Salford 44-10 St Helens

Craig Kopczak

Craig Kopczak scored Salford’s second try of a dominant first-half display

Salford Red Devils produced a stunning display to inflict an eight-try hammering on visitors St Helens.

Saints had won the past 11 meetings between the clubs, but never recovered from an electric Salford start as Greg Johnson scored after just four minutes.

Helped by Luke Walsh’s sin-binning, Salford took a 32-6 lead into half-time after further tries from Craig Kopczak, Niall Evalds and Robert Lui’s double.

Adam Walne, Michael Dobson and Evalds added further tries as Saints imploded.

Salford have been Super League’s great underachievers in recent years, but under the coaching of Tim Sheens and Ian Watson they produced arguably their best performance since Marwan Koukash took over the club in 2013.

The home side took little time to show their attacking prowess, with Dobson’s inch-perfect kick to the corner giving Johnson a straightforward opening score and Kopczak’s powerful run taking him in under the posts.

Dobson controlled much of Salford’s play from half-back and scored a well-deserved second-half try

Lui’s dummy off the back of the scrum opened up the Saints defence with ease to allow him to gallop to the line, before Saints’ Alex Walmsley made an instant impact off the bench for a much-needed score.

Shortly after Walsh’s yellow card for tackling from an offside position, Evalds finished off a glorious handling move, with Ben Murdoch-Masila and Justin Carney to the fore, and Lui’s second came courtesy of a lovely bit of footwork and another Carney dart off his wing.

It got even worse after the restart for Saints, who started the second half with a knock-on from the first play and within two minutes Walne had stretched over for a sixth Salford score.

Half-back Dobson went through three tackles for the next try and, although Swift scored a second consolation score for St Helens, the final word went to Salford with Evalds adding his second of the night.

For Salford, the challenge will be to live up to this stellar standard, while Saints must ponder how to take on the might of the Sydney City Roosters in the World Club Series next week.

What a difference a year makes…

St Helens thrashed Salford 52-6 at the AJ Bell Stadium a year ago on Friday, prompting a furious tweet from Koukash.

Koukash’s anger was clear after last year’s heavy defeat

This year, his response was rather different, though he had to wait a little while, telling BBC Sport he had run into social media difficulties at full-time.

Koukash enjoyed this season’s fixture more than last year’s

“I didn’t want the game to finish. I was just about to tweet that and my batteries ran out,” he told BBC Radio 5 live sports extra.

“I’m not getting carried away. It’s only two points, it’s only one win. My own target is to win one more game, finish one place higher than last season – that’s real progress.

“This is a very young squad and we have to learn to be patient with them.”

What the coaches said

Salford head coach Ian Watson on BBC Radio 5 live Sports Extra:

“It was good and it was what we were hoping for – a response to the Hull FC game last week.

“We’ve got a belief in ourselves as a team and that’s important but it is a one-off game and now it’s on to the next one.

“Robert Lui is playing really well. He’s definitely going to be a threat and he’s lit the place up with some of his skill in training.

“It’s got to be a team-first mentality – we’ve not really had that in the past and it’s something we’ve been big on in pre-season. I’m so pleased for the players. We made our own problems last week but we fixed them tonight.”

St Helens coach Keiron Cunningham:

“It was a horrible start to the game, completely and utterly a mentality thing. We just didn’t approach the game with the right mindset.

“You can smell an air of complacency about the place just before the game. I spoke to my staff about it, I was a little bit worried about it but, once they’re ready to cross the line, it’s a little late.

“Rugby league is about energy battles and, if you lose the energy battle, you dig yourself into a hole.

“I don’t want to make any excuses or take any polish off what Salford have done. They responded outstandingly to a loss last week and played the perfect game tonight.”

Salford: O’Brien, Carney, J. Jones, J. Griffin, Johnson, Lui, Dobson, Kopczak, Lee, G. Griffin, Murdoch-Masila, Flanagan, Lannon.

Replacements: Evalds, A. Walne, Tomkins, Joseph.

St Helens: Owens, Makinson, McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Percival, Swift, Turner, Walsh, Amor, Knowles, Tasi, Vea, Wilkin, Thompson.

Replacements: Walmsley, Richards, Savelio, Fages.

Referee: Richard Silverwood (RFL)

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