Author: Ryan Booth

Three Talking Points | Widnes Vikings

Following yesterday’s stunning triumph over Widnes Vikings, we take a look at the three talk points in the aftermath of the game. 
Three in a row
Salford headed into the tie on the back of two convincing wins over Leeds Rhinos and Hull Kingston Rovers but despite being labelled as the favourites by most of the experts, Ian Watson’s men didn’t underestimate the visitors’ capabilities and produced a creditable display to emerge as comfortable 32-6 victors.
Last week, we touched on the impact Jackson Hastings and Joey Lussick have had on the side and whilst neither of the duo managed to get on the scoresheet this time around, they were instrumental in Salford’s success, though the latter was sin-binned in the 37th minute.
Hastings in particular, was heavily involved throughout. The 22-year-old featured in the build-up for the first of Junior Sa’u’s double, before putting the second on a plate for him just four minutes later. Hastings also helped carve the opening for Mark Flanagan’s try – via some assistance from Lussick – in what proved to be the finest try of the afternoon.

The Vikings did initially take the lead through Charly Runciman but the host hit back in style to earn their third successive victory – two of which have arrived in the dreaded Qualifiers. The win moves Salford into pole position in the Qualifiers table, though there are other games still to be played over the course of the weekend. Having said that, Salford are undoubtedly the in-form team and will take some stopping as the side edges nearer to securing its Super League status.
Lui stars once again
Hastings’ arrival has well and truly freed half-back Robert Lui in recent weeks and 28-year-old Lui produced yet another impressive performance during yesterday’s win.

Lui – who notched his third try in as many matches – was the second strongest contender for the Man of the Match award behind Hastings. He picked up a neat assist to send Sa’u crashing over when the Reds were trailing in the opening period, before kick-starting the move for the centre’s second.
If that wasn’t enough, the playmaker turned from provider to scorer. Just five minutes had passed in the second period when Lui darted over from dummy half. The half-back faked to play the ball out to the left before forcing himself over from close-range.
This score seemed to spur Lui on further as he claimed another well-worked assist twenty minutes from time. After picking up Hastings’ short ball, Salford’s ‘star man’ Lui then jinked his way through several Widnes defenders before feeding the onrushing Evalds.
Evalds prolific in attack
Alongside the arrivals of both Hastings and Lussick, Niall Evalds’ return to the side has been on a similar scale to a new signing. The 24-year-old suffered an unfortunate leg break during Salford’s defeat at the hands of Huddersfield back in May.
Initially, it was suggested Evalds wouldn’t feature again this season, but the full-back has made a triumphant return to the squad and is arguably better than ever.
After making his long-awaited comeback during the recent trip to Catalans, Evalds has racked up four tries in as many appearances.
With his sheer pace and game intelligence, the Salford academy graduate is a renowned creative threat and has added another dimension to the Red Devils’ lineup.
His defensive capability is undoubted, but it was in attack where he truly excelled yesterday and linked up well with the starring Lui to finish off a slick move.


Match Report | Salford Red Devils 32-6 Widnes Vikings

Junior Sa’u’s first-half brace paved the way for Salford Red Devils to earn their third-successive victory, after the Red Devils came from behind to pummel Widnes Vikings 32-6 at the AJ Bell Stadium.
Alongside the centre’s double, scores from Robert Lui, Niall Evalds and Mark Flanagan helped secure a comfortable triumph for Ian Watson’s side.
The Red Devils headed into the contest on the back of an emphatic victory at Hull Kingston Rovers eight days prior, but they made a sluggish start this time around.
A mere three minutes had passed by the time Liam Finn forged the first opening, the veteran half-back’s looping kick caused an array of confusion within the Red Devils line and Charly Runciman scooped up the loose ball, before beating Evalds in a footrace to touch down.
Krisnan Inu added the extras to give the visitors a six-point lead but the Red Devils fought back swiftly.
In recent weeks Salford have enjoyed the luxury of having one of the most expansive half-back pairings around in Jackson Hastings and Lui. The pair were integral in carving Salford’s first score of the afternoon, as some slick hands from the latter sent Sa’u crashing over in the left-hand corner.
Ed Chamberlain nailed the resulting touchline goal, but Salford were in again just four minutes later.
Half-back pairing Hastings and Lui were involved once more, but on this occasion, it was the former who produced the crucial pass to allow Sa’u to cross over in an almost identical fashion.
Sa’u’s double seemed to galvanise Ian Watson’s men, Craig Kopczak – who returned to the side following a short layoff – latched onto a short pass from Hastings before surging towards the line, but the forward was held up in-goal after some heroic defending from Olly Ashall-Bott and Patrick Ah Van.
In a dramatic turn of events, home debutant Joey Lussick was sin-binned by referee Ben Thaler three minutes before the half-time whistle, after the hooker allegedly produced a ‘crusher tackle’.
Despite being a man down, Salford flew out of the blocks after the break. After a sustained spell of pressure saw the Red Devils hound Widnes towards their own line, Lui dummied from the play-the-ball and burrowed his way over to extend the margin.
Soon after, Salford were on the front foot once more. Evalds made an excellent break after Josh Jones intercepted Inu’s wayward pass, but Lloyd White made a remarkable recovery to halt the attack.
However, it was from the kicking tee where the hosts would extend their lead. Aaron Heremaia failed to clear the ruck, consequently allowing Chamberlain to confidently stroke the ball over the posts for his fourth goal of the afternoon.
Hastings’ arrival at the club has sparked a resurgence from fellow half-back Lui. The fifth-eighth has been in inspiring form in recent weeks and he capped off another fine display with 19 minutes left on the clock.
After jinking his way past several Widnes defenders, the 28-year-old produced a stunning offload to assist the onrushing Evalds, before Chamberlain added the extras to increase the lead further.
Salford weren’t finished there though. Watson’s men claimed another stunning try deep into the half, a piece of fantastic link-up play from Man of the Match Hastings and Lussick resulted in the supporting Mark Flanagan sliding over the whitewash, before Chamberlain landed the goal to wrap up a comfortable victory.
Salford Lineup: Evalds; Chamberlain, Welham, Sa’u, Olpherts; Lui, Hastings; Mossop, Wood, Tasi, Jones, Lannon, Flanagan.
Interchanges: Kopczak, Burke, Lussick, Nakubuwai.
Widnes Lineup: Ashall-Bott, Ah Van, Inu, Whitley, Runciman, Mellor, Finn, Hansen, Heremaia, Dudson, Dean, Houston, Hauraki.
Interchanges: Leuluai, Gerrard, Olbison, White.
Salford Scorers: Tries- Sa’u (17, 21’), Lui (45’), Evalds (61’), Flanagan (72’) | Goals- Chamberlain (18’, 22’, 46’, 53’, 62’, 73’
Widnes Scorers: Tries- Runciman (3’) | Goals- Inu (4’)
Salford Sin-Bin: Lussick (37’)
Half-Time Score: 12-6
Man of the Match: Jackson Hastings.
Referee: Ben Thaler.
Touch Judges: Liam Moore & Richard Thompson.
Video Referee: Robert Hicks.

