The Robins leap-frogged city rivals Hull FC – who can return to eighth spot with victory at Wakefield tonight – after an impressive second-half display.
Trailing 10-8 at half-time, Rovers roared back to lead 26-10 only for Salford to level matters at 28-28. It was left to Australian play-maker Kelly to clinch the points with a late try and ensure the home side’s fourth successive win in June.
Former Rovers favourite Michael Dobson was first to threaten last night, but his kick on the last tackle was superbly picked up by Kelly, who cleared the danger.
As expected, Salford came out refreshed after an extended break due to no Cup commitments, and Rovers were under the cosh.
The hosts’ defence was standing firm though, with Dobson forced to kick on the last tackle four times.
And built on the gritty defence came Hull KR’s opening score against the run of play.
After soaking up everything Salford could throw at them, Kelly broke clear up field.
With what appeared to be few options on, he spotted Ben Cockayne racing down the right flank and kicked an inviting ball, which was grounded in the corner.
With a testing wind cooling Craven Park after a sweltering afternoon, Josh Mantellato was unable to add the conversion.
But to lead 4-0 after Salford had dominated the opening quarter was harsh on the visitors, who then punished an error from full-back Kieran Dixon.
Mason Caton-Brown pounced on the loose ball to score a try, and Josh Griffin added the extras from wide on the left.
Dobson was at the heart of the visitors’ attacks, and he put in Ben Jones-Bishop for an unconverted try as Salford turned the game around to lead 10-4.
Salford looked to be targeting Dixon, who looked uncomfortable under some high swirling kicks, but the Rovers full-back atoned for his earlier errors with a try.
After good play from Kelly, Rovers were awarded a penalty, and after keeping the ball alive, Dixon popped up on the right flank to apply the finishing touch.
Mantellato again missed the conversion to send Hull KR in trailing 10-8 at half-time.
Rovers were quick out of the blocks in the second half, however, but Mantellato lacked the pace to exploit a break of the Salford defensive line.
Play was held up after injury to the visitors’ Jordan Walne, and when the game resumed, James Greenwood was held up short of the line.
But Rovers were not to be denied, hitting back with two tries in three minutes.
The powerful Dane Tilse crashed over after good work from Shaun Lunt, the former Huddersfield and Leeds Rhinos hooker having sparked Rovers into life. Then, as Rovers took control, Lunt sprinted clear down the centre, and his chip forward was picked up by Kris Welham for another try.
Maurice Blair was next over for a try, Mantellato adding all three conversions to stretch the home team’s advantage to 26-10.
A couple of penalties bought Salford valuable territory, and Jordan Walne capitalised with a 64th-minute try, converted by Griffin, who also added the extras to Scott Taylor’s score.
Mantellato’s penalty made it a six-point game heading into the final 10 minutes, before Salford levelled at 28-28. James Donaldson lost the ball in the tackle, and Jones-Biship pounced for a Griffin-converted try.
But Rovers were not to be denied a deserved victory.
Kelly showed some nifty footwork from the re-start to dance his way through the Salford defence to go over the line and leave Craven Park rocking.
Hull KR: Dixon, Cockayne, Salter, Welham, Mantellato, Blair, Kelly, Walker, Lunt, Tilse, Ollett, Horne, Donaldson. Substitutes: Marsh, Green, Greenwood, Burke.
Salford: Chase, Jones-Bishop, Sa’u, J. Griffin, Caton-Brown, Fages, Dobson, Morley, Tomkins, Taylor, Paterson, J. Walne, Hansen.Substitutes: Hood, G. Griffin, Tasi, A. Walne.
Referee: R Silverwood (RFL).