Category: Rugby

KRIS WELHAM JOINS FEATHERSTONE FOR 2021

Salford Red Devils centre Kris Welham will join Betfred Championship club Featherstone Rovers for the 2021 season.

The 33-year-old joined the Red Devils ahead of the 2017 campaign and will now transition to part-time, in order to prepare for his career outside of the sport.

Head coach Ian Watson said: “Kris has been one of the best signings that I’ve made in my time at Salford and I feel privileged to have had the past few seasons with him in our team.

“Always so consistent in training and games, Kris has been an exceptional leader on the field, through how hard he works off the ball for his teammates and he will be a big loss for us, but a massive gain for Featherstone, who have got a champion of a player.

“I wish Kris and his family all the best for the future.”

Welham has been an important part of the Red Devils teams which reached the Betfred Super League Grand Final and Coral Challenge Cup Final.

Director of rugby & operations Ian Blease said: “Kris has been an exceptional player and professional for our club. He epitomises what we are about, with his honesty, integrity and dedication to the cause.

“When Kris told me he was moving on and explained the reasons why, I totally understood, but I have probably never felt worse when a player has told me he is moving on, than when I spoke with Kris.

“For me, he is up there in our best signings of the recent era. He has been my player of the season on many occasions and has always been there for his teammates, with the best fend I’ve ever seen!

“I personally thank Kris for being an outstanding human being, and wish him and his family well with my best wishes going with him in his new venture and life.”

MATCH REPORT | WIGAN WARRIORS 58-12 SALFORD RED DEVILS | FRIDAY 23RD OCTOBER

Salford Red Devils’ return to Betfred Super League action ended in defeat at the hands of Wigan Warriors.
Tries from Kallum Watkins and Tui Lolohea were not enough to see the Red Devils mount a significant challenge, six days on from their single-point cup final disappointment.
The Warriors started strongly and established an 24-0 lead inside the first 30 minutes. Sam Powell claimed an early brace of tries and Liam Farrell supported a Joe Burgess break to score down the centre, before Bevan French went over for his first of the night.
Salford had also been hit with Olly Ashall-Bott and Mark Flanagan both required to go off for a head injury assessments. Neither returned and the Red Devils were therefore forced to reshuffle.
Once reorganised, they did create an opening, which saw Kallum Watkins go over for his first Super League try in a Red Devils shirt. Wigan soon restored their cushion however, with French scoring his second.


Halftime: Wigan Warriors 30-6 Salford Red Devils
Salford struck first in the second-half. Tui Lolohea took an opportunity from his adopted position of fullback and supported a break from Chris Atkin to score in the right channel.

Wigan then kicked up a gear once again, as Jackson Hastings swung the momentum back in their direction, before Oliver Gildart and Farrell both claimed their braces.

French then completed his hat-trick, to mark an impressive performance.

The Red Devils now face a quick turnaround ahead of their match against St Helens on Monday. Supporters can hear the thoughts of head coach Ian Watson HERE on RDTV.

Fulltime: Wigan Warriors 58-12 Salford Red Devils
Wigan Warriors: French, Bibby, Hardaker, Gildart, Burgess, Leuluai, Hastings, Bullock, Powell, Singleton, Isa, Farrell, Partington, Flower, Greenwood, Clubb, Smithies
Salford Red Devils: Ashall-Bott, Williams, Watkins, Kear, Inu, Lolohea, Atkin, Mossop, Lussick, Yates, Roberts, Greenwood, McCarthy, Ackers, Flanagan, Burke, Pauli
Wigan tries: Powell 2, Farrell 2, French 3, Hastings, Gildart 2
Wigan goals: Hardaker (9/10)
Salford tries: Watkins, Lolohea
Salford goals: Inu (2/2)
Referee: C. Kendall
Image Credit: Steve McCormick

