Super League title contenders Leeds ran in eight tries to end Salford’s slender play-off hopes with a thumping 44-2 win at Headingley.
The Red Devils ended their eight-game losing run in emphatic fashion against Huddersfield last week but their season is over after they were blown away by a Rhinos side already guaranteed a home semi-final.
Veterans Rob Burrow and Danny McGuire, who came through the academy together, have combined countless times for Leeds over the years and they gave the Rhinos fans a moment to savour before they both depart at the end of the season.
Burrow made a darting break from dummy half and McGuire was in support to finish as Leeds took a firm grip on the match in the first half. Liam Sutcliffe and Tom Briscoe scored either side of McGuire’s try to give the Rhinos a 16-2 half-time lead after they had gone behind to Gareth O’Brien’s early penalty.
Matt Parcell helped himself to a double off the bench to take his try tally for the year to 19 while Adam Cuthbertson, Anthony Mullally and Brett Ferres also crossed as Leeds made it 10 straight home wins over Salford in style.
Red Devils coach Ian Watson named a big side featuring hulking forward Ben Murdoch-Masila at centre and former New Zealand winger Manu Vatuvei underlined the visitors’ power when he rocked Mitch Garbutt with a huge hit.
Salford had already claimed a second-minute lead through O’Brien’s penalty following a high shot by Stevie Ward but they were soon chasing the game after back-to-back Leeds tries. Sutcliffe took advantage of soft Salford tackling out wide to get the Rhinos on the board before McGuire added the finishing touches to Burrow’s break for perhaps the last time at Headingley.
Leeds’ indiscipline gave Salford a way back into the contest but basic errors were hurting the Red Devils and they were as good as out of the game after Briscoe backed himself to finish in the corner from Ward’s neat pass.
Kallum Watkins failed to add his third goal of the night from the touchline and the Rhinos were forced to dig deep in the early stages of the second period after making a series of mistakes.
The hosts defended their try line impressively and they were clinical at the other end as Parcell finished their first chance of the half. The Australian hooker, only on the field a matter of minutes, went under the sticks following a run around with Cuthbertson and that ended the match as a contest.
Cuthbertson touched down from McGuire’s kick and Parcell crossed from acting half after Burrow was denied a stunning team try.
Mullally crashed over to increase Salford’s woes and their misery was complete when Ferres strolled in from McGuire’s dab through.
Catalans Dragons staged a tremendous late fightback to earn a precious 20-19 victory over a much-changed Hull KR that boosted their survival hopes, while Australian star Ben Barba turned on the magic as St Helens kept their play-off dreams alive by brushing aside Huddersfield 40-16.
Elsewhere, a hat-trick of tries from winger Mitch Brown inspired Leigh to their first home win in the Super 8 Qualifiers – 40-6 – against Halifax.