St Helens survived an early bout of first-night nerves to eventually defeat the Salford City Reds 38-10 on Friday night at Langtree Park.
An excellent first half performance combined with some uncharacteristic errors from the home side saw the Reds take a much deserved 10-4 lead at the break but Saints finally clicked into gear in the second half scoring 34 unanswered points to run out comfortable winners.
Any hometown hopes of an opening night procession were firmly put to bed early on when excellent handling from Reds’ Australian centre Joel Moon gave Jodie Broughton the chance to score the first try at the new stadium and dually silence the home crowd. Saints woes continued when some good work from halfback Daniel Holdsworth and a clever kick from winger Danny Williams combined to allow centre Ashley Gibson to touchdown for a second Reds try. Holdsworth’s converted extras gave Reds a 10 point lead after just 25 minutes.
Reds very nearly scored a third try on the half hour mark but Ashley Gibson was denied his second by video referee Ian Smith.
St Helens got themselves back into the match before half time in controversial fashion. Second rower Sia Soliola was given the benefit of the doubt by the video referee despite appearing to have been held up over the line.
Saints improved after the break and with the help of the reinvigorated crowd they took the lead for the first time with firstly James Roby and then Francis Meli scoring after a flowing backline move involving Jonny Lomax and Lee Gaskell. The game was effectively ended as a contest four minutes later with second-rower Andrew Dixon muscling his way over the Reds line to put Saints two converted scores ahead.
The Reds defence was tiring and with injuries taking their toll on the already depleted squad Jon Wilkin added another score before Dixon grabbed his second after a scintillating 80-metre break from man-of-the-match Gaskell. New signing Anthony Laffranchi rubber-stamped the win in the final minute with his first try for the club.
Salford Reds head coach rued his side’s injuries and admitted that despite the effort they weren’t quite good enough in the second period.
“We had to deal with a lot of adversity. We had eight players that couldn’t train until yesterday. We put in a lot effort but effort alone doesn’t win you ball games.
“We were pretty happy at half-time, although I was disappointed with the try that was given by the video referee and one that we didn’t get.
“They upped the tempo in the second half and we stopped doing what was working for us on the first half. We went 10 or 11 sets when we saw the ball once.
“I’m very disappointed with how the score blew out at the end. They played some good footy and we missed tackles.”
As well as a second-successive Super League loss, the Reds have an ever-lengthening injury list to contend with too as Joel Moon, Stuart Howarth and Shannan McPherson now join Wayne Godwin, Sean Gleeson, Jordan James, Vinnie Anderson and Iafeta Palea’asina on the sidelines.
Reds will look for their first win of the 2012 campaign on Sunday as they travel to Widnes’ Stobart Stadium. The Vikings themselves are also fresh from a heavy defeat after losing 66-6 to Huddersfield Giants yesterday.