Category: Feature

“Those people in the stands are my people” – Ryan Brierley

Salford Red Devils’ latest signing Ryan Brierley knows just how special our club is to its fanbase, having grown up in the stands as a supporter.

Brierley, 29, signed for the Red Devils last Sunday from Leigh Centurions, finally achieving his boyhood dream of pulling on the red of Salford.

“When I was a young boy I had a dream that I wanted to play for Salford, so to finally crack that dream is surreal,” Brierley revealed.

Brierley, who can play in the halves or at fullback, is looking forward to playing in front of the fans he’s rubbed shoulders with in the terraces for years.

The Scotland international said: “Those people in the stands are my people, I’ve stood next to them for decades and gone through the tough times.

“I’ve always felt like one of them, so I understand what this club means for people.”

Our latest addition had some words of praise for the squad here at Salford, and Brierley is excited to get stuck in with his new teammates.

“The array of talent in this team is unbelievable. To play with calibre of players can only make you better.”

Speaking on the acquisition of Brierley, director of rugby and operations Ian Blease said: “I’ve tried to sign Ryan a couple of times previously, so I’m extremely pleased to capture him this time. Ryan has been in great form lately and will give us some great positional options for 2022 onwards.

After speaking to him for sometime now, I know how excited he and his family are for him to wear our famous shirt. I can’t wait to see him in preseason and to work with him for the next two years at the Red Devils.”

Burke – “It’s somewhere we can go and express ourselves”

Salford Red Devils forward Greg Burke believes tomorrow’s Dacia Magic Weekend opener against Castleford Tigers at St James’ Park, provides the perfect tonic to put on a display for the travelling fans.

Burke, who has shared the armband with Kevin Brown over recent weeks since Lee Mossop’s retirement, has revealed that the mood in the camp this week has been positive, as the Red Devils look to build on their Bank Holiday bruising over Hull FC, in Newcastle tomorrow afternoon.

Burke said: “It’s a showcase for the Super League and we have spoken about that this week, about how it’s somewhere we can go and express ourselves.

“All the games are on Sky and we want to put in a good performance first and foremost for ourselves, but also for the fans and the viewers watching.”

Recently surpassing 200 career appearances, Burke has been a Salford player for two years now, excluding his loan spell in 2018, helping the side reach the 2019 Betfred Super League Grand Final in his first season as a permanent Red Devil, and the Betfred Challenge Cup Final last year.

Salford’s number 16 is one of the more senior players in the camp and has stepped up since Moose’s retirement.

Speaking on captaining the club recently, Burke said: “It’s been a massive honour to be seen as a leader.

“To be asked to be captain, I was happy to accept that. I’ve been really happy to be honest.”

Burke revealed that the team have been fully focused on tomorrow’s opponents, who will be fielding an almost full strength side in Newcastle, compared to the last Tigers side that were on the receiving end of a 70-18 thrashing at the hands of Marshall’s men in July.

Speaking on Castleford, Burke added: “It’ll be a massively different challenge this week. It’s a Cas team that are at the best strength they can be.

“We know we have to be on this week to give ourselves a chance, and that’s what we’ve spoke about.”

RED DEVILS IN DEPTH: SALFORD v HULL FC

A magnificent second half performance put the seal on what was arguably Salford’s best all round performance of the season, which sent home the Salford fans brimming with sheer delight, and the Humbersiders with their tails firmly between their legs.

Hull got off to the best of starts, opening the scoring after only three minutes’ play, when Jake Connor scooted from dummy half to set up the supporting Ligi Sao with an easy run in, to the left of the posts.

Twice, over the following ten minutes, the visitors carved out openings for themselves in the Salford defence, but were, fortunately, forced into errors which prevented any further scores, and from that the Red Devils gained some little confidence which saw them start to put pressure on the Hull line.

A penalty for off-side gave them back-to-back sets, with Greg Burke being brought to a halt, but not to ground, close to the posts, and his quick play-the-ball enabled dummy half Chris Atkin, to continue the move to the right, with halfbacks Ata Hingano and Tui Lolohea getting the ball to the unmarked Ken Sio who went in, at the corner.

