Two sides separated by just over twenty miles down the M62, but by a gulf in difference in recent achievement, met at the AJ Bell Stadium as Salford Red Devils took on St Helens in the final game of an incredible round twenty-one of Super League 2022.
St Helens were the bookies favourites, but comfortably in top position and playing the side in eighth, they perhaps might have expected more than a ten-point deficit on the handicap coupon.
A win for Saints would move them within a point of securing the minor premiership, but a victory for the home side would lift them up two places and into the play-offs.
Salford started by far the stongest, they wanted that top six place and were going all out to make sure that they got it.
On twelve minutes the Red Devils got their opener after solid build-up play with Sitaleki Akuaola taking a tip pass to go over to open the scoring. Marc Sneyd added the extra two for a terrific Salford start.
After Saints put the kick-off out on the full the Red Devils showed patience and worked downfield with Joe Burgess taking the final pass to cross in the corner. Sneyd drifted his kick wide of the uprights, Salford well placed at 10-0.
It was back-to-back-to-back tries for Salford on eighteen when Tim Lafai found Burgess who broke for thirty metres before setting Dan Sarginson free to cross under the sticks. Sneyd added the conversion for 16-0. It was like men against boys.
A fourth consecutive Salford try came on twenty-seven after a break from Ken Sio allowed him to find Kallum Watkins in support to cross. Sneyd missed the conversion, but Salford had a 20-0 lead, Saints having an awful day at the office.
A breakaway try from Burgess made it five of the best for Salford as they continued to punish a mediocre Saints performance. Sneyd added his third conversion of the afternoon, in off the post, for 26-0, a score line which was unthinkable as the game kicked off.
Sneyd was unable to add a forty-metre penalty on the stroke of half-time, but the Red Devils took a 26-0 lead into the sheds for half time.
Salford took up where they left off as they opened the scoring in the second half with substitute Greg Burke taking the pass to go through a big hole and bring up the thirty. Sneyd added a fourth conversion for 32-0.
Saints avoided the nilling on fifty-eight with Jack Welsby managing to get to the line despite a last-ditch tackling effort from Salford. Joey Lussick added the extras for 32-6.
The seventh Salford try of the game, the second at the hands of Watkins, came as the Red Devils moved the ball to the left and speed with Brodie Croft putting Watkins through a gap to dive over. Sneyd added the conversion for 38-6, another incredible round twenty-one score line.
Salford went through the forty with an excellent effort from Croft as he too a Lafai pass and dodged through the Saints defence to score by the sticks. Sneyd was again on target with the boot for 44-6 with ten minutes remaining on the clock.
After conceding four consecutive penalties Elijah Taylor was sin-binned for being offside.
Saints went in for their second against the twelve after repeated penalties. Alex Walmsley was the man who pushed to the line and then stretched to ground. Lussick added the conversion for 12-44, it was meagre consolation.
Absolutely no-one saw this result coming, not even the wildest of Red Devils fantasists. The Red Devils got on a Saints roll and gave the Champions a taste of their own medicine as they ran in try after try for a sensational win. Kristian Wolf will put this down as ´one of those days´ but Salford will look to use the result toi build some momentum into the play-offs in the hope of grabbing a Grand Final spot come October.
Salford Red Devils: Cross, Sio, Sarginson (T), Lafai, Burgess (2T), Croft (T), Sneyd (6G), Akauola (T), Ackers, Ormondroyd, Taylor (SB on 75), Watkins (2T), Gerrard. Subs: Burke (T), Lannon, Atkin, Luckley.
St Helens: Welsby (T), Bennison, Hurrell, Davies, Grace, Lomax, Roby, Walmsley (T), Lussick (2G), Lees, Sironen, Batchelor, Knowles. Subs: McCarthy-Scarsborook, Paasi, Wingfield, Bell.
Score Progression: 4-0, 6-0, 10-0, 14-0, 16-0, 20-0, 24-0, 26-0: HT : 30-0, 32-0, 32-4, 32-6, 36-6, 38-6, 42-6, 44-6, (SB), 44-10, 44-12 : FT.
Lead Exchanges: Salford.
Referee: Jack Smith.