A GAME WORTHY OF ANY FINAL

Salford’s first visit to Wembley in a Challenge Cup Final for over half a century provided the sort of encounter that neutral spectators must have savoured. A match full of thrills and spills, twists and turns, and highs and lows for both sides.
With Leeds undoubted favourites it was always going to be down to the grit, determination, and never say die spirit which fills the Salford camp in droves these days, to overturn the team which had twice put them to the sword in league encounters this season.
It was not only the Red Devils however who had suffered at the hands of the Rhinos recently.  Mighty Wigan, in a semi-final which on paper was too close to call, were humbled in a semi-final they would like to forget, by the team which, on the day, stood out above all four combatants.
To come so close on Saturday, must fill every Salford fan with pride in their performance, despite the deep disappointment of defeat. So, what were the various aspects which combined, in varying degrees of satisfaction, to take us so close, but not quite close enough, to lifting the Cup:
COMPOSURE
They say you have to lose one to win one, which is another way of saying that gaining the familiarity and having prior knowledge of the unusual procedures and processes, peculiar to the day and the venue, is most beneficial in settling nerves and anxieties. Leeds over the years have been a part of these occasions in abundance, and that familiarity must certainly have helped them, particularly in the early stages of the game.
As most people probably expected therefore, the Rhinos dominated the majority of the first half and went someway to holding the Red Devils in their own end of the field in the sort of stranglehold that had been so effective for them in the semi-final. When chances then came their way, they took them with the utmost clinical efficiency.
EXECUTION
Because of Leeds’s dominance in the first half, Salford had a limited number of forays into the opposition’s twenty metre area, but on three occasions were unable to convert their opportunities into points, with timing issues around a crucial pass to Evalds, his chip and chase lacking height and being defused by Myler, and just before half time Lussick having the ball dislodged in a loose carry close to the line.


In between all these, however, the Red Devils had hit back with what has been regarded as the try of the match with Watkins’s securing possession close to his own line from a threatening Leeds kick, and he and Evalds combining, to perfection, to put the winger away on a ninety metre race to the line, in which nobody in a Leeds jersey ever looked like catching him.


Probably our most clinically secured try was that by Pauli Pauli, early in the second half, following precision timing and accuracy of passing from left to right, along the line, for him to charge past the isolated Gale and bring Salford back to within two points.
Shortly afterwards, the Red Devils were as equally clinical as Leeds had been in the first half, in punishing one of the Rhinos’ increasing number of forced errors with James Greenwood’s try which had involved a great kick-chase which saw Yates and Lussick handling beautifully in the build up.


DISCIPLINE
The penalty count in any game is always of interest, but it is not only the number of penalties given each way that is important. The position on the field, the point in the tackle count, and the context of the game at that moment are also of significance.
For Salford, struggling for field position, three penalties in the first half, were followed by Leeds crossing the line on all three occasions with two being awarded as tries, while the third was ruled a double movement.
The two penalties Leeds conceded that half, were nowhere near as crucial, merely bringing Salford some respite from the intense pressure which the Rhinos had been applying at the time, but it was those twelve points which emanated from Salford’s early indiscretions which were the difference between the two sides at the interval.
KICKING GAME
An aspect of the game which coaches now study with considerable concern, is the manner in which their team ends each set. Important as completing the set is, it is what happens on the last tackle which determines much of what is to follow in the next set.
Three kicks really stood out as being exceptionally good, the first of which came from an early long, down field kick by Brown, which bounced into touch inches from the corner flag and bought Salford some much needed territory alongside Leeds’s having to start their set in the corner, on their own ten metre line. Influence such as this was quite incredible, from a player whom it has since been revealed was playing through injury.
In the second-half, Lussick put in a beautifully weighted kick through into the Rhino’s in-goal area, forcing one of the few goal-line drop-outs of the game, thanks to the excellent chase his teammates put in.
That same selfless devotion to pressure Leeds with their chase brought just rewards when Lolohea’s towering, medium-range effort threw Myler into confusion and his belated attempt to defend it was too late to prevent it from leading to Greenwood’s try.


