Tag: Brodie Croft

RED DEVILS IN DEPTH:  SALFORD V WIGAN

As the teams trooped off for the extended (owing to live TV coverage) half time interval, at last Friday’s home Super League encounter, both coaches and groups of players must have had much with which to feel well satisfied.

Visitors, Wigan, will have been pleased with the fact that they were in front, even if by only six points, and with the manner in which they had managed the game, spending much of the half, particularly during the opening twenty minutes, on attack with adequate ball possession and field position.

Salford, for their part, will have been especially pleased with their defence, which had withstood all but one of the questions thrown at it, and also with the way in which they had gradually worked towards parity with the Warriors in terms of position and possession, in the second quarter.  That they had not managed to score, in order to level up the scoreboard, was a little disappointing but nevertheless they had come as close to doing so as Wigan had, to extending their lead.

That first forty had produced just one defensive error – by Salford’s right edge – where an overlap had been worked for left winger, Marshall, who promptly cut inside to set up Smith for a  try he, himself, converted.  Other than that, the game had been an intriguing arm wrestle, in which Salford had matched the cup holders in every aspect.  After the disappointment at Hull KR, the week before, the return of two big forwards not only steadied the side, it gave them some noticeable go-forward.

Sitaleki Akauola ran as strongly as we have seen from him, and he gave what was probably his best performance, since joining the Red Devils.  On his introduction, midway through the half, the imposing, Sam Luckley, set about giving a sterling performance, in which he took on, and diminished, the dominant power of the Warriors’ pack, by injecting some considerable hit-ups, which quickly started to take their toll on the opposition’s defenders.

So, with honours close to being even, thoughts turned to the coming forty minutes, and how things might shape up.  Wigan had shown not only in the previous week, against Castleford, that they can turn round, from the interval, as a completely different team.  Whilst there have been odd occasions earlier in the season, such as the Leeds and Castleford encounters, when Salford have done likewise, there have also been other occasions they have failed to do so, and consequently succumbed to the dominance of the opposition.

It did not take long after the restart for spectators of both persuasions to discover just which path the second forty of this game would take – a mere four minutes to be precise.  A crucial penalty went Wigan’s way, after an altercation involving players from both sides.  From that they built up an attack which brought Marshall his first try from Bibby’s kick, to take the Warriors into double figures.

The home side’s immediate response, with an attack of their own, went sadly wrong three minutes later, when Andy Ackers’s pass was intercepted by Field, from which he and French broke clear, down the right edge.  Thankfully, Salford’s excellent scrambling defence was equal to the attack, and although they were initially outpaced by the pair, they got back in sufficient numbers to snuff out the threat, forcing French to spill the ball.

Ironically, a mere two minutes later, an end-of-set kick landed straight in the arms of French, and he and Field promptly set off again, but this time, despite the endeavours of the Salford defence, the combined efforts of two of the fastest players in Super League, managed to get the winger in at the corner and the goal kick then put them sixteen points in front.

There could not have been a more morale deflating event possible, and that, coupled with the loss of energy Salford players had already expended in the first half, enabled the visitors to hit a purple patch, running in three tries in six minutes, as a result of their total domination of possession during this period.

Hurt as their pride was, the Reds struck back near the end with two deserved tries, both converted by Marc Sneyd, from kicks into the in-goal area.  The first, which followed the awarding of a repeat set, was from Sneyd’s kick into the corner, the bounce of which eluded Ken Sio, but was caught and grounded by his centre, Deon Cross.

Finally, the absolutely magnificent Kallum Watkins was first to get a hand to the ball, from Brodie Croft’s kick. The visiting, Shaun Wayne, can have been nothing but impressed by the recently converted, second rower’s performance throughout, and to secure the final try of the evening was only just dessert for him and his wholehearted efforts.

With yet another weekend ahead without a match, the Red Devils might well benefit from this one rather more than the last one, two weeks ago.  On that occasion it disrupted their run of wins, but this time they hopefully will use it to rediscover the form they had been showing in their previous four fixtures.