Preview | Salford Red Devils vs Widnes Vikings | Saturday 18th August 2018

After earning their first Qualifiers victory at Hull Kingston Rovers last weekend, Salford head into this week’s showdown with Widnes knowing that another win will dramatically enhance the club’s bid to retain its top flight status. 
Last Time Out
Following a memorable triumph over the Leeds Rhinos two weeks prior, Salford produced another impressive display to annihilate Hull Kingston Rovers 10-28 on their own turf.
Debutant Joey Lussick starred in his maiden outing for the Red Devils and claimed a well deserved try in the second period. The hooker’s score combined with further efforts from Niall Evalds, Robert Lui and Josh Wood ensured Ian Watson’s side got off to a flyer in the seven-game competition and earned two crucial points.

As for the visitors, Widnes have endured a miserable campaign. Francis Cummins were unable to boost their relegation fight from their opening Qualifiers tie as Betfred Championship side London Broncos came from behind to pick up a shock 20-21 victory at the Select Security Stadium.
Jarrod Sammut’s late drop-goal condemned the Vikings to their 17th successive defeat and ensured Interim Head Coach Cummins is still searching for his first win in charge, despite arriving at the club two months ago.
The two sides couldn’t have more contrasting fortunes if we’d have tried. The arrivals of Jackson Hastings and Joey Lussick have helped the Red Devils on their way to picking up two emphatic wins in as many games. The pair both scored on their respective debuts and have proved to spearhead Salford’s new look attacking spine alongside Robert Lui and Niall Evalds.

Widnes meanwhile, are in a poor run of form. Cummins’ men are without a win since beating Salford 24-16 back in March. The Vikings have racked up just six points throughout the current Betfred Super League campaign – an abysmal feat for the seven time Challenge Cup winners.
The club had hoped that the recent acquisitions of Wakefield Trinity – and Ireland international half-back – Liam Finn, NRL prop forward Charlie Gubb and former Salford captain Harrison Hansen would help transform the club’s fortunes. But if last week’s defeat to the Broncos is anything to go by, the club’s fan-base is in for an inconsolable end to the season.
This week’s head-to-head sees us compare influential back-rowers Niall Evalds and Olly Ashall-Bott against each other and evaluate their roles within their respective sides.
Despite suffering a broken leg during Salford’s home defeat to Huddersfield back in May, full-back Evalds has made a miraculous recovery to become a prominent figure during the club’s Qualifiers run-in. Evalds made his long awaited return as Salford made the long journey to Perpignan to take on the Catalans Dragons last month and hasn’t looked back since.
The 24-year-old has shone since the arrivals of both Hastings and Lussick and his impact has been hailed as ‘like having a new signing’. Evalds scored a brace as the Red Devils pummelled Leeds Rhinos at the AJ Bell Stadium two weeks ago, before notching a further effort at Hull KR last weekend.

Ashall-Bott likewise, has impressed heavily in recent weeks. The 20-year-old has made just six appearances this term but has shone during his breakthrough season with Cummins’ first-team.
The full-back come winger has been labelled as the most promising Academy Graduate to emerge out of the Select Security Stadium in recent years and has also spent time on-loan at North Wales Crusaders where the youngster effectively learnt his trade.
Ashall-Bott featured during Widnes’ loss to London and was arguably the side’s finest performer after notching his maiden try for the club.
This battle could well determine which side emerges victorious from the contest, both players are key figures and could heavily influence the outcome with their sheer pace and creative ability.
Team News
Forward Greg Burke – who joined the club on a two-year permanent deal from the Vikings this week – returns to face off with his former club following a short injury layoff. Australian duo Jackson Hastings and Joey Lussick both retain their place in the squad after impressing during the visit to KCOM Craven Park.

