Shaun McRae’s position as Salford boss may be under increasing scrutiny after his side was comprehensively beaten for the second time in a week.
St Helens ran in ten tries in a 56-22 victory at The Willows as Royce Simmons comfortably maintained his unbeaten start to life in Super League.
While not a game that they would necessarily expect to win, it was a miserable night for the City Reds, who added a bit of respectability to the scoreline with two late tries, and their fans made their disapproval known, particularly at half time.
Reeling from their 42-12 thrashing at the hands of Crusaders at the Magic Weekend, McRae had promised a response from his men, but it started to go wrong within the first five minutes when scrum half Daniel Holdsworth failed to find touch with a penalty. From the resulting set of six, Lee Gaskell’s smart kick was collected by Chris Flannery for the game’s opening try.
Despite getting themselves in to the arm wrestle, Salford were once again undone on the last tackle as Jon Wilkin’s smart kick was gathered by Kyle Eastmond who turned full back Luke Patten to touch down by the side of the sticks, with Jamie Foster making it two from two to stretch the lead to 12-0.
In their first real foray in to Saints territory, Salford came back with a reward. Good work by prop Rob Parker and Matty Smith got the home side on the front foot, and Patten finished off the move on the left hand side after taking Holdsworth’s pass.
However, it turned to be a brief moment of respite in a clinical first half performance by Saints, who never really had to find top gear to see off their opponents.
After James Roby dummied his way over from a play the ball near to the line, Kyle Eastmond showcased the lightning speed that may soon be on show in rugby union’s Guinness Premiership, scything through a gap to lay the platform for Francis Meli to touchdown, before adding a try of his own minutes later.
Saints re-inforced their dominance with two quick-fire tries late on, first Jonny Lomax got on the end of an Eastmond pass to touch down before he turned provider, firing out a great pass out wide to Ade Gardner after Salford had fired the kick off out on the full. Foster missed for only the second time in the half, but Saints had opened up a commanding 38-6 lead.
The home fans made their frustration known to coach McRae at half time, who was still without injured new signings Phil Bailey and Vinnie Anderson and the suspened Wayne Godwin.
The second half started and for a minute at least it looked like Salford may at least make a game of it as Ashley Gibson crossed down the right just 26 seconds in after Lomax had gifted Salford field position by dropping the kick-off.
But the night was summed up moments later when Patten, who had a miserable home debut for his new club, misjudged the kick-off and lost the ball, allowing Gaskell to stroll in for a try. The former Canterbury Bulldogs full-back exited the field shortly after, and never returned.
Paul Clough scored Saints’ ninth try before Michael Shenton won a foot race to the line to stretch the visitors’ advantage to 56-10 on the hour.
Stefan Ratchford, probably Salford’s best player on the night, got on the end of a Holdsworth kick to give the remaining home fans at least something to cheer about, and they added a fourth try at the death, Jodie Broughton touching down after the hooter.
But after a pre-season of much hope, two heavy defeats will have rocked the City Reds as they look to bow out of The Willows in style in its final season.
Salford: Patten, Broughton, Henry, Nero, Gibson, Ratchford, Holdsworth, Cashmere, Smith, Parker, Adamson, Sidlow, Wild. Palea’aesina, Neal, Spencer, Jewitt.
Tries: Patten, Gibson, Ratchford, Broughton. Goals: Holdsworth 3
St Helens: Lomax, Gardner, Shenton, Meli, Foster, Gaskell, Eastmond, McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Roby, Puletua, Flannery, Soliola, Wilkin. Moore, Clough, Magennis, Makinson.
Tries: Flannery, Eastmond 2, Roby, Meli, Lomax, Gardner, Gaskell, Clough, Shenton. Goals: Foster 8