RED DEVILS IN DEPTH:  HULL KR V SALFORD

Not for the first time, a team in a rich vein of form paid the price for a fixture-free weekend, with a loss of momentum and subsequently, a loss of quality in their performance.  That certainly appeared to be the case with Salford, in their outing to East Hull to take on the Robins, following two fine home victories over Leeds and Castleford.

The lapse of seventeen days between the last of those, and yesterday, was enough to take a little of the shine off their performances, as was exemplified by their failure to capitalise on the most clear-cut of try-scoring opportunities, six minutes into the game.

Fine handling from Amir Bourouh, Tim Lafae, Alex Gerrard, and Brodie Croft, virtually on their own try-line, successfully sent Deon Croft, supported by Ken Sio on his inside, sprinting down the right wing.  With only the covering Ethan Ryan to beat, a simple two on one was all that was required, but the pair, who normally have such a great understanding with each other on attack, had too much time to think about it and consequently over-complicated it with two, almost unnecessary, passes.

In fairness, Ryan did extremely well in the situation by not committing himself, totally to any tackle, and the chance petered out as the attacking pair ran out of room along the touch line.  The contrasting effects on the two sides, however, was the most significant outcome, with the home-side growing in confidence, and, soon after, taking a ten-point lead, with back-to-back tries.

Their tally continued to grow throughout the half to nineteen, through two goals, a try, and a drop-goal, but the Red Devils did manage to pull back six points with a converted try of their own, on 27 mins.  Hull had great difficulty in dealing with Harvey Livett’s kick into the in-goal area, with two players fumbling it for Tim Lafae to pounce upon.  Marc Sneyd added the goal-kick.

Singular as that score was, it was sufficient to put the visitors back in contention, and with only thirteen points separating the two sides at half time, confidence still remained that Salford could come back in the second half, just as they had done against much greater odds, at Wakefield.

Unfortunately, that was not to be.  A no-look flip-pass, close to the Robins’ try line, which might have initiated a try for Salford, was intercepted, and quickly led to their hosts extending their lead by a further six points, and, from that point, events turned significantly in their favour.

Most crucial of all were the two, virtually back-to-back, sin-binnings of Tyler Dupree and Livett, which meant that the rest of the team were left facing the buoyant KR with only twelve men for twenty minutes, during which time the home side exploited their numerical advantage, and continued to build up a quite commanding lead.

The Red Devils did however round off the match with a further couple of tries, sandwiching a final six-pointer for Hull, which gave the Salford fans something to cheer about, before their long journey home, Deon Cross latching onto the end of another kick into the in-goal area, and then Joe Burgess benefitting from Lafae’s interception to put him away,

Six weeks ago, the Red Devils most impressively improved their performances in the league game at Wigan.  This Friday will be the ideal opportunity for them to repeat that feat when the Cup holders visit the A J Bell for the return encounter.

RED DEVILS IN DEPTH: SALFORD V CASTLEFORD

RED DEVILS IN DEPTH: SALFORD V CASTLEFORD

Three months on, from the opening game of the season, in which Salford surprised many by coming away with a convincing 16-26 win, at the Mend-a-Hose Jungle, the Castleford Tigers arrived at the A J Bell, seeking to reverse the outcome of that initial encounter.  The strides which the Tigers had made in the intervening period, had moved them into the top six of Super League.

Salford, in comparison, had left it somewhat later, until the last three fixtures, in fact, before making inroads into their rather unflattering league status at that time, but those three markedly improved performances had been more eye-catching, coming against the three biggest names in rugby league, Wigan, St Helens, and Leeds, the last of which brought them their first win in their last seven matches.

The 30-16 result of last Friday’s return fixture with Cas was of very little difference from that of Round 1, showing that the Red Devils appear to have maintained their lead in the standard of their performances from the first to this latest encounter.

Not that that was evident, on field, during the opening period of either half, with the visitors being the first to settle and open their account, in both.  The first half saw them going four points ahead, after a mere three minutes, while post interval, it took them only five minutes longer than that to register a try.