Forward Tyrone McCarthy is the only absentee in the Salford squad from last Friday’s win over the Robins. The experienced forward picked up a slight knock.
Widnes will be without new signing Charlie Gubb after the forward sustained a nasty injury during his debut last Thursday versus the Broncos. Olly Ashall-Bott retains his place after a stunning individual display, as do recent arrivals Liam Finn and Harrison Hansen. Veteran forward Chris Houston is also included in the squad and will captain the side.
Salford Red Devils: Kris Welham, Junior Sa’u, Niall Evalds, Rob Lui, Craig Kopczak, Josh Jones, Mark Flanagan, Lama Tasi, Ryan Lannon, Ben Nakubuwai, Josh Wood, Derrell Olpherts, Lee Mossop, Jake Bibby, Daniel Murray, Ed Chamberlain, Greg Burke, Jackson Hastings, Joey Lussick.
Widnes Vikings: Patrick Ah Van, Olly Ashall-Bott, Jay Chapelhow, Danny Craven, Chris Dean, Gil Dudson, Liam Finn, Alex Gerrard, Harrison Hansen,Weller Hauraki, Aaron Heremaia, Chris Houston, Krisnan Inu, MacGraff Leuluai, Joe Mellor, Tom Olbison, Charly Runciman, Lloyd White, Matt Whitley
Table Permutations 
Prior to the launch of the Qualifiers, all points tallies were reset for the competition which has given every side a chance to essentially start the season again.
After triumphing at Hull KR last time out, Salford currently occupy 2nd position in the Qualifiers table. A Salford Red Devils victory could potentially see the Red Devils lead the standings come Saturday evening.
Widnes are 5th in the table, but are essentially joint bottom. If the Vikings were to suffer a second successive defeat at the hands of Salford on Saturday, then pressure will soon begin to mount on Cummins’ men.
Match Officials
Referee: Ben Thaler
Touch Judge: Liam Moore
Touch Judge: Richard Thompson
Video Referee: Robert Hicks

Three Talking Points | Hull Kingston Rovers 10-28 Salford Red Devils

Following last night’s enthralling victory over Hull Kingston Rovers, we take a look at the three talking points in the aftermath of the game. 
Off to a flyer
Despite pummelling Leeds Rhinos 38-22 last time out, nobody underestimated the task ahead as the Red Devils made the long journey to Humberside.
Whilst many wrote Salford off prior to kick-off, Ian Watson’s men silenced their critics with a memorable performance at KCOM Craven Park.
It was crucial that Salford started their Qualifiers campaign with a bang and they certainly did so. The Red Devils dominated the tie throughout and scores from Niall Evalds, Robert Lui, debutant Joey Lussick and Josh Wood helped clinch a deserved 10-28 victory and spark euphoric scenes in both the stand and away dressing room.

Salford undoubtedly commenced their Qualifiers campaign in the best manner possible and now head into next week’s showdown with Widnes in full confidence after securing successive victories. The Vikings meanwhile will be looking to end their 17-game winless run after dramatically losing 20-21 at home to the London Broncos on Thursday evening.
Lussick stars on debut
Australian hooker Joey Lussick – who joined the club as a free agent two weeks ago following his release from Manly Sea Eagles – made his long awaited debut in Salford colours and the 22-year-old failed to disappoint.
Not only did the former Australian RU Schoolboy cross for a well-worked maiden try, but he performed impeccably throughout. The hooker linked up well with former Manly teammate Jackson Hastings and full-back Niall Evalds in attack, whilst also adding another dimension to plays with his devastating kicking game – a rare sight for a hooker.

If last night’s showing is anything to go by, Lussick could prove to be one of the club’s most impressive acquisitions in recent times.
New spine in fine form once again 
We’ve previously touched on the influence of recent arrival Jackson Hastings linking up with Robert Lui and Niall Evalds during his dazzling debut versus Leeds, but Lussick’s introduction at KCOM Craven Park yesterday really signalled that the final piece of the jigsaw had well and truly been unearthed.
Salford demonstrated an expansive style of Rugby throughout and executed a series of quick combinations between the foursome. This newly found attacking flair has ran parallel to the arrivals of Hastings and Lussick and has seriously enhanced the Red Devils’ spine.
Hastings in particular has extracted heaps of pressure from the shoulders of Lui and has allowed the fifth-eighth to play his natural game. 28-year-old Lui was voted Man of the Match following the triumph over Leeds and excelled once again versus the Robins. Salford’s ‘star man’ provided a moment of brilliance in the 55th minute after latching onto a wayward pass from Chris Atking, before racing ninety-metres to cross for a stunning individual try.

Alongside Lui, Hastings and Lussick have also aided full-back Evalds’ game. 24-year-old Evalds suffered a broken leg in May, but after returning from a lengthy spell on the sidelines, Salford’s marquee signings have linked up remarkably well with the former Salford academy graduate. Hastings produced an exquisite dummy to send Evalds over for the first of two tries versus the Rhinos a fortnight ago and Evalds continued his good run of form at Hull KR.
After Mark Flanagan picked up a short ball from Josh Wood, the experienced forward pierced his way through the Rovers backline before releasing the onrushing Evalds who slid over the whitewash to grab his third try in two games.

