SALFORD Red Devils came up against a very strong Leigh Centurions side at the Leigh Sports Village, and came agonisingly close to winning a game they should have, on paper, won quite easily.
This sport isn’t played on paper though, and Ian Watson was left to rue four tries that were ruled out after the video referee was asked to intervene, one of which should have stood, that cost Salford.
The home side are shaping up to become the first team to be promoted via the “Super 8’s” system, having failed last year to make an impact.
Leigh got off to a flying start, taking a 12-0 lead after just 11 minutes thanks to tries from former Salford players Reni Maitua and then Cory Paterson with Martyn Ridyard adding the extras.
Before that, Mason Caton-Brown raced 60m to get his 7th try in 4 games and get Salford onto the scoreboard, with Gareth O’Brien converting to leave it 12-6 after 15 minutes.
It wasn’t to last though. Sloppy play from Salford and too many mistakes began to play into Leigh’s hands and after 22 minutes, Gregg McNally scored and another Ridyard kick left Salford 12 points adrift.
Salford were back hunting again when Niall Evalds made it 18-10 just after the half hour mark, but then with the clock ticking down to the break, a Leigh penalty in front of the posts left Salford 10 points adrift
Its the Championship side leading the Red Devils here.
Can they extend their 13 game winning run?
Leigh 20 – 10 Salford
— BBC RM Sport (@BBCRMsport) August 13, 2016
The second half began with a no try on the field, that looked certain to be overturned on video evidence, as Ben Murdoch-Masila clearly hadn’t lost the ball, but the on field decision of no try was upheld to the bemusement of most by video referee Child.
Then, on the 51st minute, Caton-Brown looked to be over again, but this time, the on field try was correctly overruled by the video referee as his boot had just slid into touch as he crossed the line.
Salford were not out by any stretch of the imagination though, as just four minutes later, after a lovely break from Junior Sa’u, Robert Lui crossed under the posts, and O’Brien made it 20-16 and the travelling fans began to believe again.
After 63 minutes, the video referee was called into action again, this time another Salford try chalked off for a knock on, and then after forcing a goal line drop out, which O’Brien put out on the full, the hosts extended their lead with the resulting penalty.
Things didn’t get any better for the travelling fans, as O’Brien’s restart failed to go the requisite 10m and Leigh were awarded another penalty on the halfway line.
Then after 73 minutes, all the pressure Leigh had been applying paid off as Higson, who had been outstanding on the home wing, went over for a deserved try with Ridyard hitting the upright to leave it 26-16.
With just 4 minutes’ left on the clock, Matty Dawson extended the lead to 32-16 with a try and another Ridyard conversion.
Salford were not finished yet. After his first half effort had been ruled out, Murdoch-Masila was not to be denied a second time, and with O’Brien converting, it was a frantic final three minutes as then Caton-Brown went over for his second
It was too little too late, and the hooter went on a memorable day for Leigh, beating their local rivals 32-26 to give them a real chance of making it to the top table for 2017.
Salford will be left to wonder how they got so close to Leigh, given all the mistakes made on the field.
Here's what winning feels like! pic.twitter.com/6uEumIuytl
— Leigh Centurions (@LeighCenturions) August 13, 2016
Ian Watson told the press afterwards that he had no fresh injury concerns, adding: “We weren’t at our best. We highlighted during the week that they’ve got experience.”
Salford’s next game is back at the AJ Bell Stadium on Friday, August 19 when they take on Hull KR with an 8pm kick off.
Uphill battle for The Red Devils after a thoroughly deserved Leigh victory. pic.twitter.com/9u543w0Mp7
— Salford’s Red Army (@REDARMYSALFORD) August 13, 2016