Peter Smith's Leeds Rhinos player ratings and match report from crucial win at Salford

The third successive win which had eluded Leeds Rhinos this year finally came at Salford Red Devils on Sunday to give their top six hopes a huge boost.

Rhinos led 12-4 at half-time, were two points behind as late as the 68th minute and were out-scored by three tries to two, but toughed out a precious 16-14 success which lifted them to seventh and cut the gap on sixth-placed Salford to just two points.

It seemed Leeds’ inability to deal with Tim Lafai’s power and Brodie Croft’s kicks would be Rhinos’ undoing, but they stuck at it and a couple of late penalties made the difference.

It was a different style of win to the previous successes against Huddersfield and Warrington, but impressive in its way and they again defended their line well, though will have to be better dealing with kicks.

In front of a crowd of 5,157, Rhinos made a bright start and went ahead after just six minutes, Cameron Smith throwing a dummy, spotting a gap and stepping through it for an excellent solo touchdown.

Midway through the period Leeds failed to get past half way in a set of six and were punished when Lafai touched down for an unconverted try from a kick by Croft.

Ash Handley’s 99th Super League try restored the six-point gap nine minutes before the interval. Leeds had not really threatened since Smith’s early score, but on the last tackle Aidan Sezer found Richie Myler and his long pass put the winger over at the corner.

The try came too far out for Rhyse Martin - who had converted the first - to add the extras, but he did land a penalty three minutes before the interval after Sezer kicked on the last and was tackled after the ball had gone.

Salford scored in the first set of the second half, in identical fashion to their opening touchdown, Lafai grounding Croft’s low kick on the last. Ryan Brierley tagged on the two.

On eight minutes Croft put up a high kick to Leeds’ left this time, a mix up between Myler and Handley allowed Ken Sio to make the catch and he went over untouched.

There was no goal, but Salford had turned an eight-point deficit into a lead by two and Leeds looked in trouble.

However, they dug in, made the most of some incidents which went in thier favour and – after Rhinos’ Mikolaj Oledzki and opponent Chris Atkin were sin-binned following a scrap with 16 minutes left – finished the stronger.

They had turned down a chance to equalise with a penalty earlier in the half, but took the two with 12 minutes left and did so again four later after Marc Sneyd kicked a drop out dead on the full, which proved the decisive score.

Myler had a touchdown ruled out in the final moments for obstruction, one of only two Salford penalties in the second half to Rhinos' eight. The overall count from referee Aaron Moore was 11-5.