Salford 4-30 St Helens: Saints edge towards semi-finals
Last Updated: 22/09/17 7:53am
St Helens secured a 30-4 victory over Salford to edge towards one of the two remaining Super League semi-final spots
Substitute forward Alex Walmsley grabbed two of their tries as the visitors overcame 12-man Salford at the AJ Bell Stadium.
The Saints' third successive victory snuffed out Wakefield's lingering hopes of a top-four finish and lifted them up to third place with a healthy points difference.
As a result of their victory, the only way that they will be denied a place in the knockout stage is if Wigan win by a margin of 90 points at Wakefield on Saturday and Hull win or draw at leaders Castleford.
On the night, Salford battled hard despite the 37th-minute dismissal of forward Ryan Lannon for a high and late tackle but finish a season that promised so much with a ninth defeat in their last 10 matches.
The Red Devils made the better start, though, with former New Zealand Test winger Manu Vatuvei catching the eye with a strong burst before full-back Niall Evalds cut through for the game's opening try straight from a well-worked scrum set move.
But the home side paid the penalty for a series of handling errors which enabled St Helens to build up a head of steam.
Pressure on the visitors' line told on 16 minutes when Saints' full-back Ben Barba slipped the tackle of Kris Welham to give centre Mark Percival a clear run to the line for an equalising score.
The turning point came 10 minutes before half-time when Vatuvei was denied a try by video referee Phil Bentham for a knock-on in the build-up to a smart attacking move and a minute later prop Walmsley crashed over for his first try.
Walmsley was then placed on report for raising his elbow in the tackle and shortly after Lannon was dismissed for an ugly challenge on the visitors' half-back Theo Fages.
Percival provided the only other points of the first half with a conversion and a penalty.
Salford defied their numerical disadvantage to stay in the game for much of the second half, although it was Saints who continued to create the better scoring chances.
Tommy Makinson went close to touching down Danny Richardson's lofted kick to the corner and Regan Grace crossed at the other corner only for slow-motion replays to indicate a foot in touch.
It was no surprise when Saints finally increased their lead, second rower Zeb Taia taking Fages' pass close to the line to grab their third try on 62 minutes and Percival kicked his third goal to open up a three-score lead.
The powerful Walmsley romped over for his second try 10 minutes from the end before leaving the field injured while Barba put the seal on an impressive display with Saints' fifth try in the last minute.