Salford 44 Saints 10

Salford Red Devils' Adam Walne (no.15) celebrates scoring against Saints
Salford Red Devils' Adam Walne (no.15) celebrates scoring against Saints

Salford turned the tables on St Helens in sensational fashion with a sparkling 44-10 victory to end a run of 11 successive defeats to Saints.

New stand-off Robert Lui scored two of the Red Devils’ eight tries and played a starring role on his home debut to lead his side to their first win over Saints for nearly 16 years.

The resounding triumph came 12 months since Salford were humiliated 52-6 in the corresponding fixture at the AJ Bell Stadium, a result that prompted the infamous tweet from owner Marwan Koukash saying he had “had enough”.

Koukash left well before the final whistle on that occasion but he stayed for the full match this time, celebrating every try in ecstatic fashion from the touchline.

As Salford bounced back in style from their opening 42-20 defeat at Hull, it was a crushing setback for St Helens just a week before they take on Sydney Roosters in the opening game of the Dacia World Club Series at Langtree Park.

Their misery was compounded by the loss of centre Mark Percival with a leg injury.

Saints coach Keiron Cunningham had 19-year-old Welsh international back rower Morgan Knowles at hooker in place of the injured James Roby and another forward, Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook, playing the full game as a makeshift centre and they looked out of sorts throughout.

The Red Devils, on the other hand, looked motivated from kick-off and made a whirlwind start with three tries in the first 11 minutes, taking full advantage of two handling errors from St Helens full-back Jack Owens.

Quick thinking from scrum-half Michael Dobson got winger Greg Johnson over for the first, prop Craig Kopczak, one of eight players making their home debuts, muscled his way over from close range and the impressive Lui demonstrated his dancing feet to go over straight from a scrum for his first touchdown.

Josh Griffin and Dobson made it 18-0 between them with the conversions and that prompted a dressing down behind the posts from an animated former St Helens skipper Paul Wellens, now on the club’s backroom staff.

The introduction of prop Alex Walmsley breathed new life into the lethargic visitors as he barged over for a try within two minutes of entering the action and Luke Walsh’s goal cut the deficit to 12 points.

Dobson, however, slotted a penalty goal midway through the first half and the Saints defence collapsed in the last 10 minutes of the half after Walsh was sent to the sin bin for preventing a quick play-the-ball.

As the Red Devils looked to exploit their numerical advantage, former Castleford winger Justin Carney proved to be a real handful with his familiar blockbusting runs that helped create further scores for substitute Niall Evalds and Lui.

Any hope of a Saints fightback disappeared within two minutes of the restart when a forward pass from Knowles put his side under pressure and Salford forward Adam Walne punished the error by forcing his way over for a seventh try.

Dobson then went on a solo run to make it 40-6 and, although winger Adam Swift pulled a try back for the visitors, Evalds pounced on a grubber kick from Lui to score his second and wrap up the scoring.