Super League: Salford City Reds 28-22 Widnes Vikings
Salford (12) 28
- Tries: Gaskell, James (2), Gleeson, Fages,
- Goals: Sneyd (4)
Widnes (6) 22
- Tries: Mellor (3), Brown
- Goals: Owens (3)
Jordan James scored a late try to give Salford City Reds a thrilling win over Widnes Vikings at the Etihad Stadium.
After a scoreless first half hour, Lee Gaskell went in for Salford after a 90m run and James added a second try.
Joe Mellor scored twice to cut the deficit, while Salford's Jodie Broughton had an effort ruled.
Mellor's third after Martin Gleeson and Theo Fages went over for the Reds and a try by Kevin Brown helped bring Widnes level, but James had the final word.
The Reds went into the game rooted to the foot of the table, having lost their last two matches, and with the worst points difference in the league.
Salford head coach Brian Noble
“We've improved massively in the last few weeks and we will keep improving”
Head coach Brian Noble stated beforehand that he wanted his side to "show more improvements" after last week's loss to Bradford and the team answered his call to give him only his second win since taking charge last month.
Ambitious owner Dr Marwan Koukash is becoming something of a cult hero, with many Salford fans wearing masks of him inside the stadium.
The millionaire racehorse owner says the club are close to six new signings, but he will be encouraged by what he saw on the pitch from his side, while Widnes, who finished bottom last season, could only be disappointed after failing to close in on a play-off position.
Defences were on top in the early exchanges with neither side able to find any penetration on a gloriously sunny day in Manchester.
Widnes thought they had the opening try through Steve Pickersgill, but Liam Foran made a superb saving tackle to hold up the big prop.
Despite the pressure, it was Salford who took the lead on the half-hour mark when Jon Clarke's pass was intercepted by on-loan St Helens man Gaskell, who ran the length of the pitch to touch down.
And they went further ahead as Ryan McGoldrick fed James from dummy-half with the Welsh international bundling over the line, Marc Sneyd kicking the extras on both occasions.
Widnes hit back just before half-time with Mellor pouncing onto Kevin Brown's inch-perfect grubber kick to score as they went in only 12-6 behind.
And it was Mellor again who snatched his second try of the game after the re-start, showing superb footballing skills as he twice kicked the ball on from Cameron Phelps' pass to go over in the corner.
Broughton then had a try disallowed after the video referee ruled he had obstructed Mellor, but Salford extended their lead courtesy of a flowing move, which was finished off by experienced centre Gleeson.
Back came Widnes and Mellor shimmied his way through the Salford backline to claim his hat-trick and Jack Owens popped over the two points to leave the contest tied at 16-16 with 12 minutes remaining.
Fages crossed over soon after to put the Reds ahead again, but the Vikings faithful believed they had gained a point through Brown's try and Jack Owens' calm kick, his third of the match, only for James to stretch over for a score to win it for Salford, with Sneyd adding his fourth kick of the game as a clincher.
VIEWS FROM THE DRESSING ROOM
Salford head coach Brian Noble:
"We're in the business of getting better, we understand the circumstances. We're trying to keep away from the win and loss mentality.
"We've improved massively in the last few weeks and we will keep improving.
"The players have been overburdened with the reality of the situation, the pressure cooker.
"They have consistently worked hard and previously they might have been on the wrong end of a score line like that, but they've found a way to win."
Widnes head coach Denis Betts:
"It was a tight game, nip and tuck and all those cliches, butt we looked flat. I don't know whether it's the favourites tag.
"Salford had a point to prove and we didn't have anything to throw at them, we looked devoid of ideas at times.
"They had more enthusiasm and we lacked something, I am bewildered, as we were in control of the game for large periods, but lacked an edge."
SUNDAY'S MAGIC WEEKEND LINE-UPS
Salford: Sneyd, Broughton, Gleeson, Gaskell, Gibson, McGoldrick, Fages, Griffin, Godwin, Walne, Ashurst, Dixon, Wild.
Replacements: Foran, Mauro, James, Emmitt.
Widnes: Hanbury, Flynn, Marsh, Phelps, Owens, Brown, Mellor, Pickersgill, Clarke, O'Carroll, Dean, Allen, Leuluai.
Replacements: Joseph, Kavanagh, White, Winterstein.
Referee: Thierry Alibert (RFL)