Following a narrow defeat at the hands of Wakefield Trinity in Round Two of the Betfred Super League we take a look at three talking points from Friday’s game.
The forward battle
Wakefield’s power in the pack has been a big talking point heading into the 2018 season however Ian Watson’s forwards equalled, and if not, bettered Trinity up the middle on Friday evening.
Lee Mossop and Lama Tasi set the stall early for The Red Devils while a big interchange bench including Luke Burgess, Ben Nakubuwai and Craig Kopczak made a massive impact which is something Wakefield Head Coach Chris Chester eluded to in his press conference. Watch here.
Salford’s pack stood up to the likes of David Fifita and Pauli Pauli and kept Wakefield’s dangerous forwards quiet for the most part. This impressed Ian Watson who’s post-match press conference can be seen here.
Fijian World Cup star Ben Nakubuwai debuted for The Red Devils on Friday night and made a massive impact from the bench. Nakubuwai missed out against Wigan but he has certainly put his marker down for a position in the side against Hull Kingston Rovers.
The 21-year-old brought the ball forward constantly making metres with every carry and he was an absolute stalwart defensively in an all-around solid defensive performance from Ian Watson’s side.
Ben Nakubuwai’s post-match interview will be on Salford Red Devils TV later today.
Kris Welham and Niall Evalds
Niall Evalds moved from full-back to winger for Friday evening’s game at the Mobile Rocket Stadium, but it didn’t stop the 2017 top try-scorer from crossing for his second in as many games this season. Evalds finished off a flowing move from The Red Devils to draw them level on Friday.
Kris Welham also made it tries in consecutive appearances as he spun his way over in the final minute to give Salford the opportunity to earn a point. While it wasn’t to be Welham and Evalds are already showing the try-scoring threat Salford possess out wide in 2018.
Following their victory over Salford, Wakefield Head Coach Chris Chester admitted that a draw would have been a fair result as The Red Devils deserved something from the game.
Chester said: “I was really pleased with the first forty minutes but disappointed with the second forty.
“I thought Salford deserved something from that game tonight.
“I thought they were very good in that second half and they’re going to be there or there abouts this year no doubt about that if they keep their main players fit and healthy.
“I saw the bench they put out they were a very big bench tonight I knew we could be under a little bit of trouble only carrying two front-rowers.
“But listen maybe it’s the sign of a good side that we’re not playing particularly well but grinding results out and we’ve ground another one out.
“We need to be a little bit smarter once we went six points in front maybe slowing the game down a little bit kicking the ball into touch.”
Ian Watson’s Salford Red Devils travel to the Mobile Rocket Stadium to face Wakefield Trinity in their opening Betfred Super League away game of the 2018 season and will be looking for their first competitive victory of the year.
Last season both Salford Red Devils and Wakefield Trinity were two of the surprise packages. Both sides managed to earn their places in the Super League Super 8s with The Red Devils earning their highest-ever Super League regular season finish.
While Salford started the season stronger, Wakefield finished the season in fine form and almost really upset the apple cart by earning a Super League semi-final spot but were just edged out by St Helens.
Both sides have strengthened in pre-season bringing in big names and will be looking to build on their positive campaigns last year. Salford are looking for their first win of the 2018 Super League season while Wakefield will want to make it back-to-back victories in front of their home crowd.
Last Time Out
The Red Devils didn’t have the perfect start to the 2018 season suffering a 12-40 defeat at the hands of Wigan Warriors. Kris Welham crossed early for Salford to open the scoring but unanswered tries from Tom Davies, Oliver Gildart (2), Morgan Escare, Liam Marshall (2) and Tony Clubb sealed victory for the visitors. Niall Evalds grabbed a late try for Salford.
As for Wakefield, they carried on where they left off last season defeating Betfred Super League newboys Hull Kingston Rovers. Tom Johnstone was pivotal crossing for a hat-trick while Bill Tupou, Liam Finn and debutant Ryan Hampshire all scored for Chris Chester’s men. Hull KR managed just a solitary try through Chris Clarkson after the break.