Match Report | Hull Kingston Rovers 10-28 Salford Red Devils

Salford Red Devils kickstarted their Qualifiers campaign in emphatic fashion after securing a spectacular 10-28 victory over Hull Kingston Rovers, on a drizzly evening at KCOM Craven Park.
Tries from Niall Evalds, Robert Lui, debutant Joey Lussick and Josh Wood ensured Ian Watson’s side got off to a flyer in the seven-game competition to earn two crucial points and a second-successive triumph.
Salford had a glorious chance to take the lead in the 6th minute of the half when Jackson Hastings was taken high. The Red Devils opted to kick at goal, but Ed Chamberlain’s penalty effort landed wide of the mark.
Both sides struggled to mount any real momentum in the early stages, first Junior Vaivai gifted Salford with an opportunity to score after failing to deal with Lui’s high kick, before Lee Mossop then squandered the chance from the resulting set after knocking on.
The visitors weren’t to be denied for long though, Adam Quinlan was penalised for pushing at the play-the-ball. Salford again chose to kick at goal but this time, Chamberlain comfortably slotted the ball over.
Salford frequently broke from deep throughout the half and this tactic finally paid dividends a minute later when Mark Flanagan collected a short ball from Lui, before piercing through the Rovers line and expertly releasing the onrushing Evalds to give the Reds a six-point lead.
Chamberlain was unsuccessful from the subsequent conversion and things almost worsened for Salford when James Donaldson went crashing over from dummy half. However, the forward dropped the ball at the crucial moment.
Soon after, Rovers’ efforts finally paid dividends as Junior Sa’u failed to contain Quinlan in the tackle and the full-back acted quickly to find Craig Hall in the corner with a cleverly weighted kick.
Salford responded brilliantly and were soon denied a score of their own when Jake Bibby dived over in the corner, only for the try to be chalked off following a forward pass from Chamberlain.
After the break, the Red Devils picked up where they left off when Ryan Lannon earned a penalty after being held down in the tackle. Hastings took over goal-kicking duties and comfortably added another two points to extend the margin to four points.
In what proved to be a tight affair throughout, a moment of brilliance was required for Salford to break away from the Robins and 15 minutes into the half, half-back Lui duly provided it.
After former Swinton man Chris Atkin threw a wayward pass, Lui pounced to intercept the loose ball before racing ninety metres to cross for a stunning solo effort under the posts.
Hastings added his second goal of the evening, but it was another new recruit who was to dominate the headlines this time out. Lussick – who was making his debut for the club after arriving a fortnight ago from Australia – claimed his maiden try in Salford colours after spotting a gap in the KR backline to dive over from dummy half.
Half-back Hastings then landed two more goals – the second a penalty after Evalds was pulled back off the ball – but the hosts responded with a consolation try when Shaun Lunt barged his way over from close-range.
Despite the slight resurgence from Rovers, Salford weren’t to be halted for long as Wood remarkably ducked under Nick Scruton and Ben Kavanagh, before flinging himself over the whitewash to round-off a dominant performance.
Hull KR Lineup: Quinlan; Oakes, Crooks, Vaivai, Hall; Carney, McGuire; Scruton, Lunt, Mulhern, Tickle, Tomkins, Clarkson.  
Interchanges: Greenwood, Kavanagh, Donaldson, Atkin.
Salford Lineup: Evalds; Bibby, Chamberlain, Sa’u, Olpherts; Lui, Hastings; Mossop, Wood, Murray, Jones, McCarthy, Lannon.
Interchanges: Lussick, Flanagan, Tasi, Nakubuwai.
Hull KR Scorers: Tries- Hall (32’), Lunt (73’) | Goals- Tickle (74’)
Salford Scorers: Tries- Evalds (20’), Lui (55’), Lussick 66’, Wood 78’ | Goals- Chamberlain (19’) Hastings (49’, 56’, 67’,70’, 79′)
Half-Time Score: 4-6
Man of the Match: Joey Lussick.
Referee: Robert Hicks.
Image Credit: Steve McCormick

The Qualifiers in Focus | Toulouse Olympique

In our final edition of ‘The Qualifiers in Focus’ we look at French outfit Toulouse Olympique and preview our concluding fixture in the seven-game competition. 
Toulouse Olympique are slightly different to most ‘franchises’, the simple fact being that they aren’t historically one. The club were formed in 1935 and are steeped in history within the French game. Toulouse were originally invited to play in the Championship (then National League One) by the RFL in 2009. Because this was during the infamous licensing period, there would be no direct route to Super League for Toulouse until 2012.
Olympique lasted just three seasons in the Championship and at the end of the 2011 season, they announced their intention to return to the Elite One Championship in France.
After securing their sixth French title in 2015, the Blagnac-based side announced it would be returning to the RFL system – in League 1 – a year later. Though the club lost the League 1 promotion final to Rochdale Hornets, they wouldn’t be denied promotion to the Championship when they triumphed over Barrow Raiders 32-22, before picking up the Championship Shield – with a 44-14 victory over Sheffield Eagles – a year later.
Season so far
This season, Toulouse have lost six games, they continue to improve year after year having finished 5th last season and only points difference has prevented them from finishing second in the table this time around.
No-one can deny that Toulouse play an exciting brand of Rugby, the Blues starred at this year’s Summer Bash to throttle London Broncos 40-28 and have been one of the trailblazers in revitalising the second-tier this term. However, could their expansive style prove to be their biggest downfall?
Both Toulouse and Toronto Wolfpack were invited to participate in this year’s Magic Weekend, in a bid to promote the game on a global scale and advertise the fine talents currently on display in the Championship.
Although the French outfit did commendably score 30 points, they left themselves a little short in defence as a result of their ‘all-out attack’ mindset and consequently conceded 43 points.
In recent weeks, Toulouse also suffered a disappointing 19-14 defeat at Halifax – no team above 6th placed Leigh Centurions have conceded more points than Toulouse in the Championship this season.
Having said that, they have scored an astounding 900 points of their own – a figure beaten only by London Broncos who have 907.
Sylvain Houles has led the Olympique to yet another stunning campaign and with talent such as Mark Kheirallah, Tony Maurel, Stanislas Robin and Mourad Kriouache amongst their ranks, who’s to say we won’t be seeing Super League Rugby at the Stade Ernest-Argeles come the start of next season?
36-year-old Houles is now in his sixth year at the helm and has led the club to two French Championships, a Lord Derby cup, promotion to the Betfred Championship and one Championship Shield win. With such a record, Houles has developed into one of the most successful coaches within the game. At 36, the former France international has his best years ahead of him and may well develop into one of the all-time greats, should he continue his fine run and knack of winning trophies.