As any good coach will espouse, however, it does not matter how you start, it is how you finish that matters most, and that certainly proved to be the case, on Friday, as the Reds gradually took control of the game in the first forty, while then turning the second half into a quite enthralling, and most entertaining, contest

The visitors’ opening four pointer was eventually answered by the Red Devils in the seventeenth minute.  Taking advantage of a penalty which put them on the attack, Marc Sneyd  kicked into the in-goal area on the fourth tackle, and  Tim Lafae was the first to get there to ground the ball, which with Sneyd’s conversion put Salford into a lead they never surrendered, thereafter.

The rain, which had fallen steadily for four hours prior to kick-off, had made both the ball and the playing surface most slippery, so conditions were challenging for both sides, both of which were pleased to turn their opponents’ errors to their own advantage.

Playing the game in your opponents’ half was highly desirable and advantageous, something at which Salford proved to be rather the better, during the run up to the interval.  The pressure this put the Tigers under began to take its toll on them, and they began to look quite tired, in that last ten minutes.

Although rugby is predominantly a team game, there are occasions when the individual contribution of one player can have a quite profound effect on the game, and their team.  Joe Burgess was the individual, on this occasion who, as the first half moved closer to its end, completely stamped his authority on the match.

Not only did he latch onto the end of a right to left passing move, on thirty minutes, then wrong footing the defenders for Salford’s second try, six minutes later amid a posse of attacking Tigers, he climbed high to take the ball above his head from and end-of-set kick, and then, outnumbered by four to one he resisted their combined efforts to force  him into touch, thereby both acquiring, and retaining possession for his side.

As if to celebrate all of this, he closed the half with the second try of his eventual hat-trick, by exploiting space on his flank to round the opposition with his pace coupled with a swerve, which kept him completely in the clear, on his way to the line.

It took a full fifteen minutes of an arm-wrestle, at the onset of the second half, during which Castleford appeared to be gaining the ascendency and had narrowed the Reds’ lead to six points, before Sneyd turned the game in Salford’s favour.  Against Leeds it had been a drop-goal which had been so decisive; this time it was a 20-40, the repeat set from which he was to slot over a penalty goal, to restore a two-scores advantage.

That two-scores very quickly became three, after a tremendous break by Andy Ackers was continued by Morgan Escare, and although he was tackled in flight, his quick play-the-ball led to excellent passing along the line via Ackers again, Brodie Croft, and Kallum Watkins, to Deon Croft, who grounded for another Sneyd-converted try.

If the balance of the game had changed with surprising speed, it was about to change again, even more quickly, as the visitors caught their hosts out with a most unusual restart.  The kick went with some force along the ground before bouncing up over the Salford players’ heads , into touch.  Just as the Red Devils had used their unexpected possession from the 20-40 to good effect, so too, now did Castleford, by putting Quareqare in at the corner for his second try of the half.

Salford’s ten-point lead was still sufficient cushioning, however, to keep them comfortable enough to continue playing their fine expansive rugby, and they extended it further with Burgess completing his hat-trick from Lafae’s wonderful final pass.

It is really looking now as though Salford have turned the corner, and rediscovered their early season form, which had, it appeared, deserted them over the intervening month and a half.  Now a free weekend gives them some well-earned respite before an important away trip to take on Hull KR.

RED DEVILS IN DEPTH: SALFORD V LEEDS (2)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

RED DEVILS IN DEPTH:  ST HELENS V SALFORD

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

RED DEVILS IN DEPTH: WIGAN V SALFORD

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

RED DEVILS IN DEPTH: HULL V SALFORD

For just over fifteen highly encouraging minutes, the Salford fans who had made the journey over to Hull filled with the confidence that their  hopes and expectations were well-placed, revelled in an opening stanza, which had their hosts well and truly on the rack.

