Author: David Clegg

SALFORD PROGRESS TO CUP SEMI-FINAL STAGE

SALFORD PROGRESS TO CUP SEMI-FINAL STAGE

Illingworth 6  Salford Red Devils 40                           Match Report

With almost remarkable predictability, Salford Red Devils’ women’s team continues to go from strength to strength, with last Sunday’s most impressive cup victory, away at Illingworth, taking them, after merely a month since their first competitive game, straight into the semi-finals of the League Cup.

The team was pleased to welcome back fullback, Luci McKeown, after missing the Dewsbury encounter, the previous week, and also Katie Garry onto the substitutes’ bench for what was to be her debut game.

That they really meant business was quite evident from the start, but was spelled out loud and clear after five minutes, when McKeown beat the incredible number of four players to go through to open the scoring, with Demi Jones slotting over the conversion.

Having laid down the gauntlet, it was then up to Illingworth to take up the challenge, and indeed they did just that, limiting the Salford opportunities for scoring, thereafter, for a full fifteen minutes, at the end of which McKeown seized the opportunity of adding another four points to her own growing tally, and put the Red Devils ten points ahead.

Yet again their hosts needed a response, and once again produced one, only this time it also produced a score of their own.  A cluster of penalties awarded to the home side gave them ample opportunity to set up a volley of attacks, over a four-minute period, and ultimately saw them crash through for a converted try, which really put them into contention, at 6-10

It did in fact take the visitors a further ten minutes to reassert their command on the game, and it was the intervention of Steph Gray, once again operating at right centre, who changed things in favour of the Reds.

She followed up her own overhead kick with a chase, filled with sheer determination, and then applied further soccer style skills to direct the ball into the vicinity of the try line, where, who should appear as if from nowhere to complete what must be one of the fastest hat-tricks to have been scored at this level, but Luci McKeown.

With Jones’s conversion the Salford team was able to retire to the changing-rooms at half time, with a 6-16 lead, and within three minutes of the resumption, following some magnificent carries by the forwards, which built up both momentum and an attacking platform, Lauren Ellison, on the right wing, charged down a kick then to beat the fullback to the ball for  what was probably a most crucial of tries, converted by McKeown.

The importance of this try was more the effect it had on the Illingworth side than its impact on the scoreboard, for to concede tries either side of half time, as they had done, is quite demoralising, despite their brave efforts in the first half, and  this one proved to be the one which opened the floodgates for a procession of scores.

Five minutes later slick hands from team captain, Louise Fellingham and McKeown, that had been started with an onward tip by Meg Condliffe, put Gray over near the corner, too far out for a successful conversion. 6-26

Kayleigh Bradshaw was next on the scoresheet with her try again being converted by McKeown, on 58 mins, with Fellingham crossing four minutes later, and Demi Jones returning to goal-kicking duties, to add the extras and take the Salford score to thirty-six.

Possibly the most popular try among the players, however, was their final one by Eponine Fletcher, with her first ever score, from a floating pass from Fellingham after she had combined with half back partner Jones, to ring up the forty.

After such a romp of a second half it is now going to be essential for the group to refocus, ahead of their next match which will involve the prospect of a long journey to Hull KR, this coming weekend.

SALFORD:

Luci McKeown, Lauren Ellison, Steph Gray, Alex Simpson, Eponine Fletcher, Louise Fellingham, Demi Jones, Laura Bent, Tamzin Corcoran, Darcey Price, Yasmin Parton-Sotomayor, Kayleigh Bradshaw, Megan Condliffe

Substitutes:

Jenna Monks, Katie Garry, Casey Naylor, Abi Collins

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

Sean Lunt, Omaga Photography, for Team Photograph above

RED DEVILS IN DEPTH: SALFORD V LEEDS (2)

Just six weeks after the Leeds Rhinos had been beaten 26-12, at the A J Bell Stadium, in Round 6, they returned for a repeat encounter, yesterday, when they, once more, had to return back over the Pennines, having lost again, and by a score remarkably similar to that first fixture.

Things had moved on apace between the two matches, though, with the visitors playing this, their first match under the supervision of brand-new coach, Rohan Smith, and the significance of any team performing under the eagle eye of a new man at the top, cannot be overstated.  All too often, this additional pressure suffices to bring out in them a sudden return to form, with an unexpected victory to welcome their new coach’s tenure at the club.

Salford, on the other hand, following a somewhat disappointing Easter weekend, at Warrington and then at home to Catalans, had suddenly produced a vein of form we had not seen in previous rounds, in the closest of contests at Wigan, and then St Helens.  Indeed, the match at St Helens could have gone either way, and many left the Totally Wicked Stadium convinced that the better team had lost.