A sheep-farmer by day, Houles is undoubtedly one of the most committed coaches around. As per the Guardian, Eddy Pettybourne revealed former France international Houles – who enjoyed five years in England with Huddersfield, London, Dewsbury and Wakefield – wakes up at 3am every morning to work on his farm, before commuting for over an hour to travel to Toulouse’s training base.
Pettybourne also cited Houles as one of the best coaches he’s ever worked under and like so many others, has tipped him to be coaching in Super League – or possibly even the NRL – in the very near future.

34-year-old Sébastien Planas is Toulouse’s long-serving skipper. The second-rower/centre is a club stalwart, having played the entirety of his 11-year professional career with the Olympique.

Planas has struggled with his injuries throughout this spell, but is still nearing 200 appearances for the club. He was also included in France’s 2008 world cup squad.

Despite being sidelined for large parts of the first-half of this season, the veteran hasn’t showed any signs of hanging up his boots just yet, after scoring during Toulouse’s 44-18 demolition of Dewsbury Rams last month.

One to watch
In the last edition of ‘The Qualifiers in Focus’ we looked Kieran Dixon’s influence within the London Broncos’ attacking plays, here we take a look at another highly-rated back-rower – Toulouse full-back Mark Kheirallah.
Despite being born in Darlinghurst, New South Wales, Australia, 28-year-old Kheirallah has played the vast majority of his seven-year career in Toulouse.
After playing a solitary game for NRL’s Sydney Roosters in 2011, the full-back moved to Toulouse ahead of the 2012 campaign and hasn’t looked back since.

He is capable of filling the void at both full-back or in the halves and is equally as devastating in either role. Kheirallah is a broad figure who is strong in defence, but also possesses breathtaking pace and power which has seen his develop into a deadly finisher.
The France international – after qualifying on residency – has a knack of stepping up in big games and was the star of the show at this year’s Summer Bash at Bloomfield Road in Blackpool.
If Salford are to triumph over the French, it is crucial that the Red Devils backline nullify the numerous threats Kheirallah alone poses.
When’s the game?
Salford host Toulouse in their final game of the Qualifiers at the AJ Bell Stadium, which is currently scheduled for Sunday 30th September with a kick-off time of 3pm but is subject to change.
Ticket details will be revealed in due course. 

The Qualifiers in Focus | London Broncos

As the Qualifiers continue to close in more by the day, in this edition of ‘The Qualifiers in Focus’ we take an in-depth look at London Broncos and summarise an encouraging 2018 for the capital-based side. 
Season so far
Following the club’s relegation from the Betfred Super League in 2014, some argued that the experimentation of a London-based Rugby League franchise had well and truly ran its course. However, fast forward four years and the London Broncos have re-established themselves as a club with both a bright future and unbounded potential.
Their prosperous stadium move from Barnet FC’s ‘The Hive’ to Ealing Trailfinders’ Trailfinders Sports Ground in 2016 has ran parallel to success on the pitch.
2017 saw the club finish as Runners up in the Betfred Championship to Hull Kingston Rovers, only to miss out on promotion to the top flight after a miserable showing in the Qualifiers. This season however, there is much more of a positive vibe surrounding the club.
Head Coach Danny Ward has led the club to a successive second-placed finish in the second-tier. The Broncos have endured a memorable campaign, only to be pipped by runaway league leaders Toronto Wolfpack. In a season ruled by twists and turns, London have stood themselves well against top opposition. Despite finishing level on points with both Toulouse Olympique and Halifax, Ward’s men can be proud of what they’ve achieved this term and will head into the Qualifiers full of confidence.
They also boast try-scoring talents such as Elliot Kear, Rhys Williams, Jarrod Sammut and Kieran Dixon amongst their ranks. If these sort of players reach their potential throughout this year’s Qualifiers, then London will take some stopping.
Whilst he never appeared for the club in its current form, Head Coach Danny Ward has a deep affiliation with the London Broncos. The now retired prop-forward played for the club in its former glory as Harlequins. Ward – who also represented Leeds Rhinos, Castleford Tigers, Hull KR and Great Britain during his career – made over 100 appearances during his three year spell at the Twickenham Stoop.

