The quarter finals of the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup got underway at the A.J. Bell Stadium where Salford Red Devils hosted Wakefield Trinity in a top of the table clash which had the bookies and pundits guessing.
The Red Devils had the home advantage but there are only two Super League points separating them in second place and fifth placed Wakefield Trinity, both sides having excellent seasons.
Despite the Red Devils being the slight favourites, Trinity won 24-22 at home in March and picked up a 34-24 win at the A.J. Bell a fortnight ago giving Salford with two reasons for Challenge Cup revenge.
The Wakefield line was under constant pressure from the first kick-off and the Red Devils finally broke the Trinity line on six minutes when Michael Dobson collected a Rob Lui high kick and had the ball stripped two metres from the line, which was then picked up by Ryan Lannon to make one step and score. Dobson added the extras for a 6-0 lead.
The second Red Devils try came on twelve when Ben Murdoch-Masila took and inside pass from Lui on the Wakefield ten metres and he bust the line at speed to score under the sticks allowing Dobson a simple conversion for 12-0.
Trinity were being totally outplayed, they had no possession to steady their game and the Red Devils attacking defence was relentless.
A Wakefield ball steal in their own ten metre line gave Dobson another two points to stretch the lead to three scores. But Trinity finally got off the bus and started to retain some possession in decent field position but they couldn’t break the Red Devils line.
On thirty-five it was Salford who extended the lead when Niall Evalds took a Dobson pass to step off both feet and jink over the line from ten metres out. Dobson kicked the conversion for 20-0 at the break, Wakefield had a second half mountain to climb.
The second half was just three minutes old when Salford extended their lead with a left to right passing move which went saw a Murdoch-Masila pass to Greg Johnson to go over in the corner. Dobson hit the far post with the conversion attempt but the ball bounced out of goal.
It was 30-0 on forty-eight minutes when Craig Kopczak used his strength to push over the line and stoop to ground one-handed. Dobson added the conversion and the Red Devils name was already in the hat for the semi-finals.
Kriss Welham was held up over the line on sixty-eight and two minutes later the Trinity defence frustrated Jake Bibby, holding him on his back in the try zone.
On seventy-two Trinity finally got on the scoresheet when Liam Finn picked up a loose ball, after a Mason Caton-Brown break, to walk over the line and round behind the sticks. Finn converted his own try for 30-6 but with only seven minutes left on the clock there was no way back.
This was a thoroughly professional performance by the Red Devils who never allowed their opponents to hit their stride. They were sensational in defence and clinical in attack. The home side blitzed the visitors in the opening twenty, laying seige to their line and at 12-0 up in as many minutes they had already done enough to win progress into the semi-finals.
Trinity will return home devastated at their poor showing and will now focus their efforts on a top four spot.
Red Devils: Evalds (T), Bibby, Welham, Sa’u, Johnson (T), Lui, Dobson (5G), Tasi, Tomkins, Kopczak (T), Murdoch-Masila (T), Lannon (T), Flanagan. Subs: Griffin, Hauraki, Brining, Carney.
Trinity: Grix, Gibson, Lyne, Arundel, Caton-Brown, Williams, Finn (T, G), England, Wood, Walker, Hadley, Ashurst, Sio. Subs: Crowther, Annakin, Hirst, Huby.
Referee: Rob Hicks.