St Helens: Welsby; Bennison, Hurrell, Percival, Blake; Mbye, Dodd; Delaney, Clark, Lees, Sironen, Mata'utia, Bell.

Interchanges: Paasi, Davies, Royle, Stephens.

Referee: Jack Smith