Krisnan Inu landed his first kick from the touchline, and went on to land each and every one of his seven attempts, many of them from out wide, all of which helped the Reds build up an unassailable lead, relatively quickly, once they got on top.

That was for later, though.  In the meantime, Hull were able to retake the lead with a penalty goal from Mark Sneyd, until five minutes from halftime, when the Red Devils scored the most remarkable of tries, from a volley of kicks.

First, Atkin put in a high, end-of-set kick to Joe Burgess’s corner, where, as he so frequently does, he climbed high in the air to knock the ball back to Sarginson, who, in turn put in a cross-field kick to the right.  This was taken by Ken Sio, who promptly responded with a low short kick of his own into the in-goal area, to where he followed through with the grounding, to put Salford in front 12-8, at the interval.

Fans’ satisfaction with that lead, during the break, was possibly tempered somewhat with concern as to how the visitors might respond in the second half, and respond they certainly did, after seven minutes, with their second try from former Salford half back, Mark Sneyd’s in-goal grubber kick, which ricocheted well from the upright, for Danny Houghton to restore the Yorkshire side’s advantage.

The arm wrestle, which this had interrupted, then continued for a further ten minutes, during which both sides vied to take the ascendency, which, when it eventually came, was well and truly taken by the Red Devils.

Belying the fact that they were squaring up to a big set of forwards, the Salford pack which contained not a single member of the club’s starting pack, at the start of the season, continued exactly where they had left off against the massive forwards of Catalans Dragons, four days earlier.

First, and most importantly, they significantly improved their defensive capabilities, by increasing to three, the number of players involved in many of the tackles, instead of relying on one-on-one attempts to bring down bigger and stronger opponents.  Indeed, Jack Ormondroyd had had his afternoon brought to a prematurely early finish, after he had been laid out in one of the opening clashes.

In addition, the hard graft of making yardage up field was shared out with the three-quarters, all of whom made their fair share of progress into the Hull ranks, and towards their line.  Ken Sio may quite well have been awarded Man of the Match, not only for his great fete in scoring four tries, but also, for his strong contribution, in this respect, throughout the game.

The rewards for this spate of sheer hard graft, were to come in the last quarter of the game, when their leg-weary opponents were really put to the torch.  Salford, still looking remarkably fresh, put together a display of first-class entertainment by means of top-drawer attacking skills, which completely ripped the Hull defence to shreds.

In the final twenty-two minutes, Marshall’s men scored no less than five converted tries producing a total of thirty points which they accrued at a rate of well over a point per minute.  Salford have invariably looked a well-drilled attacking side, but often spoiling things with simple errors.  There was none of that, on Monday, and as the game sped quickly by, it looked more and more as though they could score at will, and they more or less did exactly that.

The avalanche was started on 57 mins, by Atkin, with a scoot from dummy half, but the build up to that simple act had lasted exactly three and a quarter minutes of ball-in-play action, during which they started no less than eight sets, as a consequence of three set-restarts, two penalties, a Hull touch-in-flight, and a goal-line drop-out.  Little wonder, then, that that final scoot caught the opposition’s defence somewhat off-guard.

The remaining four scores were considerably more straight forward, with Burgess, once again, scaling the heights in Hull’s in-goal area, this time to palm the ball back to Harvey Livett for the first.  This was followed three minutes later by smooth hands sending the ball from right to left, with a final, telling, pass from Lolohea to the unmarked Burgess, who romped home to put the game well beyond the aspirations of the visitors.

Indeed, their subsequent kick-off failed to make the required ten metre mark, which meant Salford were in possession and on the attack again.  This time the ball was moved to the right and Lolahea’s pass on this occasion put Sio in for his hat-trick.

It had, however, been a couple of weeks since we had last seen that Salford hallmark of a length of the field try, down the right flank, so cue, Inu, once again, to be provider and Sio to round off an incredible afternoon for the Red Devils, and, on a personal note, for himself, also.

