Salford Red Devils began their new era on a successful note in front of a stadium record crowd of 7,102, but Wakefield Trinity almost ruined the occasion for them with a tremendous second-half rally.
Salford owner Marwan Koukash was all smiles at half-time when his new-look team led 18-0. But he was in a mean-looking mood throughout the second half as the Wildcats, inspired by debutants Paul McShane and Pita Godinet and veteran forward Ali Lauitiiti, struck back with three tries in the third quarter.
Brian Noble had 13 of his 14 close-season signings in the starting line-up and saw the biggest of them, England stand-off Rangi Chase, limp out of the action midway through the first half.
It did not seem to matter as Salford scored three tries without reply, inspired by Chase’s half-back partner Tim Smith, the former Wakefield scrum-half.
Second-row Harrison Hansen set the tone with an early crunching tackle on Wakefield winger Peter Fox which gave his side the position from which they opened the scoring, his former Wigan team-mate Gareth Hock touching down after Junior Sa’u had palmed the ball back from Chase’s grubber kick.
Full-back Jake Mullaney kicked the first of his three goals to put Salford into a 6-0 lead.
Wakefield, who lost one of their newcomers, Jimmy Keinhorst, to injury, worked their way into the game and might have drawn level had Fox been able to take Richard Mathers’s pass, but the Red Devils had things very much their own way up to half-time.
When Chase limped out of the action, Smith stepped up to the mark, laying on tries for Harrison and Andrew Dixon.
Godinet, one of three new signings who have been in the country less than a week, sparked Wakefield’s fightback, scoring one try and creating another within 10 minutes of the restart.
His pass got Matt Ryan charging through a gap in the home defence before he intercepted Shane Howarth’s pass to go over himself.
Paul Sykes succeeded with his second conversion attempt to leave the Wildcats trailing by eight points and they thought they had scored again when Lauitiiti barged his way to the line but referee James Child decided he had not grounded the ball.
Lauitiiti was not to be denied, however, as he crashed over with a trio of defenders on his back, before winger Reece Lyne dropped Godinet’s floated pass.
Wakefield coach Richard Agar felt they deserved to win the game. “Overall I’m really happy, but I’ll be going home disappointed because we dominated the second half so much we should have won the game and we would have deserved it too.”
Salford Red Devils: Mullaney, Johnson, Walton, Sa’u, Meli, Chase, Smith, Morley, Lee, Tasi, Hansen, Hock, Puletua. Substitutes: Griffin, Dixon, McPherson, Howarth.
Wakefield: Mathers, Fox, Collis, Keinhorst, Lyne, Sykes, Godinet, Anderson, McShane, Smith, Lauitiiti, Kirmond, Washbrook. Substitutes: Raleigh, Ryan, Tautai, Walshaw.
Referee: J Child (Dewsbury).