The return of a number of players, who had missed those two outings, served to bolster them for this contest, as did the inclusion, on the bench, of new signing, Tyler Dupree, who had only completed his move to join the Reds at the start of the week, but, nevertheless, played his part in producing our fourth win of the season.

The first half produced a most intriguing contest between what, in the early stages of the game, appeared to be two evenly matched sides, and judged solely upon the very few stoppages throughout the forty, provided spectators on both sides with full value for money.

When the stalemate was eventually broken, it was Salford who took the match to another level with two extremely well-supported tries.  In fact, three of their four such scores were built on support work of the highest order, and were a sheer joy to watch, with Deon Cross, once again showing what a class act he is at centre, feeding Ken Sio for the opening try, in almost identical fashion to the one which had turned the previous Leeds encounter in Salford’s favour.

Sio was unfortunate not to increase his tally on a couple of other occasions, the clearest of which chances, unusually, saw him unable to fully control the ball as he received it.  Only two minutes after taking the lead, the Red Devils showed that they are every bit as lethal on either flank, when good work from Jack Ormoroyd put Tim Lafae in the clear, and his pass  gave Joe Burgess a clear run to the line.

It was sheer intensive pressure which produced their third score, with Leeds’s defence thrown into turmoil by Brodie Croft’s kick to the try line  being fumbled, and Andy Ackers benefiting from being in the right place at the right time to ground between the posts.

So intense had the opening forty minutes proven to be that by the middle of the second period, both sides began to look quite tired, yet were still prepared to give whatever they could to the game.  The second half was therefore a rather less spectacular affair, with a stalemate developing between the pair with errors through fatigue increasing, though, with a twelve-point lead, it was Salford in whose favour time marched on.

The acquisition of a single point, from a Marc Sneyd drop goal, was undoubtedly the most crucial event of the half, for, if the Rhinos were finding it troublesome eating into a two-score lead, they were certainly going to have problems scoring, on three occasions.  Almost as if to celebrate that fact, the Reds took the game beyond the visitors, when man of the match Croft made a clean break to set up the supporting Ryan Brierley for the final try.

Exciting, and rewarding, as their attack was, it was their absolutely magnificent defence, during the arm-wrestles which developed in both halves, that kept them in control throughout.  Two, incredible one-on-one tackles, midway through the first half, by Kallum Watkins and then Cross, close to their own line, must have been sheer inspiration to the rest of the side, particularly when the going got really tough, in the later stages.

That they kept Leeds to only a pair of tries, one in each half and  with these having relatively little impact on the game. was testament to their commitment, throughout.  Leeds might not have been at their best, but the same was also said about both Wigan and St Helens.

The common factor in all of these fixtures has been the Red Devils’ resilience in repelling and thwarting all three sides over the full eighty minutes, and while they continue to do this, they will win far more matches than they lose.

RED DEVILS SNUFF OUT DEWSBURY FIGHT BACK

Salford Red Devils 28  Dewsbury 16                          Match Report

A most spirited rally, in the final quarter of the game saw Salford’s women’s team continuing their successful start to the season, with a twelve-point victory, sealed by a brace of tries from full-back, Steph Gray, both of which were converted by Demi Jones.

With a number of their regular players missing, there was a slightly makeshift look about the team sheet, but, in fairness, every member of the side, whether newly in, or operating in a different position, came through with credit for their commitment to the cause, and for the way they all gelled together to secure the win.

It was a dream start to the game, for the Reds when first, the Dewsbury kick-off went straight into touch, and, from the ensuing penalty, Salford were well positioned to set up a series of attacks on the visitors’ line.  It took until the fourth minute, only, for them to open their account, with an excellent end-of-set cross-field kick finding the arms, of right centre, Lauren Ellison, who caught and grounded the ball in one single movement.

With a 4-0 advantage, and playing down the Schofield Rd slope, spectators eagerly awaited further tries to follow, but a combination of handling errors, which occurred whenever they got near to the Dewsbury line, compounded by a considerable number of penalties, primarily for offside and high tackles, let Dewsbury back into the game  It was from one such handling error, followed by two, late in set, penalties, that the visitors had sufficient possession to force an overlap, to draw level.

Buoyed by this success, the Yorkshire side continued to enjoy sufficient possession from further penalties to put Salford under significant pressure for several minutes, even forcing a goal-line drop-out, in the process.  What was significant, however, was that the magnificent Salford defence was able to soak up these continual assaults on their line, without conceding any further points.

Eventually, on 34 mins, they set up an attack which was not flawed by any errors, as the ball was moved, most tellingly, along the line to produce a three to one overlap, which provided left centre, Alex Simpson, with a try-scoring opportunity in the corner.  Most remarkably, Jones was successful with the conversion from the touchline, which sailed between the posts, to set up a 10-4, half-time scoreline.