RED DEVILS IN DEPTH: SALFORD v CATALANS

It might seem an extremely large step up from playing twelfth placed Leigh in one match, to be facing current league leaders Catalans, four days later, yet, in truth, the Salford Red Devils fared far better against the Frenchmen than many might have expected.

Not that the scoreboard reflected that, with the visitors crossing for a total of seven tries, but the Reds were in contention for much of the game, going over for three of their own.

Even more disappointing was the fifty-fifty decision going against Morgan Escare, halfway through the second forty, when he hared over the line, only for an obstruction to be ruled.  An additional four, or even six, points would have benefitted the Red Devils greatly, at that particular time, with the Dragons being down to twelve men, with McIlorum in the sin-bin.  Furthermore, Salford were to have a second, but less debatable, try ruled out for offside, shortly before the end.

The size of the visiting pack was immense, and with Salford’s pack lacking the likes of Pauli Pauli, Seb Ikahihifo, James Greenwood and Elijah Taylor – not to mention the now retired, Lee Mossop – those who had to go head-to-head with Sam Kasiano, along with Julien Bousquet, Jordan Dezaria, and others, did extremely well to keep them in check to the extent that they did.

Understandably, when in possession, the Red Devils’ plan was to go round the outside of their opponents, and the return of Chris Atkin, in particular, helped considerably with this, as also did the move back to stand -off of Tui Lolohea.  The ball was moved with a pace, and a slickness, that had been nowhere near as in evidence the weekend before, thereby moving the Catalans defence around and wearing some of their energy from them.

For the second consecutive game Harvey Livett underlined his return to his early season form by getting on the scoresheet, when he showed considerable command and pace, running onto Lolohea’s clever pass, all of which took him through the French defensive line for the Red Devils’ first try, on thirty-four minutes.  If only they could have then kept their line intact to half time it might have been an even tougher test of the Dragons, with Salford back in clear contention.

As it was, Kasiano burst onto a short pass, like a thunderbolt, to score in the dying seconds of the half, and infuriatingly Catalans did the same in the last minute of the second period, which total of twelve points took the visitors well away from the Red Devils.

For much of the second period, however, Marshall’s men matched, and troubled, their opponents for lengthy periods.  Three minutes after the restart, a really good attacking move saw the ball go, swiftly and tellingly, through the hands of Ackers, Addy, and Atkin, to Dan Sarginson, who followed up his initial kick, later diverted infield by Williams, to touch down for Salford’s second try.

Ten minutes from the end, man-of-the-match, Escare, gained some compensation for his earlier lost attempt by winding up Salford’s tally with their final score.  A penalty kick put them in position, and then after a strong carry towards the line by Josh Johnson, half backs, Atkin and Lolohea, combined well to put the fullback through the gap they had opened up.

While it might have seemed something of a consolation score, the fact that for this try, and the earlier two, the Red Devils had produced some rewards for their hard work by thrice putting the league leaders between their own goalposts, with fine handling skills, should give them encouragement for the games still to come.

RED DEVILS IN DEPTH: LEIGH v SALFORD

The sheer importance of the Rivals Round was always going to be far greater to Leigh than to the Red Devils, for whom it was the first of four matches in a fortnight, with a mere four days between each, whereas for the winless Centurions, it represented the latest of only a handful of lingering games, from which they might be able to secure a victory.

Of course, when you are faced with the number of fixtures being crammed into the next fortnight, culminating with the Magic Weekend, you work on a one game at a time basis, and do all you can to start with a win, by being totally focused on the task in hand and clinical in your execution.

And that is just how the Red Devils started the game, running in the first try of the afternoon, in under two minutes, when Kevin Brown cleverly changed the direction of the attack back towards the left, which completely wrong footed the home side and presented the flawless, Rhys Williams, with a walk-in at the corner.

There is always a danger in scoring too early and too easily, because time and time again it seems to have a demotivating effect on the team which goes ahead without having even been tested, in any way.  That certainly is how it appeared with Salford, with their work ethic being forgotten in their eagerness to secure further easy pickings, which led to a number of unforced errors manifesting themselves.