Upon retiring, Ward initially coached the Broncos’ U19s squad for both the 2014 and 2015 seasons, before being promoted to Assistant First-Team Coach in 2017. After previous Head Coach Andrew Henderson left London to commence a new career as Steve Price’s Assistant at Warrington Wolves last summer, Ward was appointed as his successor.
The 38-year-old has done a stellar job in his first season as a senior coach and has led the club to a second-placed finish in the Championship table. Alongside Halifax’s Richard Marshall, he is considered one of the most promising coaches outside of the top flight.
28-year-old Jay Pitts currently captains the side, former Bradford Bulls forward Pitts has racked up over 200 career appearances and is an integral part of the Broncos side. The loose-forward/second-rower has also featured for Wakefield Trinity, Leeds, Hull FC and Bradford and brings a wealth of experience to the fold.

Pitts – who joined the club on a two-year-deal following the Bulls’ liquidation in 2017 – has a handy offload in his locker and is heavily involved in his side’s attacking plays, though he is also more than capable in defence too. Salford’s defence will have to be on top form if Pitts is to endure a quiet afternoon when the two sides lock horns next month.
One to watch
In the last edition of ‘The Qualifiers in Focus’ we looked at a player with a deep connection to Salford Red Devils – Chester Butler. This time however, we analyse hometown hero Kieran Dixon’s influence on his side’s successes.
After bursting onto the scene in 2012, Dixon has forged a firm reputation as one of the game’s most highly-rated back-rowers outside of Super League. The 25-year-old has enjoyed two glorious spells with his hometown Broncos – the first of which earned him a move to Hull Kingston Rovers in 2015.

With sheer pace, a handy kicking game and a knack of scoring outstanding tries, Dixon is undoubtedly the most explosive player within the London camp. The winger notched a try and four conversions during the Broncos’ resounding 72-6 win at Barrow last time out and if he maintains this sort of form throughout the Qualifiers, Salford’s defence could potentially be in store for a long afternoon.
When’s the game?
Salford are currently scheduled the capital on Sunday, 23rd September. The game will currently take place at the Trailfinders Sports Ground – the home of Rugby Union outfit Ealing Trailfinders – with a kick-off time at 3pm. However, this is subject to change.
Ticket and travel details will be released in due course.

The Qualifiers in Focus | Halifax RLFC

Following the recent Qualifiers fixture release, Salford discovered that they will face Hull Kingston Rovers, Widnes Vikings, Halifax RLFC, Toronto Wolfpack, Leeds Rhinos, London Broncos and Toulouse Olympique. Here we take an in-depth look at the first Betfred Championship side Salford will face off with in the seven-game competition – Halifax RLFC. 
Season so far
The 2018 season has been somewhat of a fairy-tale for Halifax RLFC. ‘Fax fought off household names such as Leigh Centurions and Featherstone Rovers to claim fourth spot – and a place in the Qualifiers – in the Betfred Championship table.
Head Coach Richard Marshall has instilled a winning mentality within his troops, this is something that was on clear display during Halifax’s eye-catching 19-14 triumph over high-flying Toulouse Olympique just two weeks ago.
‘Fax – who were formerly known as Halifax Blue Sox – have enjoyed four glorious years under Marshall’s stewardship and will head into the Qualifiers with a firm sight on staking a Betfred Super League place.
It truly would be a fine achievement for the Yorkshire-side, the club operates on a far inferior budget to their rivals yet manages to consistently exceed expectations year upon year.
Despite falling to a 22-8 defeat, Halifax’s display at Warrington in last year’s Qualifiers was one of the most battling, courageous and spirited team performances in several years and this sort of effort has been echoed by ‘Fax throughout the current campaign.
Whilst ‘Fax did ultimately finish fourth, they technically finished joint-second after accumulating the same amount of points – 16 – as second-placed London Broncos and third-placed Toulouse respectively.
Although their budget is fairly limited, with the infrastructure in place – they are one of the rare clubs who fund a reserve grade – and their rapid progression, there is no reason Halifax could not forge a future for themselves as a household Super League side.
As mentioned above, the job Richard Marshall has done at the club has been nothing short of remarkable. The club’s budget is overshadowed by its counterparts and whilst they were given little chance of surviving in the division – let alone climbing out of it – but nevertheless, former Ireland forward Marshall has built something real at the MBi Shay and has restored a sense of identity and culture to one of the Northern Rugby Football Union’s founding clubs.

The 42-year-old has been widely touted as the brightest coach outside of the top flight and if he continues to enhance his already outstanding reputation, a big move will inevitably arrive sooner or later.
32-year-old Scott Murrell is the club’s captain. Stand-off Murrell arrived at the Shay in 2013 from Hull Kingston Rovers – where he had helped the Robins earn promotion to Super League in 2006. Also formerly with Leeds Rhinos and London Broncos, he has forged a respectable career for himself in the game and has earned plaudits throughout his time at Halifax. Murrell was nominated for the Kingstone Press Championship player of the year in 2015 and whilst he hasn’t quite reached the same heights since, he has enjoyed a successful season this time around and has racked up six tries and two drop goals in the process.

