DANIEL HOLDSWORTH’S 79th minute penalty denied stunned Hull FC a share of the spoils in an enthralling game at Salford.
The Black and Whites, with scrum-half Brett Seymour in real incisive form, had already twice fought back from behind last night and seemed ready to push on for victory.
However, after Tom Briscoe’s try edged them 22-16 ahead in the 63rd minute, they somehow managed to lose a scrum against the head gifting Sean Gleeson the opportunity to level for gutsy Salford.
Hull, with Mark O’Meley and Danny Tickle towering up front, still had opportunities to strike but Gleeson intercepted Willie Manu’s pass on the Salford line and then Richard Horne fluffed a drop goal attempt. It meant when Danny Houghton was penalised for not being square – the visitors were on the wrong end of a hefty penalty count for most of the evening – Holdsworth held his nerve to leave them ruined.
With just seconds remaining, Tickle’s short re-start was won back for desperate Hull to have one last shot but they could not find the finish they so desperately needed.
Salford had made such an impressive start there was genuine concerns for the troubled visitors from the off.
With the powerful Ifeta Palea’aesina showing unusual stamina, regularly tearing into the Hull pack, both Matty Smith and Holdsworth delivering decent kicking options and Gleeson and Luke Patten offering vibrant threat out wide, they posed plenty of questions.
Poor discipline did not help Hull and, after Holdsworth’s pinpoint kick sat up perfectly for Ashley Gibson in the ninth minute, the former Leeds Rhinos winger was over for his second on 17.
Swift handling saw Gleeson – Hull must be sick of that name of late – find a brilliant flick pass and Gibson did the rest.
Holdsworth could not convert the latter, perhaps the only thing that did not go right for Salford in a dominant opening quarter where they benefited from a 5-0 penalty count.
However, perhaps fortuitously, Hull got a foothold back in the game.
When Will Sharp dropped inside off his right wing, he ran directly into team-mate Tony Martin, clearly benefiting from the obstruction as Salford defenders failed to get hold.
Referee Phil Bentham waved play on and, moments later, Brett Seymour came blind and dummied his way through a gaping hole to leave the home fans furious.
After that score, Hull – who gave 20-year-old prop Josh Bowden a debut with Sam Moa suspended – took control.
Having been starved of so much possession previously they decided the best solution would possibly be simply to steal it.
Their next two tries came from ripping possession from Salford in one-on-one tackles, first Richard Whiting robbing Lee Jewitt near his own line and then Willie Manu doing likewise to Gleeson.
The tactic – so underused in the modern game – reaped instant rewards.
After Hull exerted pressure from Whiting’s spoils, a probing Richard Horne kick forcing Salford into conceding a scrum near their own line, Seymour showed great footwork gliding across the line before giving Wade McKinnon just enough room to impressively stand-up Jodie Broughton – among Super League’s quickest wingers – on the outside.
Tickle’s conversion attempt struck a post to leave the scores level at 10-10 but Hull should have immediately taken the lead when Kirk Yeaman stormed clear and Bentham missed Holdsworth clearly tugging back the supporting Briscoe.
It mattered little as, soon after, even though McKinnon saw an effort ruled out for offside, they would not be denied again as Seymour once more threw a dummy and this time showed great strength to hold off a challenge and scramble over.
The former New Zealand Warriors scrum-half looks the perfect replacement for Sean Long, now, of course, working here as Salford assistant.
However, Salford struck first after the break when Smith, Holdsworth and Patten combined to splinter Hull in midfield, Matty Ashurst applying the finish and Holdsworth converting to tie.
Gibson was denied a hat-trick when an eagle-eyed tough judge spotted an off-the-ball incident and it looked like it might prove crucial when Briscoe then benefited from superb Manu handling to dive in at the corner.
But those rash moments from Peter Gentle’s side cost them dear as they lost for the first time this year and spirited Salford fought for their second successive victory.
Salford: Patten; Gibson, Gleeson, Nero, Broughton; Holdsworth, Smith; McPherson, Howarth, Boyle, Ashurst, Adamson, Wild. Substitutes: Owen, Sidlow, Jewitt, Palea’aesina.
Hull FC: McKinnon; Sharp, Martin, Yeaman, Briscoe; Horne, Seymour; O’Meley, Houghton, Lynch, Manu, Tickle, Aspinwall. Substitutes: Whiting, Bowden, Turner, Niklas.
Referee: P Bentham (RFL).