Huddersfield Giants 14 Salford 34: Evalds runs in hat-trick against depleted Giants

Akuila Uate scored on his Huddersfield debut.
Akuila Uate scored on his Huddersfield debut.
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Niall Evalds scored a second-half hat-trick of tries to give Salford a flying start to their Betfred Super League season and condemn hosts Huddersfield to a nightmare introduction to 2019.

Until the Red Devils’ livewire full-back took matters into his own hands in the final quarter, there had been little between the two teams.

However, his quickfire double midway through the second period proved decisive as the visitors produced a sprint finish to storm to an emphatic 34-14 victory.

It was a good time to be facing the Giants, who went into the contest lacking eight first-choice players due to pre-season injuries. But that still could not hide the fact that this was a rock-solid all-round performance from Salford, whose workaholic pack will have delighted coach Ian Watson.

Huddersfield drew first blood when half-back Izaac Farrell landed a straight-forward fourth-minute penalty from in front of the posts.

But as the half progressed, Salford began to edge the contest, creating slightly more clear-cut openings than their hosts.

The Red Devils hit the front for the first time in the 15th minute as the explosive Junior Sa’u dived low to plunge in at the corner on the sixth tackle, although it was too far wide for Joey Lussick to land the conversion.

And the hooker also failed to find the mark with a second attempt from the same position six minutes before the break after Ken Sio marked his senior Salford debut by finishing off a slick passing move in style.

Salford led 8-2 at the break but lost their momentum within minutes of the restart following a nasty head knock suffered by Petero Nakubuwai, with the Giants immediately taking full advantage of their opponents’ misfortune.

Before the Red Devils had time to re-group, they were undone by a superb attacking move, finishing with Jordan Turner’s perfectly-timed pass for new recruit Akuila Uate to score his first try for his new club.

To add to the home side’s delight, Farrell landed the touchline conversion, and the teams were back on level terms.

Lussick edged the visitors two points ahead for a second time with a successful penalty as the Red Devils began to regain their composure. And five minutes later the lead was extended when Evalds raced to the line from 10 metres out and plunged through, with Lussick adding the extras to make it 16-8.

Evalds doubled his tally three minutes later thanks to a perfect kick from another new recruit, Jansin Turgut, to grab the easiest of scores, although this time the conversion was missed by Lussick.

It mattered little, though, as Sio doubled his tally by finishing off another sweeping right-left move with 10 minutes remaining and then Evalds completed his hat trick to seal the outcome four minutes later.

Kruise Leeming gained a little consolation for the Giants by scoring under the posts for Farrell to convert with time ticking away.

But the Red Devils had the last laugh when Derrell Olpherts touched down on the final hooter after Suaia Matagi failed to deal with a kick-through.