Following an impressive 24-8 victory over Hull FC on Friday evening we take a look at three talking points from the game.
The Red Devils conceded just one try on Friday evening and that came from Dean Hadley on the back of a low kick in behind the defence. Salford have now only conceded on the back of kicks in their last two home outings which is a sign of how sturdy the Red Devils defence has been.
Salford’s middles stood up well against the Hull FC pack – as they have all season while the back line where a match for everything the likes of Marc Sneyd, Carlos Tuimavave and Fetuli Talanoa threw at them.
The hosts also conceded less penalties in comparison to the trips to St Helens and Castleford which made the defensive effort needed much more sporadic.
And, it wasn’t just in contact where the defence was on point with Niall Evalds’ consistent kick return and the England Knights full-back pulled out a brilliant bit of skill to prevent a 40-20 at a crucial stage of the match.
Head Coach Ian Watson was quick to praise his half-back pairing of Robert Lui and Jack Littlejohn after Friday’s victory.
Salford scored four unanswered tries to seal a fantastic victory over one of last season’s top four with both Lui and Littlejohn crossing for individual scores. Littlejohn’s was his first as a Salford player.
Littlejohn finished off a breakaway try following a powerful break from Greg Johnson and Junior Sa’u and was a constant thorn in the side of FC down that left-hand side.
Salford had as much joy down the right-hand side with Robert Lui who’s kicking game caused issues for Hull throughout the game. Lui also took over goal kicking duties and slotted four from six including a pivotal penalty which put the Red Devils ahead at half-time.
Ben Nakubuwai was voted as the Man of the Match by Executive Match Sponsors Freeths Lawyers and deservedly so.
Nakubuwai has settled into life in the Betfred Super League after debuting away at Wakefield and even powered over for his first Salford try in the first half against Hull FC.
He is certainly becoming a fan favourite already with his hard-hitting defensive efforts and powerful go forward. The young Fijian is proving to be a great addition to Ian Watson’s squad.
Salford Red Devils Head Coach was ‘pleased’ to the victory over Hull FC and show ‘what his side are capable of’.
FC took the lead however four unanswered tries from Ben Nakubuwai, Jack Littlejohn, Robert Lui and Greg Johnson ensured Salford sealed a second consecutive home victory
Watson said: “I’m really pleased with the performance and attitude tonight.
“We spoke about getting an eighty-minute performance after the last two weeks and tonight we got that.
“Our middles stood up well against Hull FC’s – as they have done all season, to be fair and our defensive effort was outstanding.
“We were resilient, worked as a unit and cut out the mistakes and penalties which always makes it easier defensively.
“The boys knew the job, they knew what was expected of them and they delivered – they deserve everything they’ve got from tonight’s game.”
Robert Lui and Jack Littlejohn both crossed for tries in a second-half which saw Salford take control and Watson was impressed with his half-back pairing.
Watson said: “I thought we posed some serious threats for Hull FC down both flanks.
“Rob and Jack were outstanding with ball in hand and their kicking games really helped us pin Hull down numerous times.
“Jack took his try well after a fantastic break from Greg Johnson and Rob stepped up with the boot and put us in front at half-time.”
Niall Evalds continued at full-back after starting the earlier Betfred Super League rounds on the wing and, again, Watson was impressed with the versatile back.
Watson said: “We’re lucky we’ve got Niall who can just drop in at full-back.
“Niall’s an exceptional player and his development will only kick on.”
Salford Red Devils produced a stunning all-round team performance to cruise past Hull FC 24-8 in a hard-fought contest at the AJ Bell Stadium.
Maiden tries from Ben Nakubuwai and Jack Littlejohn along with further efforts from Robert Lui and Greg Johnson ensured The Red Devils ran out deserved winners and earned their first Betfred Super League victory since last month’s 36-18 triumph over Hull’s cross-city rivals Hull KR.
The Red Devils made a bright start to the contest and opened the scoring with just six minutes on the clock, Salford earned an early penalty and opted to take the two – Robert Lui successfully converted the resulting goal.