DEFENCE
Head coach, Ian Watson, has long since expounded the importance of defence, and his success in instilling defensive structures and routines into the players brought fruit on Saturday. It was the superb efforts of Yates, Evalds, Lussick, and Burke which ensured Donaldson being denied by the referee for the double movement.
In the second-half, the seemingly tireless efforts of the whole team managed to keep the Rhinos pointless for a full twenty-five minutes, during which time Salford managed to turn a six-point deficit into a four-point lead.
Leeds’ defence, particularly in the first half, was most impressive, containing the Red Devils and restricting their yardage to the barest of minimums. For this, after all was the defence that had kept Wigan pointless for seventy-five minutes two weeks before.
ENERGY LEVELS
A four times Wembley finalist once told me that by just being at Wembley, energy levels just evaporate, because it is not simply the physical energy being used up, it is also the emotional energy that the occasion seems to simply drain from anyone, in relatively little time.
There is nothing more energy sapping than having to defend for any length of time, but you need also to add to that the energy being expended at the individual level in Salford’s efforts to try to take play further up the field.
It is hardly surprising therefore that by the last five minutes of the first half, after all the pressure they had had to sustain to that point, that they each really looked as if they had given everything, and they probably welcomed the half-time break most warmly.
Leeds, on the other hand, were in a position whereby they were able deploy their reserves more economically. The energy used in their defence in that opening quarter was well used, because it took so much out of the Red Devils too. Their line-speed at various times throughout the game was phenomenal and made it exceptionally difficult to play against.
Even then, it is likely that they too had a twenty minute spell after half-time when Salford put them on the back foot and were able to make them pay with those two well worked and well taken tries.
IN CONTEXT
It is hardly likely that anyone will  have been surprised at our falling behind to the first score of the game. After all that is what has happened in every previous round of the competition, yet on both occasions, the Red Devils finished far more strongly than their opponents.
In the game against Catalans Dragons, we were twelve-points behind in almost as many minutes, never led at all throughout the whole eighty minutes, yet a move to the left wing in extra-time, set up Dan Sarginson to go in behind the posts.


How we could have done with his being on the field to do likewise, on Saturday.  Something similar was tried though with Inu rejecting an attempt at drop goal in favour of a four pointer which, if successful, would have brought back the spoils.
Three games in ten days must have had a significant effect on the minimalist Salford squad, with some of the players having been embroiled in the league game four days earlier.
It is always the closest of defeats that are the hardest to take, as I am sure that both Catalans and Warrington will readily testify, but the achievement of qualifying to grace Wembley is unqualifiable.
To have contributed so much to the occasion on the field was truly magnificent on the part of each and every Salford player, and I am sure that everyone connected with the club will come to look back on the proceedings with the utmost pride and pleasure.

ROUND 20 FIXTURES REVEALED

Salford Red Devils will face Wakefield Trinity at Emerald Headingley Stadium on Friday 6 November.
Betfred Super League can announce the full fixture schedule for Round 20. Four matches will be held at Emerald Headingley Stadium – double headers on Thursday 5 November and Friday 6 November, with the Red Devils kicking-off at 5:30pm.
The fifth match in Round 20 will see St Helens travel to Perpignan to face Catalans Dragons.
Four of the matches will be shown live on Sky Sports, including Salford’s match against Wakefield, with Catalans Dragons versus St Helens on 5 November available to their club’s season ticket holders via the Our League app.
 
