SALFORD looked to have taken at least a point from the former champions, until a forward pass, missed by referee Chris Campbell, allowed Leeds to just get over the line in their first home game of the season.
Having led at the break, Salford were hoping that they could record back to back away wins, and their first at Headingley, since an Easter Monday 20-30 surprise for the Rhinos, in 2009.
Head coach Ian Watson was stinging in his criticism of the match officials in his post match press conference.
“I don’t know how two touch judges and a referee can miss a pass like that. It’s cost us the game.
I thought the referee was bad all night.”
No doubt he will be getting a call from the RFL over his comments, but it did take the shine off of what had been a very good Salford performance.
After going behind to a Ryan Hall try after just 10 minutes, Salford looked to have scored just four minutes later, but George Griffin’s try was ruled out for a forward pass.
The visitors were not to be denied though, and on the 17th minute, Salford’s Million pound game hero Gareth O’Brien scored to level the game, but was unable to convert from the touchline.
The game ebbed and flowed for the next ten minutes, until Rob Burrow converted a soft penalty in front of the posts to take the lead 6-4.
It wasn’t to last though, as Salford were to take the lead again, just before the break, Kris Welham this time, with O’Brien again missing from out wide.
The second half began with Leeds looking the stronger, and it was after just four minutes that they went over, German international Jimmy Keinhorst showing why he is such an asset to Brian McDermott.
As the half wore on, it looked like it would take something special from one side to take the two points, and then in the 69th minute, Logan tomkins went over under the posts, and with O’Brien converting, it was all square at 14 all.
The final ten minutes was nip and tuck, with first Burrow, then O’Brien missing penalties that would have given either side the lead.
Then, with just under two minutes left on the clock, Salford were denied a penalty at one end of the field, only for Leeds to race away and score from the forward pass.
Ian Watson post match added:
“What’s happened on the back of it has just compounded that – it was a massive forward pass. The fact there are only three people in the ground who don’t see it is unreal.
“We were adamant as a group we were going to come here and get something. It was a win we wanted and I thought the boys deserved it.
“I feel we’ve been let down by an outside factor. It’s a cruel way to lose a game.”
Leeds Rhinos (6) 20
Tries: Hall, Keinhorst, Sutcliffe Goals: Burrow 4
Salford Red Devils (8) 14
Tries: O’Brien, Welham, Tomkins Goals: O’Brien
Leeds Rhinos: Golding; Briscoe, Watkins, Keinhorst, Hall; McGuire, Burrow; Garbutt, Parcell, Singleton, Ward, Ablett, Jones-Buchanan.
Replacements: Cuthbertson, Sutcliffe, Ormondroyd, Moon.
Salford Red Devils: O’Brien; Bibby, Sa’u, Welham, Johnson; Lui, Dobson; Kopczak, Tomkins, Mossop, Griffin, Jones, Flanagan.
Replacements: Wood, Tasi, Krasniqi, A Walne.