The Salford Red Devils were looking for back-to-back wins after getting their opening 2021 victory last weekend against the Leigh Centurions, but they were up against a Castleford Tigers side who are tucked into third position in the early season table as they chase Wigan and St Helens.
Despite home advantage the Red Devils had an eight-point start of the coupon as the bookies favoured another Tigers victory but many pundits were expecting a better start from Salford and Daryl Powell knew that if they clicked then it would be a tough encounter.
The two sides also knew that this was the curtain raiser for next weeks Challenge Cup quarter final where a place in the last four would be up for grabs.
Brilliant Tigers defence denied Andy Ackers as soon as the fifth minute as they held the Red Devils hooker up over the line. The Tigers went straight down the Salford end and opened the scoring when a Danny Richardson high kick was knocked backwards from Derrel Olpherts who found Richardson who put in a cross-field kick to Greg Eden who slid over. Richardson added the conversion for a 6-0 lead to the visitors.
Salford were back level on eleven with Kallum Watkins collecting a Tui Lolohea high kick before finding Kevin Brown in support to score from ten metres out. Harvey Livett added the conversion for 6-6.
Four minutes later Salford were in front with an Ackers dart from acting half-back as he dived between the Tigers defenders from a metre out. Livett was accurate again with the boot for 12-6.
In the tit-for-tat game the Tigers scored a rolling try after Paul McShane bust the line and then used Michael Shenton who in turn found Liam Watts to make it the last ten metres to the line. Richardson’s conversion made it 12-12.
Just as it looked as though the sides would go in level at the interval Danny Addy was penalised for not playing the ball correctly and Danny Richardson landed a fifty-five metre penalty goal which went over the cross bar as the hooter sounded.
Inside two minutes of the restart the Tigers extended their lead as Chase Blair collected a clever Jake Trueman grubber for a walk-in try. Richardson added the conversion for 20-12, daylight between the sides.
A fifty-eighth minute Richardson penalty extended the lead to ten points after a second effort from Salford.
The game was won on the hour mark as Jake Trueman took a Brad Martin offload to go through a big gap in the defence and dummy to Watkins before going in. Richardson missed his first conversion of the night.
A late tackle with added swinging arm from Lee Mossop on Richardson saw the Red Devils prop yellow carded with thirteen minutes of the game remaining. Richardson kicked the penalty goal from ten metres as additional revenge.
A Brown kick through was caught and grounded by Lolohea as a consolation with eight minutes remaining, Livett adding a fast conversion to reduce the arrears to ten points.
While there was little to choose between the two sides in the first half it was Castleford who were totally dominant in the second. As things started to go against Salford on the scoreboard, they started to loose their discipline which just served to gift the Tigers further opportunities. The Tigers win lifts them above the Dragons in the table and into third, Salford remain fourth from bottom.
Salford Red Devils: Kear, Sio, Watkins, Livett (3G), Williams, Lolohea (T), Brown (T), Mossop (SB on 67), Ackers (T), Ikahihifo, Greenwood, Roberts, Addy. Subs: Atkin, Burke, Johnson, Ormanroyd.
Castleford Tigers: Evalds, Eden (T), Shenton, Mata’utia, Olpherts, Trueman (T), Richardson (6G), Massey, McShane, Millington, Holmes, Sene-Lefeo, Milner. Subs: Watts (T), Blair (T), Peachey, Martin.
Referee: Rob Hicks.
Score Progression: 0-4, 0-6, 6-4, 6-6, 10-6, 12-6, 12-10, 12-12, 12-14 : HT : 12-18, 12-20, 12-22, 12-26, 12-28, 16-28, 18-28 : FT.