For either the Salford Red Devils or the Castleford Tigers, tonight would be the end of the 2019 season. The victors, however, would move on to next weekend and a chance to make the Old Trafford Grand final on the 12th October, in the second semi-final.
Both sides had close play-off games last weekend with contrasting fortunes. Salford lost out narrowly to the Wigan Warriors, while the Tigers went the Halliwell-Jones and knocked out the Warrington Wolves on their own patch.
This was the third meeting between the two sides in 2019 with honours shared at one win apiece coming into tonights game. The Red Devils brought in Greg Burke as a change to last week, and the Tigers had two changes with Nathan Massey and Greg Eden coming into the side.
It took eleven minutes of hard slog before Salford scored the opening try when Tyrone McCarthy won a short race to ground the ball under the sticks off a deft Tui Lolohea grubber kick. Krisnan Inu added a simple conversion from in front of the posts for 6-0.
Two minutes later Jake Bibby was on hand to take the ball wide down the left wing and get the ball on the line under the tackle of Greg Minikin. Despite the ball being dislodged he managed to keep one hand on it to score. Inu slid the ball inside the near upright from the touchline.
A brilliant tackle from Nial Evalds saw him drag Jordan Rankin into touch on twenty-three, when it looked like the Tigers full-back was certain to score.
Inu kicked a thirty metre penalty goal on the half hour mark to extend the lead to 14-0.
It was a terrific first half for Salford, exactly what coach Ian Watson would have wanted. They more than deserved their first half lead and Daryl Powell needed to deliver one of the half time talks of his career.
Castleford had good possession and position in the opening ten minutes of the second half but the Red Devils defence held firm.
As the clock advanced the Tigers became increasingly frantic in their efforts to register their first points, as the Red Devils defence continued to hold firm.
On seventy-two Salford guaranteed their play-off progress when Jackson Hastings ghosted through the broken Castleford defence, and despite being ankle tapped a few metres from the line, he slid over to ground. Inu added the conversion for 20-0, it was all over for the visitors.
A last minute break from Inu saw him fouled in the tackle and after the hooter he kicked the penalty goal to seal a 22-0 win.
This was a great performance from an increasingly impressive Salford Red Devils. The Tigers were placed, and kept, on the back foot and despite periods of pressure they were unable to make headway against a solid defence. Wigan and Saints will have seen tonights game and neither would be relishing the Salford side waiting for them if they were to lose in tomorrow evening's semi-final.
Devils: Evalds, Sio, Welham, Bibby (T), Inu (5G), Lolohea, Hastings (T), Mossop, Tomkins, Dudson, Jones, Griffin, McCarthy (T). Subs: Lussick, Flanagan, Walker, Burke.
Tigers: Rankin, Clare, Blair, Minikin, Eden, Trueman, Mata-utia, Watts, McShane, Millington, Holmes, Clarkson, Massey. Subs: O’Neill, Milner, Cook, Smith.
Referee: Ben Thaler.