Salford will take on reigning Betfred Super League champions St Helens for a place in the Grand Final after routing Huddersfield 28-0 in the second sudden-death play-off at the John Smith’s Stadium.
The elimination tie was given the go-ahead only 24 hours earlier following the death of the Queen and, after both teams and the 5,000 crowd paid their respects, the Red Devils made their mark by racing into a 16-0 lead inside the first quarter.
There was no way back for the Giants under former Salford boss Ian Watson as Salford maintained the remarkable run of his successor Paul Rowley, who is 80 minutes away from leading them out at Old Trafford in his first season as a Super League head coach.
— Salford Red Devils 👹 (@SalfordDevils) September 10, 2022
Salford’s reward for a hugely-impressive victory is a tilt at Saints at the Totally Wicked Stadium next Saturday afternoon, while Wigan will host Leeds in the first semi-final on Friday night.
The only disappointment was the loss of influential stand-off Brodie Croft to a head knock just before half-time which looks certain to rule the former Melbourne and Brisbane playmaker, who is on the three-man short-list for Man of Steel, out of the semi-final.
Salford, who were Grand Final runners-up in 2019 under Watson, finished the regular season on a high, winning seven of their last nine matches, and the confidence was there to see from the kick-off.
Rendition of God Save The King pic.twitter.com/vCqDZNpRu1
— Ian Laybourn (@ILaybourn) September 10, 2022
Their fast start, highlighted by two tries in three minutes from Joe Burgess and Kallum Watkins, un-nerved their opponents, who were forced to abandon their traditional methodical approach to building a performance only to discover there was no plan B.
The Giants were boosted by the return from injury of former Salford half-back Theo Fages but he never got the chance to make his mark as they struggled to contain Salford’s free-flowing attack.
Scrum-half Marc Sneyd, whose tactical kicking was instrumental, gave them the lead with an eighth-minute penalty awarded for a high tackle on captain Elijah Taylor before they stunned their hosts with two quickfire tries.
Slick handling from a scrum 30 metres out saw winger Burgess take full-back Ryan Brierley’s pass to cross at the corner while second rower Watkins finished off a clean break by Croft.
Sneyd converted both tries and kicked a second penalty on the hour awarded for a dangerous tackle on prop Tyler Dupree to extend his side’s lead to 16-0.
Huddersfield had a chance to get back into the contest when Brierley was sin-binned on 24 minutes for a late tackle on his opposite number Tui Lolohea but they lacked the craft to break down a well-marshalled defence.
The Giants’ hopes slipped further just before the interval when busy hooker Danny Levi went off with a knee injury, which meant Oliver Russell moving into the dummy-half role.
A blockbusting run from substitute Sebastine Ikahihifo early in the second half briefly raised Huddersfield’s flagging spirits but they were snuffed out on 48 minutes when Brierley won the race to Sneyd’s pinpoint grubber kick to score the Red Devils’ third try.
That was the only score of a lifeless second half until impressive hooker Andy Ackers dummied his way over for a 50-metre solo try 90 seconds from the end and Sneyd kicked his sixth goal from as many attempts.