Saints 34 Salford 20

Saints head coach Keiron Cunningham
Saints head coach Keiron Cunningham
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Saints bounced back from their Challenge Cup misery to beat Salford 34-20 but they were given a tough test by the Red Devils.

Niall Evalds scored a hat-trick of tries for the visitors but Saints crossed for half a dozen touchdowns to notch a welcome win after a thrilling contest.

Both clubs were bidding to erase the memory of cup exits last weekend with St Helens crashing to a 47-18 home defeat by Hull and Salford bowing out 32-18 at understrength Castleford.

History was on the hosts’ side with their last home defeat by Salford coming way back in 1980 but Salford stunned St Helens with a 44-10 victory at the AJ Bell Stadium in the second match of the season in February.

Adam Swift returned on the wing for Saints after a two-month absence with an ankle problem and Andre Savelio - whose father Lokeni played for Salford - replaced Joe Greenwood with Craig Richards also dropped.

Logan Tomkins was back for Salford after suspension with Gareth O’Brien and Junior Sau declared fit despite their clash of heads at Castleford.

An early mix-up involving Jonny Lomax put Saints under pressure and Evalds eventually went over in the corner for the opening try.

St Helens replied almost immediately with Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook taking a Theo Fages pass to charge over and Luke Walsh converted to make it 6-4 after 10 minutes.

Saints could have gone further ahead had Swift been able to take a difficult pass and it was no surprise when Mark Percival stretched over from dummy half to make it 10-4.

Saints suffered a setback when Kyle Amor was forced to quit after 26 minutes with Robert Lui leading the charge for Salford and Phil Joseph almost catching Keiron Cunningham’s men napping from acting half back.

It was a hard-fought contest but Saints gave themselves some welcome breathing space when Alex Walmsley’s smart offload allowed Dominique Peyroux to power over and Walsh’s conversion made it 16-4.

But Saints dropped their concentration just before the break with Ben Murdoch-Masila bouncing off defenders for Evalds to grab his second try to cut the interval gap to 16-8.

Saints should have extended the lead but Jon Wilkin dropped a pass from James Roby’s surging break with the line at his mercy.

A 50-metre Swift run stunned Salford, who conceded a fourth try with Walsh sending Lomax sprinting over on a curving run to make it 22-8.

Lomax was injured scoring the try and was forced to limp off before Salford responded with a Justin Carney touchdown with O’Brien booting his first conversion after two misses.

Salford were certainly not prepared to concede defeat and Lui’s skills saw Evalds complete his hat-trick, going over in the corner from O’Brien’s pass.

Michael Dobson landed the touchline conversion to cut the deficit to 22-20 and, by this stage, Salford were on fire with Carney going close from Dobson’s kick in a thrilling contest.

But then Fages sidestepped his way over against his old pals to give Saints an eight-point cushion after 64 minutes before Amor scored to seal victory.