The game really appeared to have swung in favour of the Red Devils, shortly after the restart, when cleverly- angled running by second rower, Viki Kini, opened up the defence on the right-hand side to set up Ellison, with her second try, goaled once again by Jones. 16-4

What had seemed to be a fairly comfortable lead at the time proved to be anything but, on 59 mins, when Dewsbury scored the second of two tries within three minutes of each other, and the successful conversions bringing the sides level.

Nothing can be more dispiriting than to see your lead eradicated completely, and the game was at the point at which it could have gone either way.  Dewsbury, with their tails up, and the benefit of the downward slope must have really fancied their chances, while the Red Devils were up against an uphill slog, in temperatures which had changed by a whole season, during the course of the afternoon, and in the hot sunshine they were finding the going most energy sapping.

This was when the team really showed its character, determination, and on the back of these, its confidence.  Alex Simpson, it was, who set the ball rolling, with a tremendous break from within her own twenty, to be tackled near to the half-way line, to the left of the field.  Taz Corcoran took up the baton from there, with a super scoot towards the visitors twenty, and a couple of tackles later Gray scythed through the middle for the first of her match-determining brace.

Every member of the side did their utmost to bring about the victory, and all can feel pride not just in the result but in their contribution in overcoming adversity at various stages of the match.  It is something they will be able to take into their next encounter, in the League Cup tie, away at Illingworth, next week.

SALFORD:

Steph Gray, Jenna Monks, Lauren Ellison, Alex Simpson, Eponine Fletcher, Louise Fellingham, Demi Jones, Casey Naylor, Tamzin Corcoran, Darcey Price, Kayleigh Bradshaw, Victoria Kini, Megan Condliffe, Hannah Wicks, Yasmin Parton-Sotomayor, Abi Collins, Laura Bent, Gabrielle Chaplin

PHOTOGRAPH: Courtesy of Sean Monks, with our thanks

Steph Gray grounding the ball firmly between the posts

SALFORD WOMEN SPRING SURPRISES IN NINES TOURNAMENT

For those of us who remember the highly popular Sevens Tournaments of the 1970s, a version of rugby at which Salford used to excel, our over-riding memory was one of sheer speed, and rather less in terms of rugby skills, as pacey individuals simply ran amok in the acres of space at their disposal.  The modern version of nine-aside is an attempt to redress the balance, so with a total of eight players (four from each side) missing, there is now much more rugby evident, while still ample opportunity for potential match-winners to have their field day.

For Salford women’s side, with only one competitive game under their belt, the change to a completely different and novel style of play was always going to require an extremely steep learning curve to be able to cope, let alone come close to winning a match.  Even the scoring was unfamiliar, with a try between the posts, only, earning five points plus the conversions. Restarts after a score were by the scoring team dropping out to the team which had conceded.

So, probably, in light of all that, the other three fully experienced teams in Group D will all, undoubtedly, have been relishing an easy ride against the newcomers to the comp.  If that were the case, they will have had one almighty shock, when they came up against the Red Devils

OULTON

Salford v Oulton was, in fact, the opening match of the afternoon, so there was to be no opportunity to observe another fixture in order to acquaint themselves with what to expect ahead of their game, only the opening onslaught from the Yorkshire players who quickly rattled up an eight-point lead.

Desperate times require desperate measures, so, step forward, Salford fullback, Luci McKeown, who received the ball just inside the Red Devils’ half of the field, on the third tackle of the set.  Far from ensuring the completion of the set as the main priority, she happened to notice that Oulton’s fullback was out of position, so put in a lengthy kick down field chased after it, and, having won the race, she then showed the skills of a soccer player before touching down over the line and adding the conversion.

Oulton replied almost immediately with a converted try, but shortly before half time, winger, Alex Simpson was put clear down the left flank to score under the posts, which with the extra point this earned, plus McKeown’s conversion brought the score at the turnaround, to 13-14.

Oulton, it was again, who opened the scoring to the second half, taking the score to 13-21, but from that point the Red Devils took total command.  First, they set up a try for right winger, Lauren Ellison, whose try brought Salford to within four points, at 17-21, and they got in front for the first time 24-21, following an interception by Simpson, and the final score coming from Abbi Collins, 31-21

CASTLEFORD

Despite their Super League status, Castleford turned out to be wooden spoonists at the end of the afternoon, and Salford’s 26-4 victory contributed to this.  A quite remarkable pass from McKeown, whilst being tackled, to Kayleigh Bradshaw got Simpson away and under the posts, for their first seven points of the match.  Then, lo and behold, McKeown replicated her try from the previous match, with the only variation being that she caught the kick on the bounce, to score under the posts to bring the score to 14-0

Castleford’s solitary score came just before half time, when the effort from all three, nine-minute periods, compiled to catch up on the Red Devils, but the second half was one way traffic, starting with a right to left passing move along the line to Simpson, once again, who crossed in the corner. 18-4

Hooker, Taz Corcoran, then caught out the defence, with a dart to the blind side for Ellison to score in the right corner to move the score on to 22-4.  Finally, prop, Demi Jones, got in on the act, with a most incredible ball steal to gain possession, for the last try of the game.