Murrell is currently enjoying a testimonial career with the club and recently signed a new contract to tie him down until the end of the 2019 season. He’s also began to make the transition to a future coaching career and now acts as an player/assistant coach to Marshall.
One to watch
In the last edition of ‘The Qualifiers in Focus’ we looked at Krisnan Inu and his integral role within Widnes Vikings’ attacking plays, this time we focus on a player with a deep connection to Salford Red Devils – Chester Butler.
23-year-old Butler is not only one of the brightest young talents in the game, he’s also the grandson of one Salford’s greatest ever players – legendary Welsh forward Colin Dixon.
Dixon joined the Red Devils in 1968 from Halifax for a then record £15,000 fee – which would approximately be around £430,000 in today’s market – and made 418 appearances during 12 memorable years at the Willows.
Following his transfer from amateur club Siddal, Chester Butler made his first-grade debut for Halifax in 2016 but didn’t really burst onto the scene until a year later, after scoring twice during the televised 22-8 defeat Qualifiers at Warrington in August 2017.
Capable of filling the void at either centre, on the wing or at second-row, Butler followed in his grandfather’s footsteps last year when he was called up to Wales’ World Cup squad.

This season, the youngster has 10 tries to his name from 19 Championship appearances and has been widely tipped to leave Halifax at the end of the season. With a game-intelligence far beyond his age and a fierce running game, Butler is certainly one to watch out for.
When’s the game?
Salford make the trip across the Pennines on Sunday, September 2nd, with the game kicking-off at 3pm. The respective sides usually contest for the Colin Dixon Memorial Trophy – Salford won the last clash 13-6 in 2017 – but this tie promises to be a lot more interesting with what lies at stake in the long-run.
Ticket details and coach travel will be released in due course.

The Qualifiers in Focus | Widnes Vikings

Following the recent Qualifiers fixture release, Salford discovered that they will face Hull Kingston Rovers, Widnes Vikings, Halifax RLFC, Toronto Wolfpack, Leeds Rhinos, London Broncos and Toulouse Olympique. Here we take an in-depth look at another one of the sides the Red Devils will lock horns with – Widnes Vikings. 
Season so far
2018 has been nothing short of miserable for everyone connected with Widnes. The Vikings have struggled throughout the campaign and have conjured up three victories from their 23 fixtures this season – consequently leaving them bottom of the Betfred Super League table.
The club parted company with long-serving coach Dennis Betts in May and replaced the former Great Britain International with another capped British representative in the form of Betts’ ex-assistant – Francis Cummins. Whilst Cummins’ arrival as interim coach initially spread a level of optimism around the Select Security Stadium, the club are still yet to record their first win since beating Salford 24-16 back in March.
Salford did earn their comeuppance from the return fixture in June though, two tries from Kris Welham alongside further scores from Jake Bibby, Robert Lui and then on-loan Widnes man Greg Burke helped the Red Devils return to winning ways in emphatic fashion and secure two valuable Betfred Super League points.
As well as the round 7 triumph over Ian Watson’s side, Widnes have also beaten both Leeds Rhinos and Catalans Dragons – though that’s about as good as things have got for the Cheshire-based side.
In recent weeks the Vikings have produced several spirited showings, the 24-26 home defeat to Hull KR in particular, was a positive note for Cummins’ side. Although the hosts did ultimately succumb to defeat, the loss did spark something of a revival. Widnes battled well throughout the contest and narrowly missed out on earning a point at the very least.
The club have also boosted their Super League survival hopes with the signings of Salford club captain Weller Hauraki, prop-forward Charlie Gubb, former Salford and Leigh forward Harrison Hansen and Wakefield Trinity half-back – and Ireland international – Liam Finn.
Hauraki joined the club on-loan as part of the deal that saw duo Burke and Ed Chamberlain move to the AJ Bell Stadium in June, but the second-rower has struggled for form in Halton and will be joining Hull KR on a permanent deal at the end of the season. Forwards Gubb and Hansen meanwhile, have arrived on deals until the end of 2018 and 2019 respectively.
Finn – who is currently on-loan from Wakefield – has racked up almost 400 career appearances and has been drafted in to instil a level of leadership, experience and quality into the squad to help aid the relegation fight.
Francis Cummins joined the club in 2016, initially as an assistant coach to Dennis Betts. The 41-year-old was then appointed as interim head-coach upon Betts’ sacking in May. Cummins spent the entirety of his 12 year playing career with Leeds, a spell that saw him become the youngest player – at 17 years and 200 days – to feature in a Challenge Cup Final, lift the Challenge Cup and gain representative honours for England, Ireland, Great Britain and Yorkshire.

Just a year after retirement in 2005, the full-back became assistant coach at the Rhinos before subsequently joining Bradford Bulls in a similar role in 2010. Two years later, Cummins was rewarded with his first head coach role at Odsal but was sacked in July 2014.
If he manages to lead the Vikings to Super League survival, it could be one of the greatest stories in the modern era.
Half-back Joe Mellor and forward Chris Houston are the club’s current co-captains – though Houston is set to retire at the end of the campaign. The pair were appointed captains following Kevin Brown’s departure to fierce rivals Warrington in 2016.

