'We played real dumb': Ian Watson critical of Huddersfield Giants spine after chastening defeat
Huddersfield earned a home play-off eliminator thanks to a third-place finish but they had no answer to the inspired Red Devils.
The defeat ends a campaign that promised so much.
"I thought we played real dumb," said Watson.
"I've spoken to all the spine in there and said we've got to read what the D (defence) are doing.
"We spoke all week about how aggressive they were going to be on their goal-line but we played straight into their hands.
"Your spine has got to be really good and it comes down to experience. When everything is racing in and around them, they've got to keep cool.
"Your best half-backs do that. I thought Marc Sneyd was awesome at that."
Sneyd - a two-time Lance Todd Trophy winner - drew on all his experience to deliver a virtuoso performance in the pressure cooker of a play-off game.
Theo Fages has been there and done it with St Helens but Watson felt he lacked match sharpness after missing the previous two games with a head injury.
"Theo has said that he wasn't good enough in that area," added the Giants boss. "We're looking at Theo to do that.
"He's been phenomenal at that all year and he's had one tough game here.
"We didn't know Theo was going to be playing until early this week so he's probably missed the repetition.
"He gets a few games under his belt and he's nailing things like that."
Huddersfield are a club on the up and can look back on a season of indisputable progress once the dust settles on a chastening afternoon.
Watson has backed the Giants to be better for the experience in 2023.
"This is going to sting," he said.
"We've just spoken in there as a group and said this is the most disappointing way we could have finished the season on the back of the development that we've done.
"But we finished third, got to a Challenge Cup final and fell short in that, so there's a massive step forward in terms of progression.
"A hell of a lot of our players will learn a hell of a lot of lessons from this game.
"We spoke all the time about how play-off football is completely different and the experienced guys have tried to tell them that as well.
"One thing we don't get is the credit for the amount of young players we have in our team who are learning lessons.
"Salford taught us a real good lesson. There are a lot of players in there who have played in those big games and know how to handle them."