Barba, Walmsley shine as St Helens dismantle Salford to close in on semis
Ben Barba powered St Helens to a comfortable 30-4 victory over Salford Red Devils on Thursday as Justin Holbrook's team effectively booked a place in the Super League semi-finals.
The win moves St Helens up to third and two points clear of Wigan Warriors in fifth, and the 13-time champions have a vastly superior points difference to their rivals in what is the final round of the Super 8s.
For Saints to be denied a top-four finish, Hull must get at least a point against League Leaders' Shield winners Castleford Tigers and Wigan need to win by more than 90 points away to Wakefield Trinity on Saturday.
Salford initially threatened to derail the away team's charge, the hosts taking an early lead when Barba knocked on. From the subsequent scrum, Gareth O'Brien set up Niall Evalds to cross in the corner with just four minutes gone.
In the 17th minute, Barba made amends for his earlier error by wrong-footing Kris Welham to set up Mark Percival for a try.
Barba was involved again in the build-up as Alex Walmsley powerfully drove over the line to put St Helens ahead with seven minutes to go in the half, the questionable grounding of the try cleared following scrutiny from the video referee.
This time Percival added the extras to make it 10-4 and there was still time for major drama to follow before the hooter sounded for half-time.
Ryan Lannon was deservedly shown the red card after consultation between the officials for a late, high forearm on Theo Fages and Percival split the posts from the resultant penalty to send Saints into the break with a two-score lead.
They had to wait to add to their advantage, Zeb Taia eventually receiving a short pass from Fages before charging across in the 63rd minute, Percival converting to leave St Helens firmly in charge.
There was no let-up from the team chasing a play-off berth, Matty Smith setting up Walmsley to barge over a weak Welham tackle and score his second of the night with 10 minutes to go.
Fittingly, Barba was able to claim a deserved try of his own by evading the attention of Junior Sa'u with a juicy side-step in the final two minutes.