Round 20
Thursday 5 November (Emerald Headingley Stadium) 
Hull KR v Warrington Wolves – 5.30pm (Sky Sports)
Wigan Warriors v Huddersfield Giants – 7.45pm (Sky Sports)
 
Thursday 5 November (Stade Gilbert Brutus)
Catalans Dragons v St Helens – 6.15pm (UK) (Our League)
 
Friday 6 November (Emerald Headingley Stadium) 
Wakefield Trinity v Salford Red Devils – 5.30pm (Sky Sports)
Castleford Tigers v Leeds Rhinos – 7.45pm (Sky Sports)

James Greenwood “A really good culture”

Salford Red Devils’ James Greenwood believes the Club’s culture had changed massively when he returned to the AJ Bell Stadium permanently this year, compared to his time as a loanee in 2015. 
The 29-year-old arrived at Salford five years ago on loan from Wigan Warriors, and after signing permanently from Hull Kingston Rovers this year, noticed a big difference in the Club’s setup.
“I probably couldn’t even describe how different it is,” Greenwood said.
“I think it’s the culture, the staff and Ian Watson – just what they’re trying to build now.
“They’re getting players to perform together – wanting to perform together, and the proof is in the pudding. They’ve got a really good culture going, I think that’s huge.”
Greenwood played a pivotal role in Salford’s Coral Challenge Cup run, scoring in the Quarters, Semis and the Final, which can all be watched on RDTV.
Speaking on his Wembley try, Greenwood said: “At the time I thought we’d just about managed to start breaking Leeds down. In our heads we were like ‘we’ve got these now.’
“I’ll definitely look back on it as part of my career, three consecutive cup games and three tries.”


Salford have no time to dwell on the disappointment of last weekend, with Wigan next on Friday night in the Betfred Super League.
“We’ll be back in training, focusing on that game. Wigan was the last game before lockdown at home, and we did a job on them then,” Greenwood added.
“I don’t see why we can’t do a job on them again, I think they’re there for the taking.”
All matches from Salford Red Devils’ 2020 Coral Challenge Cup campaign are available to watch on RDTV.

Rhys Williams “That’s the way it should be”

Salford Red Devils winger Rhys Williams expected nothing less than for the Club to make it back-to-back major final appearances this season, and now points out the next hurdle is bringing home the silverware next time. 
Saturday saw Salford play in their first Coral Challenge Cup Final since 1969, as they were edged out 17-16 in the Wembley clash.
Williams has made it clear that although reaching two major finals in 12 months is a substantial achievement, winning is the ultimate goal in the Salford camp.
“It’s great that we’re in that position now, where we’re fighting for titles and that’s the way it should be,” said Williams.
“That’s certainly where we want to be. We want to be challenging every game.
“Two finals in two years, but that’s not enough – we want to win finals.”
Despite the result on the day, Williams will take with him a memorable 90 metre try on Wembley soil – arguably to be regarded as one of the best final tries in the history of the Coral Challenge Cup.
“My job was just to put my foot down and get over the line and get us back into that arm wrestle,” Williams added.
“I was more worried to try and get under the posts to make the kick a bit easier for Krissy (Krisnan Inu).
“It’s obviously nice to get over at Wembley as well in a final, it was a good feeling.”


With the recent announcement of the partnership between Salford Red Devils and Wales Rugby League, the country’s all-time record scorer Williams is an example of the talent Wales can bring to the Betfred Super League, and there is hope that the new link up can provide a fresh wave of talented young Dragons to the AJ Bell Stadium.
Speaking on linking up with the national team, Williams said: “I think the more we’ve got Super League standard players in our team playing well, it’s only going to benefit the team.

“There’s been a good core group of us now at Wales where we’re playing at a high standard, which is great for Wales.”
Salford Red Devils supporters can see the rewacth Saturday’s Coral Challenge Cup Final in full HERE on RDTV.

Ian Watson “A sign of how far we’ve come”

Salford Red Devils head coach Ian Watson identified his side being devastated at a Coral Challenge Cup Final defeat, as a sign of their development.
The Red Devils lost out by the narrowest of margins on their first Wembley appearance since 1969.
Watson said: “It shows the club and the team are moving in the right place from where we have been and they’re competing in these big games now.
“With everything that’s happened, to come here and end up being in a 17-16 result and players and staff being absolutely devastated that we’ve not been able to win, shows a sign of how far we’ve come as a group and as a team over the last few years.”


