Leeds Rhinos held out a late desperate attack by Salford Red Devils to hang on for an 18-22 victory tonight at the AJ Bell Stadium.
The game had its fair share of errors and moments of great skill, and it was a great advert for the entertainment value of Super League.
The Rhinos were missing skipper Kevin Sinfield, who was serving the first of his two-match suspension and they were also missing the injured Brett Delaney.
The Red Devils were giving a home debut to Kiwi signing Kevin Locke.
Salford were the first to score when Junior Sau followed up a Kevin Locke kick to touch down just ahead of Ryan Hall, and Josh Griffin goaled to give the hosts a six-point lead.
Half way through the first half, however, the Rhinos struck with two quick tries. The first came from Zak Hardaker, who brilliantly touched down a Danny McGuire kick just inside the dead-ball line, while Kallum Watkins scored the second after a superb break down the right wing by Tom Briscoe. Hardaker converted both to give Leeds a six-point advantage.
But shortly before half-time Frenchman Theo Fages chased a beautifully placed kick from Rangi Chase to touch down, with Griffin’s conversion levelling the scores.
The Rhinos were ahead again early in the second half, when Carl Ablett spun out of a tackle to touch down, after taking a superb long pass from McGuire.
And the Rhinos went ten points ahead when Stevie Ward finished off a sweeping passing movement, although this time Hardaker couldn’t convert.
The Red Devils didn’t give up, however, and Jordan Walne touched down with 20 minutes to go after being fed by Chase. Griffin’s goal reduced the deficit to four points.
Both sides battled for the decisive score, with Sau dropping the ball trying to score, and Paul Aiton then dropping it at the other end.
And with 30 seconds remaining the Red Devils won a goal-line drop-out.
They tried to keep the ball alive heroically, but the game ended when Chase finally gave a forward pass, much to the relief of the Rhinos’ large travelling support.
A full report and analysis of this game will feature in Monday’s edition of Rugby League Express.