The game of the twenty-first round saw second placed Salford Red Devils take on a Leeds Rhinos side sitting in third spot. A win for either side would lift them two points clear of the other, and to within eight of the league leading Castleford Tigers.
The Rhinos welcomed back Danny McGuire and Jamie Jones-Buchanan after they served suspensions last week, but coach McDermott knew that his side would have their work cut out against a Red Devil's side who have impressed at every stage in the 2017 season.
The Rhinos won the early season meeting at Headingley by 20-14, mainly thanks to the boot of Rob Burrow who kicked four times. The Devils who were the bookies favourites, but only slightly.
Salford had the best of the early play and Weller Hauraki went close but was held up over the line when he had support outside him. On six minutes they did open the scoring after a Tom Briscoe made a mistake under the high ball and Josh Wood went over by the uprights. Michael Dobson added the extras for 6-0.
The Rhinos hit back through Ryan Hall on fifteen when Stevie Ward made the space and put the winger free to power over. Kallum Watkins converted from the touchline to level the scores.
The Rhinos had wrestled the upper hand from Salford but it was a high quality and highly competitive game played at breakneck speed by both sides.
On twenty-one the Rhinos went in again when Danny McGuire switched the attack and passed out to Briscoe to waltz through the defence to ground. Watkins failed to add the extra two points but Leeds were deservingly 10-6 ahead.
Two minutes later and the Rhinos used their momentum with a terrific Mitch Garbutt break finding Walker in support who in turn found Joel Moon who smuggled the ball to Watkins to cross as Salford ran out of defenders. Watkins converted his own goal for a ten point lead, the Red Devil's looked rocked.
The gap was just two minutes before Matt Parcell scored the Rhinos fourth of the afternoon when they took full advantage of an obstruction penalty to work the ball to the centre of the field before the Rhinos hooker went from dummy half and pushed his way over. Watkins was again accurate with the boot and the Red Devils seemed to have no answer to the Rhinos onslaught.
Junior Sa'u was sin-binned on thirty-two after a high tackle on Watkins which saw him helped from the field. From the restart a high kick from McGuire was caught by Ryan Hall who passed off a Salford player into the arms of Joel Moon to walk in. Jordan Lilley, on for Watkins, failed to convert but the Rhinos were 26-6 ahead.
Two minutes later and Matt Parcell and Adam Cuthbertson made all the ground before giving Jamie Jones-Buchanan the ball to speed over. Lilley added the extras.
Just before the break a McGuire kick to the corner and the rolling ball was collected by Tom Briscoe to walk in for his second of the afternoon. Lilley failed to convert from wide but the Rhinos took a 36-6 lead into the sheds. After going behind early the Rhinos soon found their stride and served up a thirty minute masterclass in total domination.
The Red Devils drew first blood in the second half when Ben Murdoch-Masila ran over the top of Rhinos full back Jack Walker to score a forty-second minute try. Michael Dobson added the extras and the Devils were in double figures.
On fifty-eight Sa'u knocked on in the act of scoring and referee Child turned down the Salford appeals for a try.
On sixty-two Lilley kicked a penalty from in front of the sticks for 38-12 and the Rhinos had weathered the storm but on sixty-five Dobson took full advantage of a Walker mistake to score by the uprights and when he added the extras for 18-38.
Following a Salford mistake on sixty-eight, Parcell was tormentor in chief, fooling the Devils defence, before putting Mullally over under the posts. Lilley added the extras for 44-18.
Murdoch-Masila grabbed his second try on seventy-four off a Rob Luí pass but despite the Dobson conversion for 24-44 it was all too little and to late for Salford.
Just after the final hooter a magical Joel Moon offload put Jack Walker over in the corner for his first Super League try. Lilley slotted over the conversion from the touchline to seal a 50-24 victory.
Although the Rhinos took their foot off the gas in the second half the victory wasn't in any doubt from as early as the twentieth minute. Salford weren't particularly poor, but the Rhinos closed them down, denied their ball and territory, and scored devastating try after devastating try.
The Rhinos are now two points clear in second spot and well placed going into the split in two rounds time. This will be a great confidence boost for the Leeds side but the Red Devil's will have to put it down as a bad day at the office and look to regroup for next weeks game at Castleford Tigers.