Salford 31 Hull KR 18: We lacked aggression, admits beaten coach Chester

Chris Chester.
Chris Chester.
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Salford produced a spectacular second-half comeback to stun Hull KR and make it a winning start for new director of rugby Tim Sheens.

The Red Devils trailed 18-4 at the break to an Albert Kelly inspired Rovers before running in five tries without reply.

Theo Fages’s try five minutes from the end of a thrilling contest put Salford in front for the first time before Michael Dobson slotted over a drop goal against his old club. Salford still had time to add a sixth try through Niall Evalds while Josh Griffin, Weller Hauraki and Ben Jones-Bishop also crossed in a one-sided second half.

Kelly, the ex Gold Coast half back took his Rovers try tally to 17 this season with a first-half double – Tyrone McCarthy also scoring – before they capitulated with Liam Hood outstanding for the Red Devils.

Rovers coach Chris Chester accused his side of lacking aggression.

Chester said: “We put ourselves in a really strong position at half time but our contact wasn’t good enough in the second half.

“We didn’t make the most of our opportunities in the first half and should have been further ahead.

“We panicked but were the less dominant side over the 80 minutes. Two wins will still get us in the top eight but we are making it difficult for ourselves.

“We weren’t aggressive enough and they ran a lot harder than us.

“Albert Kelly played on one leg in the second half with his knee strapped and hopefully it’s only a medial ligament strain.

“He wears his heart on his sleeve but we needed another 16 Albert Kellys out there.”

Rovers made a flying start with Kelly sending McCarthy racing past Evalds on an angled run after only three minutes with Josh Mantellato adding the conversion.

Rovers conceded back-to-back penalties and the pressure told with slick handling sending Jones-Bishop over in the corner to cut the gap to 6-4.

The arrival of Cory Paterson off the bench added new impetus to the Salford attack, but they had a let-off when Ben Cockayne threw a pass to opponent Fages after a storming break.

Kelly bounced off several defenders to score under the posts with Mantellato’s conversion stretching the lead to 12-4.

Rovers were down to 12 men five minutes before half time when Kevin Larroyer was sin binned for holding down.

Salford had no answer to Kelly who grabbed his second try from Cockayne’s neat kick to make it 18-4 at the interval.

Larroyer had a try disallowed when McCarthy pushed Fages in the build-up following a towering kick by Kelly which caused panic in the Reds defence.

It was a turning point, as Salford battled back to clinch an unlikely win.

Salford: Evalds, Jones-Bishop, Sa’u, J. Griffin, Caton-Brown, Fages, Dobson, Taylor, Tomkins, Morley, J. Walne, Hauraki, G. Griffin. Substitutes: Hood, Paterson, Krasniqi, D. Griffin.

Hull K R: Cockayne, Mantellato, Welham, Salter, Sio, Blair, Kelly, Walker, Lunt, Tilse, Larroyer, McCarthy, Donaldson. Substitutes: Cox, Green, Boudebza, Greenwood.

Referee: J Child (RFL).