Indeed, all the firepower in those initial exchanges lay with the Red Devils, who enjoyed the lion’s share of possession, and who were, consequently able to pen Hull on their own line for the bulk of this time.

They ran strongly, spread the ball swiftly and accurately, and when called upon to, tackled with energy and desire. In fact they did almost everything they could have done, except score.

Not that they were without opportunities, for they created three, but unfortunately without success, the first coming when Shane Wright was stopped by a last ditch tackle, extremely close to the line;

Soon afterwards, Brodie Croft’s kick-in-goal was just a little too strong for the chasing Ken Sio, who was unable to repeat his similar try-scoring feat from last week, and the ball had cleared the dead-ball line, before the winger got his hands to it.

Their final chance of taking the lead came with Joe Burgess’s scoot from dummy-half, only for him to be held up over the line, and shortly afterwards the whole game changed far more dramatically than anyone would have predicted.

Off the field, things had not been running as smoothly as is normally the case.  The withdrawal of James Greenwood in the warm-up led to the introduction of Ryan Lannon into the side was probably a greater cause of disruption than might be obvious with his inclusion coming not simply onto the bench, but, of necessity, directly into the starting lineup.

Then there was some confusion over an injury to Dan Sarginson, which ended up costing the team two of their allotted substitutions, and meant that players could not be rotated or rested as frequently, or for as long, as normal.  King Vuniyayawa, in particular, played a considerable number of minutes, over and above his scheduled time span.  Fatigue, and occasionally injury, can be an inevitable consequence of that.

Two wayward passes, however, were the cause of the remarkable first-half turnaround, with both leading to Hull tries on their right flank.  These were then followed shortly after by two others the first of which came down that same side of the field, and within that second period of fifteen minutes, the Humbersiders had taken a twenty points, unanswered lead.

To be fair to the Salford players at this stage, they galvanised together, and returned to producing the better aspects of their play which had been so noticeable in the first fifteen, and this time it brought benefits.

A high bomb from Marc Sneyd looked to be well-covered by the Hull defence, only for Tim Lafae to pounce from nowhere, and rob them of the possession, with a try close to the Hull posts.

A half-time deficit of fourteen points is not insurmountable, but one always had the sense that Salford had to be first to score in the second half.  They certainly seemed to be up for the task, upon the resumption, but little more than five minutes had elapsed, when they were reduced to twelve men with the sin-binning of Sneyd, after a disagreement with Hull’s Connor.

If the second period of fifteen minutes had been a game-changers, this ten minute spell was to more or less finish off the contest, for by the time Sneyd had returned, the Hull tally had ratcheted up from twenty to thirty-six points, and there was to be little way back for the visitors, thereafter.

In fact it was Hull, who further extended their lead to forty-two points, with the second of two extremely cruel bounces of the ball.  Fullback, Ryan Brierley, it had earlier been, whose attempt to deal with a low Hull kick-through, to the posts, had been so thwarted, while for this latest score the bounce prevented Burgess from making the ball safe, and on both occasions Hull chasers were on hand to take advantage of the luck which had come their way.

Nevertheless, the Red Devils  once again regrouped to share the scoring in the final twenty minutes with two of their own to match this latest, and one further final one from the home side.

The first of  Salford’s could, arguably, make claim to have been the try of the match, starting as it did with a sideways kick to hand, and the ball then passing through six pairs of hands before Sio crossed in the corner.

Tim Lafae wound up proceedings for the visiting Reds, with the second of his brace, touching down a kick through, but it was all little more than cold comfort for those connected with Salford.

Bad days at the office come round to everyone, at times.  The important thing is to learn from each, put it behind you, and in Salford’s case produce a quick and effective response, preferably at Huddersfield next week.

RED DEVILS IN DEPTH:SALFORD V TOULOUSE

A double brace of tries from Ken Sio, one at the start and the other at the end of the game, served to sandwich this remarkable game against the visiting newcomers to Super League, Toulouse Olympique.

