Super League: Salford Red Devils crash Leigh Leopards' party to take 20-10 victory
Tries from Kallum Watkins, Andy Ackers, and Ryan Brierley, plus three conversions and a penalty from Marc Sneyd - who was also sin-binned - saw the Red Devils emerge victorious; Josh Charnley opened the scoring for Leigh, with a penalty try accounting for their other score
Last Updated: 18/02/23 7:20am
Salford Red Devils' gate-crashed promoted Leigh Leopards' party as they claimed a 20-10 victory in the Betfred Super League opening round clash at Leigh Sports Village.
Josh Charnley broke the deadlock with the rebranded Leopards' first try back in Super League after a close-fought opening 20 minutes, but last season's play-off semi-finalists turned things around to lead 12-4 at half-time.
Kallum Watkins and Andy Ackers both crossed for the Red Devils in the final five minutes of the half, followed by Ryan Brierley racing clear to finish against his former club 10 minutes into the second half.
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Marc Sneyd being sent to the sin-bin followed by the hosts being awarded a penalty try meant the Leopards had their tails up again, but the Red Devils were able to hold firm and Sneyd put the seal on the win with a penalty on the final kick of the match after Tom Amone was sin-binned for foul play.
Story of the game
Optimism had been high among the home fans at the start of the Leopards' fourth attempt to establish themselves in Super League after three inglorious single-season stints.
A healthy and excitable crowd were in good voice with the party mood enhanced by a pre-match performance from the band Scouting for Girls and a spectacular fireworks display.
Leigh Leopards 10-20 Salford Red Devils score summary
Leigh Leopards: Tries - Josh Charnley, Penalty Try; Goal - Zak Hardaker.
Salford Red Devils: Tries - Kallum Watkins, Andy Ackers, Ryan Brierley; Goals - Marc Sneyd (4).
With the never-shy club owner Derek Beaumont front and centre in a leopard-print jacket, anticipation and expectation was clearly high.
All that was required was for the players to deliver, and after a tight opening they got off to a positive start as scrum-half Lachlan Lam, son of coach Adrian, sent Charnley over the corner with a looping long pass.
Yet things started to turn sour as Salford hit back with two quickfire tries before the interval.
Watkins crashed through a challenge to grab the first from a clever delayed pass by reigning Man of Steel Brodie Croft before Ackers scurried over from dummy-half.
The Leopards responded with a sustained spell of pressure after the break but a handling error by Charnley allowed Salford to escape danger. The visitors then made Leigh pay as Croft broke free and sent Brierley racing under the posts.
England international Sneyd's third conversion opened up an 18-4 lead but Leigh were not done and Charnley almost made amends for his mistake with a breakaway sprint towards the Salford line. He was eventually hauled down by Brierley but Sneyd was sin-binned for holding down.
Leigh took advantage and were awarded a penalty try on the hour when Jack Hughes was taken out by Watkins attempting to dive on a kick through.
Zak Hardaker added the extras but Leigh found no more openings and Sneyd returned to the field to wrap up the scoring.
What they said
Salford Red Devils head coach Paul Rowley
"It was a tough game, as expected, and it got to about a minute and a half left and we relaxed a bit. We're delighted - really delighted.
"It was such a tough contest. It's been a great day all round and I've been nervous all day because I knew what was coming...It was a real team performance, but a tough one."
Leigh Leopards head coach Adrian Lam
"I'm a little bit frustrated, but overall proud in a sense that we were in the game for the majority of it and in control for a lot of it - and the four hectic minutes before half-time put a dampener on it.
"There were some good signs tonight. When Salford were down to 12 men I think we could have taken a bit better advantage of it; we lacked composure in that situation and had we capitalised on that I think we would have had a chance to win the game in the last 10.
"Overall, I think there's a lot to gain out of that and plenty to fix."
Player of the match Ryan Brierley
"The build-up was all about Leigh, and we didn't mind that because we went under the radar quite a bit. We said before the game it wouldn't be any pretty stuff which would get us the win, it was the stuff which probably no-one really sees.
"The magnitude of the game was important, but it's still two points, and we'll take that and move onto next week."
Leigh face their first away trip of the year in Round 2 when they fly out to Perpignan to take on Catalans Dragons on Saturday, February 25 (5pm UK time). Salford are back in action on Thursday, February 23 when they host Hull Kingston Rovers, live on Sky Sports Arena (8pm).
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