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.