Leigh, meanwhile, had been caught cold and sought to rectify it with ball in hand, once some possession came their way, and those Salford errors certainly helped.  Not only that, the errors gave them the encouragement to apply pressure on the Reds’ attack, and force even more.

From that point on, Leigh had lengthy periods of possession, which they put to good use, gaining in confidence as each repeat set came their way, and playing some extremely fluent rugby, while the visitors had to spend far too long and far too much energy defending their line, which they kept intact, until Joe Mellor’s quick thinking, on 18 mins, caught them out with a chip and chase to open the home account, to which they added another well-worked try from Keanan Brand.

To be fair, Salford players did what any team would do, when taken by surprise by another, which was to stick with them points-wise, until the game swung in their favour, and they got more plentiful possession, and the ascendency.  Consequently, they turned round at the interval only four points adrift, following a further converted touch-down from Harvey Livett.

Hopes that, for the second half, they might have redressed the problems, with which they had presented themselves, soared, when they went ahead through the first of Ken Sio’s brace, but Leigh had a strategy which they stuck to with the utmost rigour.  They had been in similar positions in the past, and had learned from those; this time no-one was going to be let off the hook.

In all Leigh slotted over five penalty goals, one in the first half, and the ten points accrued, proved, in the end, to be the difference between the sides.

Ryan Lannon was unfortunate not to ground the ball to the referee’s satisfaction. Former Salford players, Liam Hood and Adam Sidlow, went through to put the home side well ahead, although Salford had the final say with Sio’s second, after the hooter had sounded.

With the remaining games coming thick and fast, it is important that the players quickly consign this one to the bin, and take what they have learned from it into Thursday’s visit from Catalans.

RED DEVILS IN DEPTH: SALFORD v HUDDERSFIELD

There are few teams with whom Salford have been as evenly matched, season after season in the Super League era, as Huddersfield.  True there have been periods when first Salford, and then later, Huddersfield have had their periods of ascendency, but in the more recent of years there has been virtually nothing to choose between the two of them, with their invariably winning one match each, remarkably, in their away fixtures.

Bearing that in mind, and also the fact that the Red Devils had already come out on top at the John Smith’s Stadium back in June, and with their rivals having shown some rather more impressive form of late, we might have all been of the mind-set, going into the game, that the Giants could prove too strong, on the night. A resilient performance however from Marshall’s men, ensured Salford made it three Super League wins in a row against the Giants.

Not only that, but the manner in which they pulled this off was quite commendable, in a match which turned out to be an arm wrestle from start to finish.  So much of their victory was down to their uncompromising defence, as there were two periods, of ten to fifteen minutes, when they were penned in their own half, having to withstand, and repel, onslaught after onslaught of Huddersfield attacks.

The first came early in the proceedings, when a penalty to the visitors for a high tackle put them in a great field position, where they proceeded to enjoy five, almost continuous, back-to-back sets of six, which ended with them taking a two-point lead, courtesy of a penalty for offside, at a play-the-ball.

It was of interest to note the number of penalties, from which Huddersfield took a shot at goal, rather than running the ball, giving them a total of six points – the equivalent of a converted try.  They must have assessed, from recent matches, that there would be sufficient of these to lay the foundation to their winning the game.  In the event this did not prove to be the case, with, thankfully, the Red Devils being a little more frugal in this respect, than in the previous two matches.

The second period came with a lengthy endeavour from the Giants to get back on level terms, and then possibly steal the game with a drop goal.  Nail-biting as this spell was, it has to be said that the Salford players rose to the challenge superbly, and they never seemed to be hanging on by a thread; that is, until four minutes from the end.

During both these prolonged periods of pressure, Salford had had great reason to be thankful to left winger Joe Burgess, who had dealt with every tricky, end-of-set kick towards his edge with great aplomb, using his height to outleap any challenging Giant, and pluck the ball out of the air before any damage could be done.

