Liam Blackburn of the Press Association says Rangi Chase could inspire Salford, who play Leigh on Sunday, to Super League survival.
Salford Red Devils’ rollercoaster 2015 has contained more troughs than peaks but amid the lingering controversy and uncertainty, their Middle 8s campaign started with a moment of magic that might just save their season.
Salford could be construed as a team in crisis entering the most important stage of First Utility Super League XX. For starters, their head coach Iestyn Harris has been on sick leave for six weeks, with owner Marwan Koukash now revealing he is in no rush to reach a conclusion over his future.
Then it emerged last week that want-away scrum-half Theo Fages had attempted to terminate his contract on a deal that runs until the end of the 2016 season.
An independent tribunal may well be required to sort out another mess emanating from AJ Bell Stadium but it certainly appears as though the promising 20-year-old France international’s future lies away from the Red Devils.
Of course, Fages’ walk-out follows the exit of former New Zealand Test full-back Kevin Locke, who quit the Super League outfit in June having been brought in one year earlier as the marquee signing meant to transform Salford into contenders.
Given the absence of that pair and the ongoing confusion over Harris’ role moving forward, it was no surprise to see the Red Devils’ top-eight aspirations fall by the wayside, although the manner in which they were scuppered - a 70-6 mauling against Leeds on July 17 - epitomised where Salford were mentally.
Rhinos head coach Brian McDermott took aim at Koukash in the aftermath of that result, suggesting the horse racing magnate’s antics were to blame for a “completely demoralised, shot group of players who lack confidence”.
And with those words ringing in their ears when they began their Middle 8s adventure at the weekend after finishing 11th out of 12 in the final Super League standings, the prospect of relegation remained a very real threat for the big spenders.
Wakefield were the only club to finish below them in the table and the visitors led 26-22 at AJ Bell Stadium heading into the final 10 minutes.
But campaigns, no matter how dismal, can often change with an inspirational moment and in former Man of Steel Rangi Chase Salford possess a special talent capable of defining games.
It was his bamboozling trickery that provided the highlight of Salford’s season as his quick-handed wizardry opened up a try for Josh Griffin back in February, but the ex-Castleford man’s own score last Sunday may prove to be more important still.
With the Wildcats just needing to flip the ball wide to open up a two-try lead at the death, Junior Sa’u forced the turnover and Chase turned on the afterburners for a 90-metre try that turned the tide on that game and perhaps Salford’s season.
“Rangi may have cost us a couple of tries but he came up with a great play when it mattered,” acting head coach Ian Watson admitted after the 34-26 success.
“It’s vital to get off with a win and these players have got a point to prove - we’re going out to win these Middle 8s.”
Salford are certainly not out of the woods yet - and who knows where their story will lurch to next - but Chase’s breakaway score might just have given them an injection of life when they needed it most.