HUDDERSFIELD

It was only fitting that the final match was between the two best, and thus far undefeated, sides in this Group.  And how did this culminating match open?  Why, with a kick down the field by McKeown, and yet again a try under the posts.  Self-converted, of course.  Huddersfield were behind for the first time all afternoon.

Sadly, that was as good as it got for Salford, in this encounter.  Huddersfield had been clearly the team of the Group throughout the afternoon, winning both their previous matches, at a canter, and when, in the heat of the occasion, the Salford players lost some of their composure and started making handling errors, the Yorkshire side took advantage of each one.

The half time score of 7-10, quickly rose to 7-20, upon the resumption, until Ellison picked up a loose ball and showed a clean pair of heels over seventy metres, hotly pursued, to the posts.  There was still sufficient time, though, for Huddersfield to underline their superiority to bring up a final score of 14-24.

So, Huddersfield will progress as Group D’s representatives in the Final stage of the competition, at the A J Bell in a few weeks’ time, and congratulations to them in so doing.  A special concluding word, however, for all the Salford players who, so magnificently, represented the club, over the course of the afternoon.

There would have been no shame in their having lost all their matches, being so new to rugby league, let alone the nine-aside variation of it, against such experienced opponents.  To have won two of them, and to have kept to within ten points of the overall winners was incredible, and they all deserve every accolade of praise they receive.

They can only learn from today’s venture, and will get even better as a result.  They fully deserve the utmost of support, and would undoubtedly welcome your attendance at some of their home games, starting, this weekend against Dewsbury, on Sunday afternoon, at the home of Salford Roosters.

SALFORD SQUAD:

Luci McKeown, Lauren Ellison, Eponine Fletcher, Alex Simpson, Louise Fellingham, Taz Corcoran, Kayleigh Bradshaw, Yasmin Parton-Sotomayor, Gabby Chaplin, Abbi Collins, Demi Jones

FINAL POSITIONS GROUP D:

  1. Huddersfield
  2. Salford
  3. Oulton
  4. Castleford

RED DEVILS IN DEPTH:  ST HELENS V SALFORD

Anyone who had felt that the Red Devils would not be able to follow up their vastly improved performance at Wigan with anything similar, only five days later, against the current Super League Champions, again on their own ground, must have had one almighty shock.  Not only did the Reds repeat their dominant performance of the previous week at the Totally Wicked Stadium, they improved on it even further.

Whereas at the DW, everyone had left feeling disappointed at our not managing to take the Warriors into Golden Point Extra Time, last night we were all disappointed that we had not won, for indeed, over the eighty minutes, Salford were the better team.

In fact, St Helens can consider themselves rather lucky to have come away with the points, and indeed there were many of their fair-minded supporters who readily acknowledged this.  They are renowned throughout the league for their uncompromising, physical, style of play, but, on this occasion, they came up against a team which was every bit as physical as they always are, if not the more so.

The first evidence Saints had that we were up against such a well-drilled, enterprising, and committed side, came as early as Josh Johnson’s first bone-crunching hit-up straight from the kick-off, followed in the third minute, when prop, Jack Ormondroyd, made a magnificent thirty metre break through the middle of the field.  Although that came to nothing in itself, with Brodie Croft eventually being held short of the line, the fact that Ormondroyd had torn through the defence with seeming ease, served to inspire the whole side even further.

It was, consequently, of no surprise, when, on a second foray into their hosts’ ten metre area, their slick handling carved out sufficient room for Morgan Escare’s cleverly angled running to get him over the line, and with Chris Atkin’s conversion from his only reasonably positioned goal-scoring opportunity, giving them a six-point lead.

Indeed, if you were looking for an aspect of the game in which Salford were particularly unfortunate, it was that their subsequent two attempts at goal, which included a penalty on half time and a second half conversion, were both considerable distances out.

The game changed, unfortunately, at the mid-point of the half, when carelessness in the timing of their defensive line speed, which throughout most of the game so troubled the home side, on this occasion brought Saints a penalty, at a time when they were being penned back on their line.   In one of their best sets of the match, they gained sufficiently good field position, and possession, to cross for an unconverted try.

Sadly, this proved to be not just one but two, back-to-back, scores, the second of which came most fortuitously for the Saints, from the ball ricocheting at the end-of-set kick, off Escare and into the arms of Welsby, barely a metre from the try line.

