Salford Red Devils 26 Castleford Tigers 16 - Bitter defeat for Cas to swallow as Salford soar

Castleford’s grip on a top-five spot loosened as they were leapfrogged by Salford who claimed a hard-fought 26-16 win at the AJ Bell Stadium.

Opportunistic: Jordan Rankin scored a fine breakaway try to give Castleford hope at Salford but they were undone in the second half (Picture: Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com)

In-demand Australian scrum-half Jackson Hastings was once again inspirational for the Red Devils with a try and two assists, while full-back Niall Evalds notched his 17th Super League touch down of the season.

Daryl Powell’s Castleford started the night in the final play-off spot but they were always chasing this game, fighting back from 18-6 down to cut the deficit to just two by half-time.

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Salford – beaten by Castleford in their last five meetings – kept the visitors scoreless in a second half which saw Derrell Olpherts claim the decisive try with 19 minutes remaining.

Junior Moors went off injured.

Ian Watson’s men dominated the first half yet found themselves only two points ahead at the break after one of the most bizarre sequences of play.

The hooter for half-time had sounded as Krisnan Inu’s long-range penalty hit the post. The ball bounced back to Salford who tried desperately to keep it alive but, in their haste, committed a handling error. The loose ball was scooped up by Castleford’s Jordan Rankin who raced 60 metres to score under the posts.

Peter Matautia’s conversion meant Salford – who had led 18-6 with only three minutes of the first half remaining – now led by only two. Even Castleford coach Powell missed the try as he was already in the changing room waiting to deliver his half-time talk.

It was a frantic finish to the half – in stark contrast to a tight opening quarter where chances were at a premium.

Salford went ahead in the 19th minute when Inu’s angled kick to the Castleford in-goal was dropped on by Evalds for a try which Inu also converted.

The home side doubled their lead moments later when prop Lee Mossop proved unstoppable from close range after taking a short pass from Hastings. Inu again kicked the conversion.

Castleford had offered little in attack up to this point but they got off the mark 14 minutes before half-time when Paul McShane stabbed a kick through close to the Salford tryline and Daniel Smith was able to touch down. Matautia added the goal.

It did not take long for the Red Devils to regain their 12-point lead – Hastings coming up with a stylish solo finish after a knock-on by Greg Minikin; Inu again made no mistake with the extras before that calamitous end to the half from the home side allowed Minkin and Rankin to score.

There were no points in the first 19 minutes of the first half and it was the same story in the second. It needed a flash of brilliance from Hastings to create the chance for Olpherts to score. He spun away from a challenge, making the most of an earlier burst by Joey Lussick, and popped out a pass for Olpherts to score. The try was a bitter pill for Castleford to swallow – moments earlier, Powell stormed down to the touchline to remonstrate with the fourth official over what he felt was a dangerous challenge by Hastings on Junior Moors which had resulted in the back-rower going off injured.

Inu added a penalty goal.

Salford: Evalds, Bibby, Inu, Welham, Olpherts, Lui, Hastings, Mossop, Tomkins, Dudson, Jones, Lannon, McCarthy. Substitutes: Walker, Burke, Flanagan, Lussick.

Castleford: Mata’utia, Clare, Minikin, Blair, Egodo, Trueman, Rankin, Watts, McShane, Smith, Sene-Lefao, McMeeken, Massey. Substitutes: Millington, Milner, Moors, Cook.

Referee: Scott Mikalauskas (RFL).