Written by John Davidson
Photo by Leeds Rhinos
Salford Red Devils coach Ian Watson insists his team has the mentality to win big games after they confirmed their place in the finals with a 20-12 victory over Leeds Rhinos.
The Red Devils claimed their seventh win in a row with a hard-fought result at Headingley, secured by tries to Niall Evalds, Jake Bibby and Joey Lussick.
Salford remain in fourth place but cannot be dislodged with one round of the regular season left.
They have not won seven games consecutively since 1976, but are now targeting a birth at Old Trafford.
“For us it’s about taking it each week. We don’t fear playing any team,” Watson said after the win.
“We’ve got good players there.
“The test was whether we could go through certain stages like that, which we have in the past two games where we’ve had sets to defend on our goal-line and then come through the other side.
“We’ve got the mentality to be able to win big games.
“The most appealing thing was the D. If we want to be a top team we have to show resilience.
“We spoke about having an attitude. We know play-off football is won by attitude and effort.
“That was a really good one for us.”
Halfback Tui Lolohea made an impressive return to Headingley, while Man of Steel contender Jackson Hastings set up one try and had seven tackle busts.
Prop George Griffin made an enormous 55 tackles and 110 metres, while back-rower Josh Jones was also eye-catching with 26 tackles, 11 tackle busts and 138 metres.
A flare was thrown on to the pitch from the Salford supporters bay near the end of the match, after Joey Lussick had scored to seal the Red Devils’ win.
Two fans were identified being involved in the incident and were intercepted by police.
Watson admitted: “It’s not good. The club will take care of that.
“All of our travelling support were outstanding except one. One bloke has let that down.”
Leeds coach Richard Agar conceded his team were their own worst enemy at times.
Agar praised his player’s efforts, but questioned some of their decisions in attack.
“I thought we defended heroically in the second half, and I don’t think we did much wrong in the second half,” he said.
“We lacked a bit of line speed but I thought we got caught on two plays. Sutty missed a tackle on Hastings, a one on one, Harry and Luke got it wrong on the right edge, and we got burned for 12 points on two plays.
“We played a lot of the game in our half. I thought a real big difference between the two teams tonight was the end of sets.
“We probably take a little bit of a lesson from Salford as they kept chipping away, kick-chasing.
“For us, a few too many errors in the first half. I thought we had some puzzling last plays that just never let us attain any sort of field position.”
The Rhinos gave themselves a chance to win the game late when the score was cut to 14-12, after Jamie Jones-Buchanan’s try.
But Lussick dived over with seven minutes left to confirm the win.
“When we defended the sets on our line, it was a tremendous effort for our guys,” Agar said.
“Then we threw the ball away on the next set and it set up the position for Salford.
“But we can take a lot of lessons from Salford, the way they play the game and manfully stuck to what they were doing.”