Super League: Salford Red Devils 18-22 Leeds Rhinos

Salford (12) 18

Tries: Sa'u, Fages, Walne Goals: Griffin 3

Leeds (12) 22

Tries: Hardaker, Watkins, Ablett, Ward Goals: Hardaker 3

Zak Hardaker scored a try and kicked three conversions as Leeds beat Salford to move up to second in Super League.

After Junior Sa'u's try put the hosts ahead, Leeds responded with quick tries by Hardaker and Kallum Watkins, but Theo Fages made it 12-12 at half-time.

Carl Ablett and Stevie Ward opened up a 10-point lead for Leeds with two tries within eight minutes of the restart.

Jordan Walne went over to set up a tense finish, but Leeds held on for their 15th win of the season.

It was impressive victory for the Rhinos who were without the suspended Kevin Sinfield.

The hosts went ahead when Kevin Locke's kick-through was grounded by Sa'u - a decision scrutinised by the video referee before Josh Griffin kicked the extras.

Leeds quickly turned the game around with back-to-back tries within two minutes of each other.

Hardaker, who also added both conversions, raced through a gap and got his fingertips to a Danny McGuire pass, before Tom Briscoe's break created a try for Watkins, who grounded the ball after a bounce off the back of Rangi Chase.

Salford hit back just before the break as Chase's grubber-kick was collected by Fages and Griffin's conversion levelled the scores.

Ablett spun his way to the tryline to give the visitors a second-half lead and Hardaker's third successful kick from three stretched Rhinos' lead to six points.

But he put an attempt at goal wide moments later after Ward, who had only been on the field for a minute, went over after great work by Briscoe and Liam Sutcliffe.

Walne barged his way through for a try for the hosts, converted by Griffin, to reduce the deficit to four points with 20 minutes remaining.

Hardaker's missed penalty ensured some Leeds nerves in the final stages, but Salford failed to take advantage and they are four points behind eighth-placed Widnes with five matches left.

Salford coach Iestyn Harris:

"We just went a little bit loose at the start of the second half, which allowed Leeds to play quick and they scored 10 points in that time.

"We've got five games left and, unless we win five out of five, I don't think we're going to have a chance of getting in the top eight."

Leeds coach Brian McDermott:

"It's been a while since we've beaten a team comfortably or been beaten comfortably.

"Every game is tight and tense but I am hopeful it will put us in good stead for the end of the year.

"We faced a team that had the wind in their sails. They're a confident team playing on top of their game."

Friday's line-ups

Salford Red Devils: Locke, Johnson, Sa'u, Caton-Brown, J. Griffin, Chase, Fages, Morley, Tomkins, D. Griffin, Hansen, Ashurst, Puletua.

Replacements: Rapira, J. Walne, Evalds, Walton.

Leeds: Hardaker, T. Briscoe, Watkins, Moon, Hall, McGuire, Burrow, Leuluai, Aiton, Peacock, Jones-Buchanan, Walters, Ablett.

Replacements: S. Ward, Sutcliffe, Singleton, Minchella.

Referee: Richard Silverwood (RFL).

Attendance: 5,012