Despite taking the lead in the second forty, Luke Gale’s drop-goal five minutes from time shattered Salford’s hopes of bringing the silverware home.
“It’ll sting. It’s already stinging,” Watson added.
“We’ve got some players who are right at the back end of their career now, and you don’t know if you’re going to be here or whether you could get here again.
“We’ve just got to move forward now, focus on the rest of the season and finish the season well.”
The Salford boss believes a little bit more composure and experience would have won his side the game.
Watson added: “I thought we opened them up a hell of a lot in attack. We just weren’t composed enough with the final pass.
“We were trying to find kicks to score tries off, rather than just being a little bit patient and turning them over on their try line.
“We just weren’t smart enough at them times to capitalise and put Leeds on the end of some aggressive defence.”
Red Devils supporter can hear more from Watson HERE on RDTV.
Image credit: Steve McCormick

MATCH REPORT | CHALLENGE CUP FINAL

A late drop-goal denied Salford Red Devils, on their first trip to Wembley since 1969.

Tries from Rhys Williams, Pauli Pauli and James Greenwood had put Salford level with less than five minutes remaining, until Luke Gale claimed the winner in the Coral Challenge Cup Final.

Luke Briscoe opened the scoring for Leeds, with the video referee ruling he had remained in the field of play to go over in the corner.

Salford responded when Kallum Watkins claimed a kick against his former club and produced an offload which allowed Niall Evalds to release Williams. The Welshman then raced 90 metres to claim Salford’s first try at Wembley of the post-war era.

Handley then gave Leeds a 12-6 lead at half-time, when he went in at the left corner and Rhyse Martin added the conversion.

Halftime: Leeds Rhinos 12-6 Salford Red Devils

Salford started the second-half strongly, taking the lead for the first time in the match. They capitalised on a dominant spell, with two tries within the space of five minutes.

First Pauli appeared unstoppable, as he powered over. Then a high kick from Kevin Brown caused chaos for the Rhinos defence and the ball was worked left for Greenwood to go over by the posts.

Leeds hit-back with a second try for Handley, before Gale claimed victory with a drop-goal.

Supporters can hear the post-match thoughts of Ian Watson HERE on RDTV.

Fulltime: Leeds Rhinos 17-16 Salford Red Devils
Leeds Rhinos: Myler, Briscoe, Hurrell, L Sutcliffe, Handley; Lui, Gale, Seumanufagai, Leeming, Oledzki, Mellor, Martin, Prior,Dwyer, A Sutcliffe, Donaldson, Cuthbertson.
Salford Red Devils: Evalds, Williams, Watkins, Welham, Inu, Lolohea, Brown; Mossop, Lussick, Dudson, McCarthy, Greenwood, Flanagan, Ikahahifo, Pauli, Yates, Burke.
Leeds tries: Handley (2), Briscoe
Leeds goals: Gale (2/3) Leeds drop-goals: Gale (1/1)
Salford tries: Williams, Pauli, Greenwood
Salford goals: Inu (2/3)
Referee: Liam Moore
Image Credit: Steve McCormick

A LONG AWAITED WHISKEY

It was way back in 1987, when former Salford Chairman, John Wilkinson, was given a bottle of rather special whiskey by one of the club’s longest standing sponsors, Austin Wilkinson (no relation) of Austin Wilkinson Transport.  He asked the Chairman to keep it until the club next reached the Challenge Cup Final, at Wembley, and then the two of them could open it and together toast the achievement that the whole of the city yearned for.

Sadly, Austin Wilkinson, died in 1990, but John has kept the bottle securely sealed in a cupboard, and upon the very long-awaited return to the stage they last graced in 1969, on Thursday afternoon he was joined by Austin’s eldest son, James, to fulfil the agreement John and Austin had made, over thirty years ago.

Shortly after the convivial meeting between the two had drawn to an end, John’s memory went back to the occasion the bottle first came into his possession, and he described his feelings on the marvellous turn of events which has come to such a wonderful culmination, and so triggered their get together.