Four minutes from time, however, that gratitude turned into indebtedness, when his opposite number headed with ball in hand for the corner.  Not to be outdone, however, five metres from the line, Burgess caught him from behind, and despite being dragged along the ground from the momentum which had been built up, succeeded in halting all progress completely with the ball coming loose before it could be grounded, in what must have been the tackle of the match.

With ball in hand, Salford once again showed the degree of control and understanding with one another in each passage of play, showing incredible patience in the first half when this brought field position and applied pressure, but without reward, points-wise.  That however did not last for ever;  just thirty-six minutes to be precise.  There have been other matches this season when length of the field tries down the right flank have, from the opposition’s mistakes, turned the game in their favour.

This time, it was not Ken Sio who was there to sprint the length of the field but Rhys Williams who did every bit as well.  Nor was it the first time that Krisnan Inu has been the one who intercepted the pass to set up his winger with this race downfield to score.  The beauty of interception tries is that for the opposition it is a ‘double whammy’ because, as on this occasion, they are often within touching distance of a try for themselves, whilst the dent to their confidence takes some little time to overcome.

Even worse, from their point of view, was to succumb to not just one, but a pair of tries, either side of the interval, the second of which came on 42 mins, when Tui Lolohea showed how well he is settling into the fullback role, by timing his insertion into the Red Devils’ attacking line so that he could cut through for a typical fullback’s try, to put Salford ahead for the first time.

That lead had to be recouped fifteen minutes later, after Huddersfield had knocked over two penalty goals to restore their two-point advantage, but what a well-worked try it was, with Andy Ackers drilling the ball into the in-goal area from dummy half, and Jack Ormondroyd showing an exceptional turn of pace for a prop, to ground the ball behind the posts, before it ran dead.

A further six points were available shortly after, when Danny Addy broke through before handing on to Lolohea. Unfortunately, Tui’s pass to Chris Atkin was, surprisingly, called as forward, so the chance was lost.  Had it resulted in a try it is distinctly possible that Salford would have gone on to score a couple of others, on the back of it.  As it was, they were required to return to the high level of defence they had shown earlier which, with Burgess’s final involvement, secured them the win.

It is only fitting that such a gruelling, hard fought, battle should be won in the name of the magnificent Lee Mossop, whose contribution to the development of the club in recent years cannot be overstated.  He has led the team out, at Old Trafford in the 2019 Grand Final, and then at Wembley in the 2020 Challenge Cup Final – two finals for which Salfordians had waited fifty years, to witness.

His contribution on the field has been there for all to see, but his influence off the field has been equally as great.  I, for one, am more than grateful to Lee for his consideration, kindness, and support, which I have received, throughout the time he has been with us, as indeed, I am sure, is everyone else who has had the pleasure and privilege of working with, or playing alongside, him.

We can only now thank him for all he has done for Salford Red Devils, wish him all the very best in the future, and be pleased that the players whom he has led all season, were able to give him, and the rest of us, this victory, in his honour.

RED DEVILS IN DEPTH: WIGAN v SALFORD

With a two-week gap since their last outing, Salford Red Devils will probably have been glad just to get back to their task of playing a game once again, with this their first return to the DW Stadium, since that magnificent victory over Wigan Warriors in the semi-final of the 2019 play-offs.

Certainly, that appeared to be the case, as they settled into their game in the first half, producing a well organised and challenging opposition to the home side, from the outset, and although the Warriors had a greater proportion of possession, and the better field position in the very early stages, the Red Devils soaked up the pressure, limiting their hosts to a solitary, unconverted try in the right corner, from winger Halsall, on twelve minutes.

From that point, the visitors took control, showing all the positive elements of their defence and attack which had been in evidence, at Leeds, a fortnight ago.  In particular, it was a joy to watch the Salford forwards making such good inroads into the opposition’s defensive line, often turning a difficult start to the set, close to their own line, and finishing it with a kick from within the Wigan half, which, with a good chase, completely turned the tables on the Warriors, leaving them to struggle to get away from their line.

From all the work and endeavour came the reward of points on the board, the first of which came with Joe Burgess’s crossing in the corner, in his first league game against his former club, after good handling through six pairs of hands.