The only try of the second half came from Salford, as a result of their continued adherence to their game-plan, in which they had gone head-to-head with St Helens, set by set, giving every bit as good as they were given, in a trial of physicality.

On a couple of occasions Saints were even forced to end their sets with kicks still within their own thirty metre area, while time and again, back would come Salford, to pin them down in their own twenty.  It was from one such set that with the assistance of a set-restart, former Saint, Matt Costello, had the great pleasure of going over in the corner for an equalising try, against his former club

Even after going behind to the two penalty goals, the Red Devils were not finished.  An interception by Chris Atkin saw him race clear over seventy metres, only to be caught from behind less than ten metres from the try line.

The final minute of the half, following the sin-binning of Welsby for the professional foul of preventing a quick play-the-ball, saw St Helens having to resort to using the set-restart rule to their own defensive advantage, by which they limited the number of tackles they had to complete, in the final fifty seconds, to only three, simply by holding tackled players down for several seconds at a time, thereby preventing any properly organised assault on their line, and finally forcing one of very few Salford handling errors, to overcome the threat.

Without succeeding in winning, however, Salford players must have gained considerable confidence from their performance against such illustrious opponents.  The fact that the Saints were able to scrape home, thanks only to two kickable penalty goals in the last ten minutes, tells its own story.  All that is needed now is for this form to be taken into the next few fixtures, starting with our home game with Leeds in a fortnight’s time.

SALFORD WOMEN WIN THEIR FIRST COMPETITIVE MATCH

Warrington Wolves 22  Salford Red Devils 26                       Match Report

Salford’s newly formed women’s team took to the field, on Sunday last, to face Warrington Reserves, in their first ever competitive game, at Warrington’s Victoria Park, and excelled themselves by coming away with a thrilling and hard-fought victory.

With only a single friendly encounter with Swinton Lionesses, back in mid-January, the Salford women were fairly untested and relatively inexperienced in comparison to their hosts, with the Wolves having been running a women’s side for at least a couple of seasons, but over the eighty minutes the Salford players grew greatly in stature and confidence.

Unsurprisingly, therefore, it was the experience of their opponents, comfortable in their home surroundings, who took the early initiative and, consequently, were first on the scoreboard by crossing for a converted try to take the lead.

Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, the Red Devils took this first setback in their stride, focused their minds on all that they had rehearsed in training sessions, and endeavoured to put it into practice.  This level-headed approach worked wonders as they started to haul themselves into the game, and they were duly rewarded by drawing level, when Luci McKeown became the first Salford player to score, in the Championship competition, with Demi Jones adding the goal.

But it did not end there, for even before half time was upon them, they had gone in front.  Alex Simpson, making her debut with the side, had the honour of putting the visitors ahead with a 6-10 lead, which they were able to take into the interval.

If the first half had been tight and closely fought, the second half was thrilling throughout, with the result in doubt right up until the final whistle.  That half time interval lead had worked wonders for the Salford players’ confidence, and they resumed the contest by producing some fine enterprising rugby which saw them well-placed in the Warrington half, and it was no surprise when McKeown repeated her try-scoring feat of the first half, with a second, which was once again converted by Jones.

That ten-point lead might have seemed a comfortable one, at the time, but an early handling error turned the ball over to their opponents who promptly cut their deficit down to four points, with a converted try of their own.

Much of the Red Devils’ attack seemed to come by their working the ball out to the right edge, where winger, Lauren Ellison, was released in space, on a couple of occasions.  On the first she was unfortunately tackled into touch by a defender, but there was no such respite for the Wolves on the second when she crossed in the corner, too far out for the conversion to count. 12-20

A Salford error, at the kick off, allowed the ball to bounce into dead, and, from the resultant goal-line drop-out, the home side took advantage of the position, and possession, to mount a series of attacks, over a twelve-minute period, during which they scored twice, the second of which was converted from the left touchline, to restore the lead to Warrington, at 22-20.

Many teams might have panicked at this point, particularly with full-time drawing closer and closer, but, yet again, the Salford players took a grip on the situation, and despite being thwarted on two or three occasions, close to the line, eventually put themselves back in front for once and for all, with a superbly executed try, which involved four players, Taz Corcoran, Vannessa Hadley, and Louise Fellingham, inter-passing and running extremely clever angles, directly in front of the home posts.

The fourth, Vicki Kini, pictured above, took the final pass to touch down between the posts, but each and every one of the four involved, deserves credit for their contribution in such a remarkable build-up.

That may have been the final score of the afternoon, but there was still time left for Warrington to launch two or three further attacks but the resolute Red Devils stood firm, as indeed they had on a number of occasions throughout the game, without conceding any further contrary score.