“Austin was a man of great character, and what he said usually came to pass,” said John Wilkinson.
“I was asked to keep the bottle intact, and I’m just so pleased today, to have unscrewed the top and been able to taste the wonderful whiskey inside.  We think that it could be getting on for fifty years of age, because it had been bottled eight years before he purchased it, but It really did live up to all our expectations.

“It was so good to have James come and represent his father, because James has carried on the connection with the Club for all the years I was there, and nowadays his company is the carrier for all my company’s products.”

He added: “When Salford walk out at Wembley on Saturday, I shall be filled with immense pride, because it was always my ambition to try to achieve that.

“James and I have just toasted the success of the club in reaching Wembley.  We hope that they have an equally successful weekend, and we have vowed to have a repeat meeting to toast their returning with the Cup.”

For James, who had not had the occasional glimpse of the bottle in his cupboard to keep it to the forefront of his mind, it had not immediately been one of his thoughts, on seeing Salford win through the semi-final and on to Wembley.

“I had known about the whiskey from my father first buying it,” said James Wilkinson.

“He had got it from a British Rail Lost Property Sale, but I had forgotten about it over the years, and I hadn’t known he had given one of them to the Chairman until John happened to mention it, around ten years ago.

“We still do work for John, so we see each other quite regularly, so when Salford got to the Final, he mentioned about opening the bottle the next time we met up.

“The one thing about Wembley is that, unlike the Grand Final and the play offs, you don’t have to be high in the league to stand a chance of getting there. It is all about how you are on the one day and not the run of victories you happen to be having.

“I think I speak for most people when I say we had always believed it would happen. We just didn’t know when that would be. It also gives all the players the opportunity of winning the Lance Todd Trophy.

“Come Saturday, as the players walk out onto the pitch, I think it will bring a tear to my eye at the thought of my dad’s vision of Wembley, forty years ago, as a life long Salford fan, with his motto of ‘Never say die’.”

“We all try to keep ourselves pretty level-headed” – Joey Lussick

Salford Red Devils hooker Joey Lussick and his teammates will be treating Saturday’s Coral Challenge Cup Final against Leeds Rhinos as just another runout. 
The 24-year-old scored the winning try against Warrington Wolves to seal Salford’s spot at Wembley, but the squad will not be getting carried away just yet.
Lussick said: “Big game on Saturday, but we’re just trying to treat it as normal as we can.
“Obviously there is the big reward at the end if we do win, but like I said, we’re just trying to keep everything normal, as if it’s another game.
“I’m just there doing my job as I would any other game. Watto (Ian Watson) and Moose (Lee Mossop) and the team – we all try to keep ourselves pretty level-headed.”
Lussick, however, is well aware of what a win this weekend would mean to all involved in the club, with Salford’s first Coral Challenge Cup Final appearance since 1969 coming on Saturday.
“We all know as a club, how much the team means to the people of Salford. We’re a big community club,” said Lussick.
“So, as much as we want to win for ourselves, we also want to win for all the people who have been there through the good times and the bad.”
Supporters can show their support on Saturday, by purchasing a virtual 2020 Coral Challenge Cup Final ticket HERE and receive a souvenir ticket memento following the event.


Lussick arrived at the AJ Bell Stadium in 2018 during the Super 8s Qualifiers, helping the Red Devils retain their place in the Betfred Super League.
The season after, Lussick played a pivotal part in the 2019 campaign that saw Salford reach the Grand Final. One year on, a Coral Challenge Cup Final awaits and the Australian wants to go one step further this time around.
“We made a massive achievement last year, but fell short at Old Trafford,” he said.
“A lot of people in our team have fallen short. A lot of people in our team have won some silverware.
“It comes down to you as a player and us as a team. That’s something we’re really focused on this year – that we really want to win some silverware.”
Hear the thoughts of more people, ahead of the Coral Challenge Cup Final, HERE on RDTV.