27-year-old Mellor arrived at the club – initially on-loan – from Wigan in 2011 and has since become a household name at the Select Security Stadium, whilst 33-year-old Houston has spent the last three years at Widnes having previously seen the entirety of his career in Australia. Mellor is a talented figure who boasts four tries and 11 try assists this season, whilst Houston was voted the club’s players’ player and supporters’ player of the year last season.
If the Vikings are to stave the drop, the pair are likely to have a major influence on the team’s success.
One to watch
In the last edition of ‘The Qualifiers in Focus’ we looked at Adam Quinlan’s impact and fine try-scoring form for Hull Kingston Rovers this season. Here we analyse another versatile back-rower – this time in the form of Krisnan Inu.
At 31, Inu has showed zero signs of slowing down. The centre – come full-back or winger – has racked up six tries and 21 goals for Widnes throughout the year, as well as assisting a solitary effort.
Despite struggling with injuries this term, former Catalans man Inu is an integral part of the Vikings spine and is handy at centre, full-back or winger. Inu is a creative player who has a knack of unpicking opposition lines, despite it not always seeming viable.
The back-rower scored versus Salford back in March and the Red Devils back-line will have to be at their best to prevent Inu from crossing over once more.

When’s the game?
Salford welcome Widnes to the AJ Bell Stadium – in what will be the Red Devils’ first home game in the Qualifiers – on Saturday, August 18th. The game is set to kick-off at 3:15pm and will be broadcast live on Sky Sports!
Ticket details will be released in due course. 

The Qualifiers in Focus | Hull Kingston Rovers

Following the recent Qualifiers fixture release, Salford discovered that they will face Hull Kingston Rovers, Widnes Vikings, Halifax RLFC, Toronto Wolfpack, Leeds Rhinos, London Broncos and Toulouse Olympique. Here we take a look towards the first team that stands in the way of the Red Devils’ extending their 10 year stint in the Betfred Super League – Hull Kingston Rovers. 
Season so far
The Robins have endured very much a season of two halves in many respects. Tim Sheens’ side conjured up just three wins from their opening ten games. Since then, they Yorkshire side have won a further five fixtures – and drawn once – across 13 games, averaging almost a win every other game.
In those five wins, Hull KR have triumphed over Salford, Wigan Warriors, Huddersfield Giants, Widnes Vikings and local rivals Hull FC. Last week’s victory at the KC in particular, will put the Robins in great stead heading into the Qualifiers.
Following their return to the top flight in 2017, Rovers lost a number of key players as Jamie Ellis and Jordan Abdull’s loan deals expired whilst Ben Cockayne and Mitch Clark joined York City Knights and Castleford Tigers respectively.
Former Salford Director of Rugby, Sheens, swooped to sign Danny McGuire from last year’s champions Leeds and the veteran half-back has been a standout performer throughout the year. The 35-year-old – who picked up the Harry Sutherland Trophy in last year’s Super League Grand Final – has racked up five tries and 11 try assists for KR this term. Three of his five efforts came against Salford last month. Other arrivals included the highly experienced Danny Tickle and former Red Devil Tommy Lee who have both performed well at KCOM Craven Park.
Ryan Shaw – who has been a KR player since arriving from the Bradford Bulls in 2016 – has enjoyed another impressive campaign. The versatile back-rower has notched 11 tries throughout the year and is currently the side’s top scorer.
In recent weeks, the club strengthened their connections with Salford further when Todd Carney – who left the AJ Bell Stadium in the close season – signed on a short-term deal until the end of the season to boost KR’s survival push.
Tim Sheens is one of the most infamous names associated with Rugby League. The 67-year-old Australian played as a prop-forward for the Penrith Panthers across a 12 year-spell, before enjoying an illustrious 34-year coaching career ever since – a spell that has seen him lead his country to a World Cup title and two Four Nation successes.

The man who currently occupies the KCOM Craven Park hot-seat is familiar with Salford fans, having spent 13 months at the AJ Bell Stadium from July 2015 to September 2016.
Sheens will be desperate to get one over on his old club as the Robins look to remain in Super League.
Experienced hooker Shaun Lunt is the club’s captain, the former England international has racked up over 300 career appearances and is a huge focal point of the side’s attack, as well as being a key figure of their defensive line.

Whilst the 31-year-old is undoubtedly influential, his season has been hampered with injury after suffering a knee injury in March, before facing a re-occurrence less than a month later.
Lunt made his long awaited comeback during the side’s stunning fightback at Castleford in June. Rovers trailed 24-12 but earned a point in the final ten minutes of the tie.
Whilst the former Huddersfield man’s season has been dominated by injury, he has managed to feature in five of the last six fixtures and will be hopeful of continuing this run into the Qualifiers to provide Rovers with a much needed boost.
One to watch
Adam Quinlan is one of the most underrated full-backs in the competition. The 25-year-old Australian is in the peak of his career and has shone for the Robins this season. Quinlan arrived at KCOM Craven Park from NRL outfit St. George Illawarra Dragons in 2017, but has also spent previous time in England following a brief spell with St Helens two years prior.
The full-back – who is also capable of featuring in the halves – has 10 tries and 12 try assists to his name this season and with his handy ball-handling ability and sheer pace, Quinlan is certainly one to watch out for during the Qualifiers.
After scoring during KR’s win over Salford last month, the Red Devils’ defensive line will be extremely weary of the Australian’s abilities and will do everything they can to ensure he has a quiet evening this time around.

When’s the game?
Salford make the long trip to Hull on Friday 10th August with an 8pm kick-off schedule for the clash at KCOM Craven Park. The sides will lock horns for the third time this season, the Red Devils won the first contest between the sides 36-12 back in February, but Rovers claimed their revenge with a 52-22 pummelling in July.
Ticket details and coach travel will be released in due course.