Paul Rowley hails Salford Red Devils ‘character’ in adversity after semi-final defeat

Salford Red Devils head coach Paul Rowley praised the character of his side in their Super League semi-final defeat to St Helens, but felt they should have had a late penalty try.

His plucky underdogs stood toe to toe with reigning champions Saints despite not only the absence of Brodie Croft, sidelined due to the head injury protocols, but also Andy Ackers who lasted only two minutes before being forced off with his own head injury.

Kallum Watkins and Ryan Brierley tries saw them battle back from behind to trail by only a point at 13-12, but after Jon Bennison stretched Saints’ advantage Salford were denied a potential try when Tommy Makinson pulled back Tim Lafai as he chased a kick.

Makinson was sin binned for the offence but the Red Devils were only given a penalty, and when Rowley was asked if his side should have been awarded a penalty try he said “the short answer is yeah”.

He also admitted the early loss of hooker Ackers was “massive”, saying: “He’s been the best hooker in the comp this year and we lose him, on the back of losing Brodie Croft.

“We’ve gone all year with a really settled spine and then when it matters we lose them to concussions. It was a huge blow.”

But Rowley could take great pride in Salford’s efforts to push St Helens so close for a Grand Final spot.

“Even when you’re not fluent, or you’re without your star halfback, if you’ve got a team with character you’ve got a chance,” he said.

“But we pay our respect to St Helens, they played aggressive and tough and came up with some good plays to get the game won.”