Salford win cup thriller
10:08pm Thursday 3rd April 2014 in © Press Association 2014
Salford heeded owner Marwan Koukash's warning to shape up as they knocked Hull out of the Challenge Cup with a thrilling 37-36 golden-point win at the KC Stadium.
The Red Devils - whose outspoken owner would love nothing more than to lead his expensively-assembled squad out at Wembley - lost 30-8 to the same opponents in the league a week ago and were told in no uncertain terms that an improvement was needed.
It appeared as though Koukash would be hitting out again as Salford trailed by 10 points midway through an error-strewn second half - but they refused to be beaten and took the game to extra-time with Francis Meli's hat-trick try 66 seconds from time and a stunning Jake Mullaney touchline goal.
That gave them the belief to go into the first-score-takes-all added time and win the day, with Rangi Chase dropping the winning point with a little more than two minutes of extra-time remaining.
It was a quite brilliant finish to a game which swung from one way to the other but which, from half-time onwards, appeared to be Hull's for the taking.
Errors were the order of the day for both, but braces from Joe Arundel and Jamie Shaul seemed to have done enough for the Black and Whites.
Arundel was not even named in their 19-man squad but, such were their injury woes, he was chucked in on the wing and within five minutes had scored, taking in a Ben Crooks pass to cross. The latter converted the try.
Like Arundel, Josh Bowden had not been named in the Hull squad, but he too started and gave Salford a route back in as he coughed up the kick-off. The Devils took up the mantle and Chase's long pass found Meli, who did the rest with Mullaney adding the two from wide out.
Chase then went on his own, cutting Hull open quite beautifully after Crooks was dumped in touch, giving Mullaney an easier conversion which he duly made use of.
It was Hull's turn to respond this time and they did so in style. After Mullaney held up Shaul, Jacob Miller launched a vicious left-to-right bomb which Arundel took in the air, back to the line, and dotted down.
Crooks' missed goal left it at 12-10, but that was soon an eight-point margin as Chase and Meli combined again. The latter put in a grubber which Meli was first to for his 25th try in the Challenge Cup. Mullaney converted again.
The Salford full-back was impressing with his place kicking but, unfortunately for him, not with his hands. Three minutes before half-time he shelled a Jordan Rankin kick and Shaul scored with the loose ball, with Crooks back on the money with the goal.
His side were back in front four minutes after the restart as well, as Miller catapulted a long pass out to the left where Fetuli Talanoa was waiting. A Crooks goal put Hull out to 22-18.
They were given extreme assistance in extending that lead with 53 minutes on the clock when Salford's defence flaked apart as Rankin ran at them from five metres, with the half-back barely believing his luck as the line appeared before him. Another Crooks goal sent Hull 10 clear.
The home side's defence then opted to put that in jeopardy and allowed Theo Fages in for a try as embarrassingly easy as Rankin's, but Hull hit back as Shaul nine-pinned Salford's defence to go in, with Mullaney and Crooks trading conversions.
Salford looked done at that point but responded with a thrilling length-of-the-field effort which was started by the opportunistic Chase and finished by Junior Sa'u. Mullaney maintained his perfect record with the boot but it looked as though it would not matter as Crooks added a penalty.
But, with 66 seconds left, Chase's long pass put Meli in at the corner for his hat-trick and Mullaney held his nerve with a stunning touchline goal to take the tie into golden point territory, with Chase then stealing the show after Crooks dropped his high kick.