Salford City Reds produced a dogged display on Sunday as they narrowly lost out to the Leeds Rhinos in the Challenge Cup.
The Reds withstood heavy pressure to lead shortly after the hour mark but could not hold on eventually losing 16-10 to the 2011 runners-up.
It was a much improved display by Phil Veivers’ men who before Sunday had lost their last four league outings.
The wet and windy conditions in Greater Manchester were not ideal for Reds to play their usual brand of flowing attacking rugby, but Veivers will be delighted with his side’s much-improved defensive display.
The Reds started the brighter and took the lead when prop Lee Jewitt crashed over from a Wayne Godwin pass after just seven minutes.
Rhinos responded well with Chris Clarkson, Ben Jones-Bishop and Zak Hardaker all going close.
Second row Carl Ablett did manage to cross the whitewash but dropped the ball in the act of scoring before prop Darrell Griffin was denied by more sterling goal line defence from the hosts.
Rhinos finally made their territorial dominance pay late in the half when fullback Brent Webb was quickest to react to Shaun Lunt’s clever kick.
Many onlookers expected the Rhinos, who were heavily favoured prior to the game, to kick on after the interval but it was the Reds who started the second period better.
And against the odds they regained the lead in the 51st minute when winger Jodie Broughton sprinted onto Daniel Holdsworth’s kick to score.
Holdsworth missed the resulting conversion leaving the score at 10-6.
Leeds are not four-time Super League champions for nothing and drew level again when Jones-Bishop pounced on the loose ball after Broughton failed to deal with a Kevin Sinfield kick.
And hooker Lunt, on loan from Huddersfield Giants, was the match winner as he capitalised on good footwork from Danny McGuire to scramble over.
Reds coach Veivers was disappointed that his side couldn’t pull off the upset after such a resilient defensive display.
He said: “We got ourselves in a winning position at 10-6 but then we stopped playing and lost our go-forward.
“Leeds had a lot of opportunities in the first half but we scrambled well.
“This was a match we could have won but it wasn't to be.”
Reds will look to carry the positives from this defeat into next weekend’s tough Super League fixture against Warrington Wolves.