One aspect of their attack which did seem to need some further attention, however, was their ability to score from close range.  On a number of occasions, the Reds got within five or ten metres of Wigan’s try line, only to lose possession early in the tackle count, and that failure to turn position into further points was to cost them dearly as the game proceeded.

Nevertheless, they were able to leave the field at halftime with a two-point lead, courtesy of Harvey Livett’s last minute penalty goal, which compensated for his missed conversion attempt earlier, and enthusiasm for a second victory on Wigan soil must have begun to grow among the Salford faithful.

Sadly, this time the Reds had merely flattered to deceive, as they failed to live up to the expectations they had placed upon themselves in the first half.  In retrospect, it may appear to be that Wigan simply upped their game, and that Salford were unable to compete with them, thereafter.

That, however, would be an over-simplification of events, particularly at the start of the half.  Yes, Wigan did become rather more mobile in defence, and increased their line-speed to try to apply greater pressure, but possibly more importantly, the Red Devils fell away from the good things which they had produced to such fine effect in the first forty.

Errors with ball in hand started to become more evident, providing the Warriors a much more unequal level of possession, and an almost constant foothold in the Salford half, all of which led them to drift away from the game plan, with players trying to fix things in their own way, thereby causing at least a little confusion among the rest of the team.

Most discouragingly, the discipline, which they had shown throughout the opening stanza, deserted them, and the penalty count started to rack up against them, not, thankfully, compounded by dissent this time, for they left Lee Mossop to carry out his role, as captain, of seeking clarification from the referee, on certain decisions.  Poor execution and judgement were the main causes, especially once Jackson Hastings was moved to half back bringing a new dimension to Wigan’s attack, and the Warriors were only too eager to keep their score increasing, by slotting over three kickable attempts.

Although no longer classed as a penalty, infringements at the ruck are still punished by set restarts, the extra tackles from which add quite significantly to the fatigue and pressure on teams, particularly when the restart comes on the final tackle of a set, as happened on three occasions in that second period.  With so much turning against them it has to be said that the Salford defence did exceedingly well to keep their line intact until twenty-seven minutes after the restart, when John Bateman successfully squeezed through.

Most, on Friday evening, will have felt an over-riding feeling of disappointment that having done so much to put themselves in such a good position, the team fell away somewhat in the second half.  That in itself is an extremely strong indicator of the considerable progress the club and the team have made in recent years.

A TRIBUTE TO DAVID FELL

It is with great sadness that we pay this tribute to our former utility back, David Fell, following a tragic accident, on Friday 23rd July, at the cruelly early age of fifty-five.

David was born on the 25th April 1966, and hailed from Wigan.  His early playing days were in rugby union with Orrell, through whose youth ranks he progressed before being signed by Salford, on a five-year contract, in October 1989, aged 23.

His first team debut came a few weeks later, on November 12th, when he turned out in the centre to face Leeds, at The Willows, where the visitors ran out winners with the final score of 18-38.

He became a regular in the side over the next couple of seasons, with his ability to play in most positions in the back line, but particularly as an inside back at centre or stand-off.  In the sixty-one games in which he started, eight were at fullback, 24 were in the centre, 19 were as stand-off half, and 10 saw him at scrum-half.  He also came off the bench, as substitute, for a further 12 games.

One of his great assets as a player, was his ability to anticipate opportunities for scoring tries, which he exploited by following his forwards around the field, accruing a total of 29 of them, and a points haul of 116.  The 1990/91 season was undoubtedly his best in which he played 38 games and helped the team become Second Division Champions.

The highlight of his time at Salford came in that same season in the final of the Lancashire Cup, against Widnes, at Central Park, Wigan.  Having dominated the game throughout, as a result of David’s and scrum-half, Steve Kerry’s half-back partnership, Salford’s hearts were broken in the last two minutes by a converted Widnes try, which won them the trophy.  David, nevertheless, was most deservedly awarded Man of the Match for his highly impressive performance.