Congratulations, therefore, to the whole squad, not only on the occasion of their first match, nor even on the victory they so  magnificently earned and deserved, but on their professional approach and attitude to and through the game, overcoming misfortune and setbacks by commitment, determination, and above all absolute trust in one another which was so evident throughout the whole encounter, and will see them through many a difficult match in the future.

SALFORD:

Niamh Dickinson, Steph Gray, Luci McKeown, Vicki Kini, Helena Walker, Louise Fellingham, Darcey Price, Megan Condliffe, Vannessa Hadley, Hannah Wicks, Sam Boyes, Yasmin Parton-Sotomayor, Olivia Miah, Erin Tong, Abi Collins, Laura Bent, Lauren Ellison, Demi Jones, Taz Corcoran, Casey Naylor, Gabrielle Chaplin, Jena Monks, Lauren Hunter, Eponine Fletcher, Alex Simpson, Kayleigh Bradshaw

RED DEVILS IN DEPTH: WIGAN V SALFORD

In what was arguably their best and most consistent performance of the season, yesterday, the Salford Red Devils came within two minutes of taking the Wigan Warriors into Golden Point extra time, on their home ground of the DW Stadium.

By increasing the speed of many aspects of their play, but most noticeably their handling, Salford were able to play the game at the pace so regularly produced by the Warriors, and consequently set up some quite impressive, and on four occasions at least, most effective periods of attack.

On defence, they had to endure some lengthy periods of goal-line defence, particularly in the second half, which they did with valour and commitment, as Wigan threw everything they could in their direction, in an increasingly desperate attempt to resecure the lead, which Salford had eradicated midway through the forty.

From the early stages of the game, it quickly became apparent that both teams seemed quite capable of breaking down their opponents’ defence, on the back of more protracted periods of pressure, which consequently highlighted the importance of avoiding conceding penalties and set-restarts, and of limiting opportunities for offloads.

Indeed, Salford’s first try came as the result of Chris Atkin’s interception, which set them up in Wigan’s half, and was further aided by Wigan’s fumbling of a kick on their own line, and then conceding a penalty, both of which led to renewed sets, which ended with King Vuniyayawa crossing between the posts.

Similarly, Wigan’s response, five minutes later, came as the result of a penalty for a careless high tackle on the last of a set, followed by a further set-restart.  Two of Salford’s other tries, their second from Matt Costello and their third from Alex Gerrard, came from the benefit of a seven-tackle set, following overly powered Wigan kicks into the in-goal area which ran into dead.

Ken Sio’s fifty-third minute interception try over seventy-metres, not only brought Salford the inspiration of drawing level, after resuming after the half-time interval facing a twelve point deficit, it was also some compensation for other assaults on the Warriors’ line, which could have brought further scores for the visitors.

Twice the irrepressible Brodie Croft was involved, once in the first half after a fine break from in his own half, and then linking up in the second half in some excellent inter-passing in front of the Wigan posts, in final passes which unfortunately failed to find their mark.  Meanwhile the influential Kallum Watkins also had the misfortune of his slick pass, delivered as he was falling to the ground in a tackle, adjudged to be forward, with the Wigan line at Ryan Brierley’s mercy.

The last fifteen minutes, however, were spent in almost total goal-line defence, the like of which has often been missing on other previous occasions.  Twice the home side successfully worked overlaps which threatened to end in tries, only for their passes to the unmarked wingers being so rushed, as a result of Salford’s defensive pressure, that the ball ended up in touch.

In the end, the game was settled by the speed of two-try Jai Field, who found sufficient space down the Salford left flank, to seal the game as only he can, with a ninety metre, six-pointer, under the Salford posts.

It is a credit to the whole team from one to seventeen, that the disappointment, for players, fans, and club officials, at the end was so great, because to come so close to winning, only to be thwarted in the dying minutes, is extremely painful.  With further performances like this, however, it will only be a matter of time, before victories start accruing, as the season progresses.

RED DEVILS IN DEPTH: SALFORD V CATALANS

 

Returning to the A J Bell for only their fourth home fixture of the season, the Salford Red Devils will undoubtedly have been hoping for a turnaround in fortunes after three successive away fixtures in which they had come out second best, when they took on the Catalans Dragons, in Easter Monday’s encounter.

Unfortunately, on the day, this did not turn out to be the case, and the visiting Frenchmen returned home to Perpignan with the two league points to promote further their Super League title aspirations.

That seemed far from likely in the opening stages however, as Salford opened the game with aplomb, dominating possession and turning their most advantageous field position into points, with the first of their tries coming in the fourth minute from Ryan Brierley’s kick over the line, to which Deon Cross won the race to ground.

Indeed, the visitors had really looked at sixes and sevens during that opening onslaught, conceding three set-restarts and a penalty, but once the Red Devils had put in their end-of-set kick after the restart, the visitors began to enjoy a share of possession, and chalk up scores of their own.