Salford overcame Wakefield in the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup quarter-final last season but lost the other three meetings against Trinity in the Super League and Super 8s.
However, the arrears are even in the last ten meetings between the sides with The Red Devils winning on five occasions and Wakefield similarly. Salford’s last victory at Trinity came in 2015 thanks to a Harrison Hansen double – more details in this week’s factfile here.
In this week’s flashback we took a trip down memory lane to a memorable 32-6 win over Wakefield in 2011 which you can read here.
This week’s head-to-head sees us pit two young wingers against each other in Salford’s Jake Bibby and Wakefield’s Tom Johnstone. Both have broken into their respective teams in recent seasons and offer serious threats on the flank for both sides.
Bibby has really consolidated a regular first team spot in The Red Devils side and with Manu Vatuvei looking to be out for the season this really could his breakout season. As for Johnstone, he grabbed a hat-trick in Trinity’s opening game of the season against Hull Kingston Rovers and is looking to continue where he left off before his injury.
Whichever winger can keep the other one quietest this evening could well see their side come out on top.
Greg Johnson and Mark Flanagan are the two people who leave the Salford squad this weekend with Ben Nakubuwai and Logan Tomkins coming into the 19-man squad. Tomkins has recovered from a small knock which saw him miss last weekend’s game against hometown Club Wigan Warriors.
Craig Huby is set to make his first appearance for Wakefield since returning from an injury which saw him miss the backend of last season. Pauli Pauli, Ryan Hampshire and Justin Horo could all be set to make their home debut for Trinity.
Wakefield: Arona, Ashurst, Caton-Brown, England, Fifita, Finn, Grix, Hampshire, Hirst, Horo, Huby, Johnstone, Jones-Bishop, Kirkmond, Lyne, Miller, Pauli, Tupou, Wood.
Salford: O’Brien, Welham, Sa’u, Evalds, Lui, Littlejohn, Kopczak, Tomkins, Griffin, Jones, Hauraki, Tasi, Burgess, McCarthy, Nakubuwai, Wood, Olpherts, Mossop, Bibby.
The Red Devils fell to the defeat against Wakefield Trinity for the third time in the league this season, suffering a 18-43 loss.
Ian Watson’s side took an early lead but found themselves behind at half-time and a slow start to the second half left the Red Devils with too much to do in the latter stages.
Centre duo Kris Welham and Junior Sa’u returned for Salford while Ben Murdoch-Masila was re-introduced after picking up a rib injury against Castleford. Tyler Randall debuted for Trinity with Joe Arundal returning to the side, also.
Salford had started well when Craig Kopczak powered his way over from close-range to open the scoring. Todd Carney followed up with the boot and the Red Devils looked to be on their way however it wasn’t to be.
Wakefield hit back as Jacob Miller was quickest to react to his low kick which took several deflections. The returning Arundal then put Trinity ahead midway through the first half. Finn converted both.
But, Salford managed to pull level as Greg Johnson muscled his way over out wide following some quick hands. However, the Red Devils found themselves back behind almost immediately as Miller again latched onto a kick after a mix-up at the back. Liam Finn converted before kicking two penalty goals before the break and one afterwards to open up a ten-point lead.
Chris Chester’s men were slowly pulling away and two tries in quick succession confirmed the outcome. Debutant Randall broke from the scrum and sliced through the Salford defence before Bill Tupou scored after several half-breaks and some off-the-cuff play from Trinity. Finn converted both.
Randall went on to join Miller as he grabbed a second as he again split the Red Devils defence from close-range. Tyrone McCarthy scored his first Super League try for Salford in the closing stages and it was some try as he spun, put through a neat grubber kick before collecting the ball himself and scoring. However, it was nothing more than a consolation for the Red Devils who face Huddersfield next up at the AJ Bell Stadium.
