Salford Red Devils coach Paul Rowley hailed his side’s “amazing effort” after watching them thrash champions St Helens 44-12 at the AJ Bell Stadium.
Joe Burgess and Kallum Watkins scored two tries apiece as rampant Salford kept their hopes of a top six finish alive.
Sitaleki Akauola, Dan Sarginson, Brodie Croft and Greg Burke weighed in with a try apiece and Marc Sneyd kicked four goals as Salford moved up to sixth place in the Super League table.
Saints, who could only muster tries from Jack Welsby and Alex Walmsley, stay top despite the shock defeat but the nature of their performance was of immense concern to coach Kristian Woolf
A delighted Rowley said: “I couldn’t be prouder. It’s an amazing effort. Without sounding casual about it, we have been building towards that. From day one the lads have worked really hard. Things like that (winning today) are not a fluke, it’s a result of hard work.
“The character of the group has never been questioned. We had 18 players and the 18th man had a jab to warm up.
“We knew the areas we wanted to go and this group know how to adapt. We are quite difficult to stop when we get on a roll and we scored some fantastic tries.
“We have so much respect for St Helens and our staff and players hold them in high regard. They are the benchmark.”
Woolf had praise for Salford but pulled no punches in assessing his side’s below-par showing.
“Salford deserve credit, they played very well, but we are extremely disappointed,” he said.
“We pride ourselves on high standards and for whatever reason, we have not reached those today.
“We pride ourselves on defence but we were well below our usual standards. We are going to have to have a good look at that and try and work out how we can turn around.”
Salford scored five tries in the first half as they raced into a 26-0 interval lead and it was a start which left Woolf frustrated.
He added: “If you don’t start the game with the right attitude things can snowball and things become hard to turn around.
“Salford played exactly the way we expected to play and they executed well. We are the ones who needed to be better. We were off in every department and that showed really early.
“That result needs to give us a kick up the backside and we need to have a really honest look at ourselves. We have been off for two weeks and I’m not sure why we have been.”
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