What will have disappointed the home fans particularly was the way in which Salford contributed to their own downfall, with unforced individual errors, a number of which led directly, or indirectly, to the Dragons’ six tries, all of which were converted.

Two back-to-back penalties, both towards the end of sets-of-six, set up the visitors for their first, on nine minutes, and then, nine minutes later, they forced a goal-line drop-out, which was followed by their being awarded two further penalties, one of which came on the last tackle of their set.  That was more than enough possession for them to go over again and double their score.

The error, which will have caused most annoyance in the Salford ranks, however, was from a penalty awarded to the Dragons at a scrum for the Reds failing to have secured the ball in readiness to feed it in. The shot-clock sounded, while they were still recovering it, and, from the ensuing penalty, Catalans rang up their third try to bring a 6-18 half-time score.

Twelve points is by no means a match-winning lead and there must have still been hopes of a resurgent home side overturning this, particularly against an opposition depleted by a sin-binning, immediately before the interval.  Far from that, however, it was the twelve-man French side which opened the scoring, following a Salford handling error close to their own line, with the ball firting out into the grateful hands of Whitley with the line at his mercy.

It was not until the sixty-fifth minute that Salford were able to add to their opening score, with their second coming after Marc Sneyd had instigated it with one of his favourite chip and chases, which so used to delight spectators of our Youth team, back in the late noughties.  Brierley regathered before putting in a kick ahead of his own for Sio to add to his growing number of tries for the season.

This, however, was merely sandwiched between two further tries by the visitors, the final one of which came as a result of yet another unforced error, this time an incorrect play-the-ball, which gave the Dragons possession to notch one more.

Standing up to a side as big and physical as the French side is, is a considerable task, particularly with the spate of injuries currently plaguing the Red Devils.  The effort they put in to doing this was tremendous, and the go forward provided by Sam Luckley was significant, as was that of the returning Kallum Watkins, in the unaccustomed role of second row following his introduction off the bench shortly before half time.  With the return eventually of others, that effort will hopefully be turned into victories.

RED DEVILS IN DEPTH: WARRINGTON V SALFORD

The travelling Salford Faithful who had made the trip to support their favourites at the Halliwell-Jones Stadium, in the Rivals Round against Warrington Wolves, must have left the ground wondering what has gone wrong with the Reds’ defence over the past couple of games, for it was only three weeks ago that they had limited Wigan to three tries only, despite the Warriors having a significant proportion of possession and field position.  One week earlier, Leeds had been kept try-less in the second half allowing the Red Devils to capitalise with a 26-12 home victory.

Since then, however, a total of eleven tries has been leaked, with some tackling being of quite questionable quality.  Both Wakefield and Warrington exploited Salford’s right edge defensive frailty, with the Wolves scoring four of their five tries on their left wing through King (3) and Ashton (2).

It had been the Red Devils’ attack which had been a matter of concern until recently, but, having equalled Wakefield’s scoring tally last week, they notched another three against this week’s hosts, on Thursday evening, from Ken Sio who latched onto Brierley’s kick into his corner on the stroke of half-time, Andy Ackers who scooted over from a play-the-ball close to the Wolves’ line, and Ryan Brierley who brought the curtain down on the game with a last gasp score.

Good as those tries were, there were a number of other occasions when the Reds came close to additional scores, particularly in the second half, during which the visitors built several periods of pressure.  There were a number of occasions when potential tries failed to satisfy the referee sufficiently for him to award them.

Infuriatingly, the first of these led to a twelve-point whammy, with the home side utilising the subsequent seven-tackle restart, by scoring from that final, extra play-the-ball.  Sneyd’s kick into the in-goal area, had been initially adjudged to have been grounded by a Warrington defender which would have then led to a goal-line drop-out, but the verdict of the in-goal judge was that Brierley had first fumbled the ball over the line, and so a twenty-metre restart was determined.

Shortly afterwards, Burgess was tackled into touch before he could ground the ball, then Sio was tackled with the ball almost in touching distance of the line, and finally a Warrington defender managed to get himself between the ball and the ground, as he tackled Taylor over the line.  All were evidence of the Reds’ vastly improved attacking play, but thwarted, on the night, by extremely determined Warrington defending, the like of which Salford would have benefited from copying.

A significant total of five goal-line drop-outs was further evidence of the extent to which the Red Devils tested their hosts’ goal-line defence, with the majority of these coming as a result of a home defender having to make the ball dead, either by grounding it in-goal, or being tackled over the dead-ball line.