Remarkable that is, in a number of ways. Remarkable in the severity of the adverse conditions, which blasted over the pitch in the form of Storm Franklin, remarkable in the variety of ploys both sides, but especially Salford, used to combat the elements, and remarkable in the total number of points the Red Devils  were able to post in such conditions.

So strong was the wind swirling around the field that it was almost like another opposition team intent upon foiling the bravest endeavours of both sets of players. There has been many a game, when, in similar circumstances, the team regarded as underdogs would have been chomping at the bit to get out there, use the conditions to their advantage, and consequently spring a surprise victory seemingly from nowhere.

For the Red Devils, therefore, to run up a total of thirty-eight points, for it can hardly be imagined that the Frenchmen would not have eager to use such an opportunity to notch up their first win, was most praiseworthy.

The tactics they used in posting no less than seven tries, was quite eye-opening, because modern day rugby is often regarded as being somewhat stereotyped and predictable, by its critics.  Nothing could be further from the truth, on this occasion.

Not that there was a lot of  off-the-cuff play to be seen, because so much was clearly well-rehearsed, and not only in the build-up to tries.  Take, for example, Marc Sneyd’s twenty-first minute cross-field down-town kick, direct from a scrum a mere fifteen metres from his own line, to the left wing, followed by Joe Burgess’s dive for the ball, a good three metres away from it, but which he then skidded onto, to retain possession, despite the attention of  a number of French defenders.

It was, though, of course, the tries which brought the greatest pleasure to the Salford faithful, with many of them, unsurprisingly, coming from kicks.

This was the case with Sio’s first, which came within the opening couple of minutes when he won the race to touch down Sneyd’s immaculate in-goal kick, centimetres before the ball went into dead.

Others followed, with Tim Lafai benefitting in the second half, from a real tester of a bomb which dipped suddenly in the gale, completely bewildering the Toulouse defenders.

And, as if only to keep them guessing, on twenty three minutes, Sneyd shaped up near to the line, to kick through, only to hold onto the ball and cut through the gap left by the surprised opposition.

It was not only the kicks, or on this last occasion the lack of one, which opened up the way to the visitors’ line.  Brodie Croft made a marvellous break from well inside his own half to make a fifty metre run, and, although his final pass was deflected by a French arm, Sio did an excellent job of mopping up to cross for his second.

Indeed Croft later got in on the kicking game, himself, to put through a neat little stab for Sio’s third, to show the home fans that he, too, is going to be a force to be reckoned with, as he settles more and more into the side.

In such treacherous conditions, however, passing moves are at a premium though Salford did extremely well when they sent the ball from right to left to get Burgess away down his left wing, and his inside pass secured, for the supporting Ryan Brierley, his first Super League try for Salford.

Not that the Olympique were without ideas of their own, and indeed they had already asked a number of questions of the Salford defence before they managed to penetrate it with former Salford U19s Chris Hankinson, touching down in similar fashion to Sio’s opener.

Indeed, it was the visitors who shook the Salford fans with the opening try of the second half, bringing them to within striking distance of their hosts’ lead, for a short period which undoubtedly will have caused some little concern on the terraces.

The day, however, belonged to Salford, and Ken Sio, who, with three tries under his belt already, capped it all with the most exciting of them all as he sped eighty metres down field for his final, culminating score of the afternoon.

 

PAUL ROWLEY NAMES NEW LEADERSHIP TEAM

Salford Red Devils head coach Paul Rowley has chosen a new leadership team to guide his side in 2022, with Elijah Taylor named captain and Marc Sneyd and Brodie Croft taking the vice-captain roles.

Taylor arrived from Wests Tigers, where he was co-captain, ahead of the 2021 season, and despite missing parts of this year through injury, has impressed in a Salford shirt.

The 31-year-old has brought a vast amount of experience into the Salford squad since his arrival, with nine years in the NRL and a Rugby League World Cup with New Zealand.

Speaking on becoming captain of Salford Red Devils, Elijah Taylor said: “I’m humbled and yet excited for the opportunity to captain the team.

