Salford halted their three-match losing run with a tense 22-18 victory over Castleford to keep their slender Super League top-eight hopes alive.
Full-back Gareth O’Brien kicked three late penalties to help the Red Devils complete the double over the Tigers following their 32-16 win at the Jungle in March.
A fourth successive defeat leaves Castleford still looking for one win from their last three matches of the regular season to ensure their place in the top eight and, on this form, that cannot be guaranteed. Perhaps the re-signing of Rangi Chase might provide the Tigers with a much-needed boost as they look to salvage something from a largely disappointing season.
Castleford coach Daryl Powell was forced into an early re-shuffle when winger Joel Monaghan went off with an arm injury after only four minutes but they took the lead shortly afterwards when Luke Gale and Luke Dorn combined to get centre Jake Webster over for the first of his two tries.
Salford, who gave a debut to new signing, hooker Sean Kenny, were slow to get into the game but they found a purple patch midway through the first half and opened up a 10-6 lead. O’Brien sliced through the visitors’ defence for the Red Devils’ first try before skipper Michael Dobson won the race to a grubber kick from his half-back partner Robert Lui and O’Brien added one conversion.
The strong-running Webster was a constant threat to the Salford defence and, although the Tigers failed to make the most of a clear-cut break from the New Zealander, he got on the end of a sublime pass out of the tackle by Dorn to score his second try on 30 minutes.
Gale kicked his second goal to make it 12-10 but Salford might have been in front by the break had winger Greg Johnson produced a clinical finish at the corner rather than lose the ball in Paddy Flynn’s tackle. Dorn, who will depart Super League at the end of the season, underlined his immense value to Castleford by taking Gale’s pass and wrong-footing the Salford defence to score their third try four minutes into the second half.
Gale’s third goal opened up an eight-point lead but it was gradually whittled away as Salford got their second wind to finish the game the stronger side.
Winger Mason Caton-Brown collected Dobson’s lofted kick to go over at the corner for his first try of the season on 58 minutes and O’Brien’s second conversion made it 18-16.
O’Brien then brought the scores level when Castleford hooker Adam Milner was pulled up for a high tackle on Lui, moments after spilling the ball on his own 20-metre line, and kicked a second penalty six minutes from the end, this time from 40 metres out after Tom Holmes was punished for a high tackle on Dobson.
O’Brien then wrapped up the scoring after the final hooter with a third penalty.
Salford: O’Brien, Caton-Brown, J. Griffin, Sa’u, Johnson, Lui, Dobson, Kopczak, Tomkins, Murdoch-Masila, Jones, Flanagan, Hauraki. Substitutes: J. Walne, Kenny, A. Walne.
Castleford: Dorn, Monaghan, Crooks, Webster, Flynn, T. Holmes, Tickle, McShane, Patrick, Moors, McMeeken, Massey, Milner. Substitutes: Millington, O. Holmes, Springer.
Referee: J Child (RFL).