It is widely regarded that the acquisition of eighteen points should be a match-winning score.  That this proved to be far from the case, on Thursday, was purely down to the six tries scored by Warrington, who were allowed to play the game at whatever pace suited them at the time.  One particular set-of-six, towards the end of the first half, saw them up and playing the ball at exceptional speeds and consequently making remarkable progress up the field, in hardly any time at all.

It is up to the defending side to control this, by various options which do not incur the wrath of the referee.  That, with a mere thirty seconds left on the clock, the penalty count was an incredible eight to two, in favour of the Wolves, would seem to indicate a lack of success in this area.  Salford’s tally was actually doubled, in the dying moments, by some gamesmanship from the home side which led to their reduction to twelve players, and Brierley’s last-ditch score.

There have been a number of games now which have produced a mixed bag of performances, but it is producing balanced consistency throughout the full eighty minutes, which will return them to return to winning ways.  An Easter Monday home game against the Catalans Dragons would be the ideal place to start.

RED DEVILS IN DEPTH: WAKEFIELD V SALFORD

For sheer entertainment value, this Round Seven game had everything anyone could have wished for, with classy, expansive, skilful handling, rampaging hit-ups, tricky defence-splitting running, end-to-end movement, and tries aplenty, all in one afternoon’s worth of Super League.

At first glance, it might appear to have been a game of two halves, with first Trinity, and then the visiting Salford side having total ascendency, in each of the forty-minute periods.  That assumption is certainly supported by the scoreboard, with Wakefield rattling up a 24-4 interval lead, and the Reds winning the second stanza by twenty points to six.

There was more to it than that, however, with Salford, in particular, making some notable impact when Wakefield held the whip hand.  For example, after the home side had taken an eighth-minute, six-point lead, it took the Red Devils a matter of only two minutes’ play,  before they eroded into it, with the first of Rhys Willams’s tries, after deft hands from the ever-impressive, Tim Lafae, and it was only thanks to their successful conversion that Wakefield continued to hold onto the lead.

Indeed, when you look at the number of tries rather than points accrued, it was completely even, with five each, four of which, for both teams, came in just one half.  Unfortunately, with both Salford wingers scoring a brace each, the majority of their scores were out wide, making it far more difficult for kicker, Marc Sneyd, to acquit himself as accurately as he probably would have liked, and, in the end, it was the three missed attempts from the most difficult, which were responsible for the final six-point difference between the sides.

Even after Trinity had opened up a 12-4 lead after fifteen minutes, Salford ripped through their defence, on twenty-six minutes, when Elijah Taylor made a clean break down the left, but was unable to take advantage of his teammates’ support as a Wakefield defender cleverly put himself between them, and the difficult inside pass went adrift.

If there were a period in which Trinity were totally dominant, it was in the final ten minutes of the half, when they doubled their number of points on the board.  It started with a poor Salford chase after a kick into their opponents’ in-goal area, which enabled Wakefield to build up a head of steam, and they promptly went a hundred metres down the field, in only five tackles, to score by the posts.  Winger, Tom Johnstone, then rounded off the half with one of his typical individual tries.

Much as they contributed to the game on attack, unusually, there must have been questions about the visitors’ defence, at times during the half, to be facing a twenty-point deficit.  There had been, nevertheless, a period mid-half, when they had withstood two back-to-back goal-line drop-outs, followed by two back-to-back penalties, all within close proximity to their own line.

Whatever the nature of the discussion during half time, Salford were a team transformed, from the start of the second half.  The immediate pressure they applied led to the initial rewards of two back-to-back goal-line drop-outs, of their own capped with a penalty, and they all added to the Red Devils’ total dominance, which culminated in Deon Cross’s converted try, on forty-seven minutes.

Momentum had swung in Salford’s favour, and they were now in the ascendency, so much so that it took merely seven minutes for the next score, from Ken Sio, such was the new-found confidence they were exuding.  They even went close to adding two further tries, only to be held up, over the line, on both occasions.

Wakefield, on the other hand. were now  confined to almost constant goal-line defence, and it was close to mid-point in the half before they launched an attack on the Salford line.

One aspect of play which the home side did command, however, was the ability to win most of the contested high kicks, though Rhys Williams will have gained considerable satisfaction from plucking the ball from one, short, goal-line drop-out, out of the air, and away from the waiting hands of an opponent to cross, unchallenged, for his second try.

Ken Sio, on the other flank, mirrored his colleague’s scoring rate, though, by the time he had the chance to complete his tally, thirty seconds from time, the Wakefield lead had increased to twelve points, and the victory was theirs.

There was much of which the Red Devils should be proud, however.  The notable improvement in their attacking play was most encouraging, as well as entertaining, and they certainly showed that they do have the clinical skills to turn their chances into points.  With a blank weekend coming up, there is the opportunity to hone these skills further, but also to rediscover their defensive strategy which has done so much to help them, in previous games.