A change of coach at the start of the 1993 season saw a change in his fortunes with the club, and he transferred to Rochdale Hornets, mid-way through the season, in January 1994, before moving on, two years later to join Chorley Borough, in December 1995 for the truncated season ahead of the change to summer rugby.

Salford director of rugby & operations, Ian Blease, had the pleasure and privilege of playing alongside David at Salford, and he had this to say: “David was a great guy, and a really talented rugby player.  He was one of a group of highly talented rugby union converts from Orrell, including Peter Williams and John Gilfillan, who all signed at pretty much the same time as each other and did much to boost the team here at Salford.

“David was the sort of person who fitted in so well with the group of players here, and we all became an especially close-knit team, so much so that we have kept in touch with one another over the years, and more recently have had our own WhatsApp group, of which David was an instrumental part.

“The news, this weekend, has had that WhatsApp group operating flat out, so great was the respect that we had for him as a person and a player.  All of us are absolutely devastated about the news and what has happened to our friend and former teammate.  Steve Gibson, in Australia, for example, was up throughout the night, expressing his grief.

“Our grief, we realise however, is nothing like that which his family must be going through, and we want them to know that they are in the thoughts of everyone here at Salford, and our sympathy and condolences go out to them, especially.”

RED DEVILS IN DEPTH: LEEDS v SALFORD

After successive victories in their last two encounters, Salford fans might have been forgiven for being a little more optimistic about their team’s chances in this latest outing than had proved to be the case in the 38-12 defeat at the A J Bell, back in June.  The Emerald Headingley Stadium, however, is seldom a happy hunting ground for the Reds and so it proved to be once more, with an almost identical score of 38-16 on the night.

Unflattering as the scoreline was, it nevertheless hid a number of twists and turns, thrills and spills, and minor wins and losses, which had to been seen to be fully appreciated.  Most significant of all were the sundry improvements our players had made in almost all but one aspect of their performance.

Even that scoreline could have been much closer as twice Salford players crossed for what many fans thought to be tries, only for both to be ruled out by the officials.  An additional twelve points, however, would have been more than welcome, and would have given a more balanced impression of the game because there was just so much with which to be impressed in their performance.

An early twelve-point deficit from back-to-back Leeds tries failed to knock the visitors off their stride, and despite their hosts having a majority of possession throughout the first half, the Red Devils galvanised and for a full thirty minutes repelled every onslaught on their line, many of which included resets of the tackle count.  Indeed, the Rhinos then had to wait until midway through the second half, when Salford were down to eleven men, for their next pair of tries, which came within three minutes of each other.

With ball in hand, the Red Devils looked a very well drilled, organised, unit.  The power of the forwards in particular, was most eye-opening. We have grown used to, over many seasons, Salford teams being penned on their own line unable to make hardly any progress up field to relieve the situation, but that was far from the case on Friday evening.

The forward drives, wherever they were employed, made notable in-roads into the Leeds defence.  One such, from Ryan Lannon, saw him make an extra ten metres, with Leeds players clinging to him in an effort to halt his progress.  The backs also made their contribution to this, with Ken Sio, who is always one of the most penetrative of players living up to his reputation.

Sets of six, in general were efficiently completed with kicks, many into the corners, almost all of which were well chased, with the Leeds recipient being immediately put to ground irrespective as to whether there were a number of, or only one, Salford player in attendance to deal with the situation.

Indeed, it was from Tui Lolohea’s pin-point accurate kick, that Krisnan Inu was able to display his undoubted skill in leaping above all others to collect the ball and hold onto it as he dropped to the ground, where his last-gasp grounding saw the try ruled out by the in-goal judge.

Ball handling skills had clearly been honed since the previous week, and it was moved wide with much more precision and to much greater effect than recently.  Impressive angles were run, not necessarily with the expectation of players getting through, but to wear down the Leeds defence, and make later attacks more likely to be successful, and, in fact, that is what happened, with the Red Devils finishing the stronger of the two teams.  Their reward came with three well-worked second half tries, the second of which, scored by Lolohea, was undoubtedly the try of the match.

