Saints stage great escape to pip Salford

Saints players celebrate James Bentley's last gasp try. Picture: SWPix
Saints players celebrate James Bentley's last gasp try. Picture: SWPix

St Helens moved six points clear at the top of Betfred Super League with a last-gasp win over Salford at the Totally Wicked Stadium.

James Bentley got the decisive try with just a minute of the game remaining to level the scores and a conversion from Lachlan Coote sealed a 32-30 victory.

It was a heartbreaking finish for Salford, who have not won at St Helens for nearly 40 years and they led 30-16 with 15 minutes of the game remaining.

Saints scored three tries in the last 15 minutes to complete a trademark comeback in a game where they let a 16-0 lead slip away.

Coote scored twice in three minutes as Justin Holbrook's side made a perfect start. Coote's first came after a mesmerising 50-metre break from winger Regan Grace, during which he evaded four would-be tacklers.

A well-placed kick through from Theo Fages set up Coote for his second moments later, and with the latter adding both goals, St Helens led 12-0.

Fages' ingenuity led to Saints' third try in the 12th minute - his delayed pass sending Tommy Makinson in at the corner.

Salford, who struggled to get their hands on the ball during that blistering Saints opening, enjoyed a change of luck when Robert Lui's 40-20 kick gave them a rare sight of the opponents tryline. From the resultant scrum, prop Gil Dudson was able to barge over for a try which Krisnan Inu converted.

The try sparked Salford into life and, after winger Derrell Olpherts went close to scoring in the corner, a slip pass from Inu sent full-back Niall Evalds clear and he raced 80 metres to score under the posts. Inu added the goal.

With 11 minutes of the half remaining, Salford snatched the lead when a Lui kick to the corner was patted infield by Inu and Olpherts produced a determined finish to score from close range. Inu's goal meant Salford had completed an unlikely first-half comeback, leading 18-16 at the break.

The visitors continued where they left off after the restart with Lui's break and strength creating space for Evalds to go in for his second try, with Inu adding the conversion.

Lui took centre stage again on the hour mark, producing a superb solo try from 15 metres out and affording Inu a simple conversion to open up a 14-point lead.

But history has proved too many times that Saints cannot be written off in such situations and when Coote completed his hat-trick with 15 minutes remaining, another famous fightback seemed possible.

Moments later, Makinson grabbed a second with a stylish finish from 30 metres and Coote's conversion meant the deficit was just four points.

With time almost up, Bentley got the nod from the video referee after a barge to the tryline to make it 30-30 and Coote's conversion sealed a victory which had looked so unlikely for much of the game.