“Salford has a rich rugby league history and we’re all working extremely hard at training to lay a strong foundation for this coming season.”

Taylor is highly regarded amongst the coaching staff and squad as a natural leader, and the Kiwi will have the support of vice-captains Brodie Croft and Marc Sneyd, the latter spending 2021 as co-captain of Hull FC before returning to the Club that kickstarted his professional rugby league career.

A two-time Challenge Cup and Lance Todd Trophy winner, Sneyd returns to Salford with valuable big-game experience and is well respected within the squad for his leadership qualities and rugby league knowledge.

Number 7 for 2022, Sneyd said: “I’m happy to be vice-captain under ET (Elijah Taylor) and I’ll do my best to lead as best I can.

I’m just excited to get on to the field now and start playing games.”

Finishing up the leadership team, Brodie Croft also takes a vice-captain role at Salford.

Although still relatively young, Croft is a World Club Challenge winner and has played in an NRL Grand Final.

Our new number 6 will be working very closely with Sneyd this season in the halves, which will only strengthen their co vice-captaincy relationship as well.

Speaking on becoming vice-captain, Croft said: “It’s certainly a huge privilege to be named vice-captain here at Salford.

When Rowls (Paul Rowley) pulled me aside last week to ask whether I would take up vice captaincy with Sneydy, I jumped at the opportunity. I’m constantly growing as a player but really cherish the responsibility that comes with this role.

Hopefully I can lean on a lot of my experience I’ve had so far in my career, particularly at Melbourne where I was learning under some of the best players to have ever played rugby league!”

Get behind your new Salford Red Devils leadership team in 2022, by purchasing a season ticket HERE.

SALFORD WIN THE RACE FOR BRISBANE HALFBACK BRODIE CROFT

Salford Red Devils are delighted to announce that Brisbane Broncos halfback Brodie Croft has signed on a two-year deal.

The Red Devils had competition for Croft’s signature but the 24-year-old has chosen Salford as his new home and will arrive at the end of the year.

The Australian made his NRL professional debut in 2016 for Melbourne Storm, where he spent three years in the halves before moving to Brisbane Broncos in 2019.

Croft won the World Club Challenge with Melbourne in 2018 and was part of the Storm side that made the NRL Grand Final that year.

Croft has featured quite predominantly for the Broncos since his debut in 2020 and will bring with him into Richard Marshall’s squad some valuable experience despite still being quite young.

On signing for Salford, Croft said: “I’m super excited about this opportunity to join the Red Devils. Rich (Richard Marshall) has been very thorough and bold with the ambitions going forward at the club and I cannot wait to get started. My partner Safina, son Haris and myself are looking forward to moving at the end of the year to begin this new journey together!

I’m also really looking forward to meeting the Salford faithful next season, who I’ve heard are some of the loudest and most passionate fans in the league. I see the restrictions have just lifted in the UK, which is great news! It would be great to see as many people in the stands again as possible, to help the club come out of the pandemic together and finish the year strong both on and off the field.”

Speaking on the acquisition of Croft, Salford Red Devils head coach Richard Marshall said: “We’re delighted to get Brodie over the line as he’s been a player we’ve been working on for a while now.

Brodie has consistently competed at the top level in the NRL and he will add further quality in the halves for us. Despite his talent, he is still quite young so he will only develop and improve.

Having spoken to Brodie at length, he is looking forward to coming over to represent the Red Devils. He will certainly improve our squad and his attention to detail and knowledge of our team is impressive already.”

Director of rugby and operations Ian Blease played a pivotal role in bringing Croft to Salford, and added: “Brodie coming to the Red Devils is up there with any singing in recent times for this club. It has taken a long period of time to get this deal done but I am so pleased to get a player of Brodies quality and class officially across the line.

 “Brodie can come to the Red Devils and enjoy his rugby league again, he is still only a young half back and after speaking with him over the last few weeks he has the determination to come to the club and push us on with our ambition, it will be tremendous to see him don the Red Devils shirt next season and beyond.”

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