All of which begs the question, not so much as “Why did we not win?” so much as “Why were we not even in contention at the end?” The answer is very clearly that their ill-discipline lost them that chance.  In a thirteen aside game, you have very little likelihood of holding your line intact for something approaching ten minutes, with only eleven players on the field. It may well be that they became frustrated at the number of fifty-fifty decisions, which went against them, but working with the referee is undoubtedly going to prove more beneficial than any conflict, in the long run.

In the end a total of twenty-six of Leeds’ points, comprising of two back-to-back pairs of converted tries together with a first half penalty goal, could be attributed, in some way, to the Red Devils’ indiscipline, thus giving them a mountain to climb when they did get on top in the last fifteen minutes.

It is  something which they need to address as a matter of urgency, as a team and also as individuals.  They had done too well in so many other respects, for their chances of winning to be dashed in this way.

RED DEVILS IN DEPTH: CASTLEFORD V SALFORD

It might well be an old adage to say that you can only beat whatever is put in front of you, but it could never have been more true than of Salford, last Sunday, in their Round 14 encounter with a much depleted Castleford side, comprised, in part, of players from the Tigers’ Youth system, but with a number of first teamers in the pack to give them some stiffening.

In that prior knowledge, it would be easy for anyone to look at the scoreline and to dismiss the result as a mismatch.  That view, however, pays scant respect to the difficulties Salford themselves had had to face, and overcome, in order to be in a position to turn out at all, after covid, and its associated isolating, had sought to inflict its ravages on the team.

The Red Devils had only seven players in training up until 48 hours before their trip to West Yorkshire, with 11 players in isolation and seven positive COVID-19 cases. For the first time this season, Marshall was unable to name a 21-man squad for a fixture and had to draft in two Saints players last minute to field a team.

Running up seventy points in any match, as was accrued by the Red Devils, however, really does take some doing, requiring, as it does, intense concentration and focus, considerable reserves of energy, together with high levels of desire and commitment, all of which the visitors to the Mend-A-Hose Jungle showed in abundance.

Once they had got into their stride, the Salford team looked most impressive as they dominated possession and field position.  The well-structured approach work, with ball in hand, alongside strict adherence to their game plan, which has been evident rather more spasmodically in other recent games, served them well as they launched attack after attack on the Tigers’ line.

The basis for them all was the hard work undertaken by the forwards.  Skipper for the day, Greg Burke, played a captain’s role, leading by example with his incisive running, as too did Oliver Roberts, upon his introduction, while Ryan Lannon, had one of his best games in a Salford shirt.

If there were any criticism to be found in their performance, it was in their conceding of eighteen points.  The coaching staff might well be disappointed by all three of Castleford’s tries, but, for we fans, it was probably just one more than we really would have liked.  Twelve points seems something of a triviality in such a high scoring game, but, when it becomes eighteen, it becomes rather more significant.

Furthermore, whilst those first two came at the start of each half, when the Castleford players were fresh, eager, and energetic, the final one came ten minutes from the end, when a lapse in Salford’s goal-line defence allowed a second try in their right-hand corner, both of which were converted from out wide.

For the bulk of the game, though, it was all Salford, as they ran in a total of twelve tries.  The last fifteen minutes of the first half saw them run in three, which put them in a quite commanding lead at half time.

The last thirty minutes of the game saw the Reds cross no less than seven times, spaced out with only a few minutes between each.  It was particularly good to see winger, Rhys Williams, who has been one of our stand-out players all season, rewarded with a brace, the second of which was reminiscent of both his length-of-the-field effort at Wembley, and also his immediate solo score, straight from a restart, against Toronto Wolfpack in 2020.

Probably the one which should give us real hope for better things to come, was the absolutely crucial half back pairing of Dec Patten and Chris Atkin, which had done so much to put Huddersfield to the sword, combining, through slick inter-passing between the two of them, to put Atkin over between the posts.

After all the team has been through over the past couple of weeks, this win was the tonic that they really deserved, not to mention the extra percentage benefit it brings.  They now have the opportunity to build on this over the coming weeks and produce further victories to bolster their improving league position.