Red Devils: O’Brien, Johnson, Welham, Sa’u, Vatuvei; Lui, Carney; Kopczak, Tomkins, Hauraki, Murdoch-Masila, Lannon, McCarthy. Interchanges: Jones, Griffin, Krasniqi, Brining.
Wakefield: Grix, Jones-Bishop, Lyne, Arundal, Tupou; Miller, Finn; England, Tyler, Hirst, Ashurst, Kirkmond, Arona. Interchanges: Hadley, Fifita, Huby, Annakin.
Referee: Phil Bentham. Touch Judges – P Brooke & J Smith. Attendance: 2489.
Wakefield Trinity Head Coach Chris Chester knows tonight’s game is pivotal for both Wakefield and the Red Devils in their respective pushes for a top four finish.
Chester, speaking to Radio Yorkshire, said: “It’s a massive game for us at Salford, we know one of Saints of Wigan is likely to win, so we need to win if we are to keep our place in the top four.
“They are a very hard team to beat on their own patch. We are planning for the best possible Salford, the one that took the field at the start of the season.
“We expect Murdoch-Masila to play even though he is not named in the squad.”
Wakefield currently sit 4th in the Super League Super 8s one point above one point above Wigan and Saints, two above the Red Devils and three above 8th placed Huddersfield.
Chester said: “We have put ourselves in such a good position to get into a semi-final.
“We are learning lessons and we are not playing too bad. I expect a similar performance tomorrow night.”
The Red Devils host fellow top four hopefuls Wakefield Trinity tomorrow night following a break from Super 8s action.
Ian Watson’s men currently sit 7th in the Super League Super 8s but trail Wakefield, their opponents this weekend, in 4th by just two points. The Red Devils are yet to win since the Super 8s stage got underway but a victory this weekend against Trinity will get Salford right back in the mix for a place at Old Trafford.
Wakefield have also had a difficult run as of late winning just one of their ten matches but, surprisingly, Trinity still find themselves inside the top four and with real hope of making it to the Grand Final at Old Trafford. Trinity have lost all of their last six outings conceding over 36 points in each.
The key battle
Tyrone McCarthy arrived at the AJ Bell Stadium last month and has already begun to impress with his performances on the field. McCarthy is yet to feature at the AJ Bell, however, after having to pull out of the defeat to Castleford in the warm-up.
On the opposite side Wakefield’s main man is Tongan powerhouse David Fifita. Often coming from the interchange bench Fifita brings an added threat in the back-row and can cause any defence serious issues.
It will be interesting to see which of these forwards can get on top early on. With both men dangerous in attack and solid in defence it could turn out to be a real battle of the big men on Friday night.
The meetings this season
The Red Devils are yet to beat Trinity in league outings this season but do hold a Challenge Cup quarter-final victory over Wakefield in their most recent meeting.
Ian Watson’s side put in a dominant performance with scores from Ryan Lannon, Ben Murdoch-Masila, Niall Evalds, Craig Kopczak and Greg Johnson earned Salford their first semi-final berth for twenty years.
However, Wakefield edged out the Red Devils at the AJ Bell Stadium earlier in June with Salford almost pulling the game back after going 16 points down. There was another narrow loss for the Red Devils when they travelled to Trinity in March despite Salford scoring four tries inside 12 minutes to almost win the game.
Red Devils: Bibby, Brining, Carney, Griffin, Hauraki, Johnson, Jones, Kopczak, Krasniqi, Lannon, Lui, McCarthy, O’Brien, Sa’u, Tomkins, Vatuvei, A. Walne, J. Walne, Welham.
Trinity: Annakin, Arona, Arundel, Ashurst, Caton-Brown, England, Fifita, Finn, Grix, Hadley, Hasson, Hirst, Huby, Jones-Bishop, Kirkmond, Lyne, Miller, Randell, Tupou.