However, Hull responded well and crossed over less than ten minutes later when Dean Hadley latched onto Jake Connor’s low kick before touching down, Marc Sneyd added the extras.
The visitors were awarded a controversial penalty after Lama Tasi’s challenge was deemed late by referee Scott Mikalauskas – former Red Devil Sneyd successfully landed the goal to extend The Airlie Birds’ lead to six points.
Salford dug in and found themselves level minutes later – first Tyrone McCarthy offloaded to the onrushing Ben Nakubuwai who dived over for his first Salford try, before Lui added the extras to leave the scores tied at 8-8.
Nakubuwai’s score seemed to spur The Red Devils on as they took the lead for the first time in the tie just two minutes later – Salford earned another penalty and for the second occasion Lui opted to kick at goal, before successfully added the extras.
Salford extended their lead midway through the half when Greg Johnson broke away from the FC backline before offloading to Junior Sa’u who’s quick hands forged an opening for Jack Littlejohn to sprint 20m and dive over to claim his first try for the club, However Lui’s goal attempt was unsuccessful as the ball landed narrowly wide.
The hosts dominated throughout the second period and found themselves in again, Lui produced an eye-catching dummy which caught the entire Hull backline off guard – thus providing the half-back with enough space to touch down in the corner, Lui successfully added the extras to take Salford up to the 20 point mark.
Ian Watson’s side were thriving by this point and crossed over again two minutes later, the ever present Sa’u superbly offloaded to Johnson who produced an astonishing finish in the left-hand corner to claim his first score of the evening and cap off a fine all-round Salford performance.
Salford Lineup: Evalds, Johnson, Sa’u, Welham, Bibby, Lui, Littlejohn, Mossop, Tomkins, Kopczak, Jones, Hauraki, Flanagan
Interchanges: Tasi, Nakubuwai, Wood, McCarthy
Hull FC Lineup: Shaul, Faramaio, Tuimavave, Griffin, Talanoa, Connor, Sneyd, Taylor, Washbrook, Green, Hadley, Minichello, Abdull
Interchanges: Matongo, Fash, Bowden, Lane
Salford Scorers: Tries- Nakubuwai (35’), Littlejohn (61’), Lui (72’), Johnson (74’)
Goals- Lui (6’, 36’, 38’, 73’)
Hull Scorers: Tries- Hadley (14’)
Goals- Sneyd (15’, 28’)
Man of the Match: Ben Nakubuwai
Referee: Scott Mikalauskas
Touch Judges: M. Craven, J. Roberts
Following Friday evening’s dominant victory over Hull Kingston Rovers, Australian half-back Jack Littlejohn was pleased with the result after settling in well at Salford.
Littlejohn, who is available for sponsorship, said: “I’m loving it here especially after a win, I love winning and I love winning footy games.
“I think we were scratchy in some parts of the game but I thought once we settled massive credit to our middles they worked hard and I reckon they deserve all the credit.
“That was a bit of our game plan. Our middles matched their middles and I thought we did a good job of that.
“There tries were from fluky little kicks too – I thought our defensive line was really strong.”
Littlejohn occupied the half-back position alongside Robert Lui while Gareth O’Brien was at full-back and the three linked up very well.
Littlejohn said: “We’re building a good combination – our talks definitely a lot clearer out there.
“Gareth O’Brien’s been really good for me out the back I feel like he’s talking to me a lot and us three are working in a real good combination at the moment.”
Salford Head Coach Ian Watson has named his 19-man squad for the Red Devils opening Betfred Super League fixture against Wigan Warriors at the AJ Bell Stadium, 7:30pm kick-off.
Jack Littlejohn is in contention to make his Betfred Super League debut for the Red Devils while Luke Burgess could also make his first regular Super League start for Salford.
Robert Lui and Gareth O’Brien are also named to give Watson options in the halves.
Ryan Lannon will serve the last game of his three-match suspension. Manu Vatuvei, of course, misses out after picking up a serious Achilles injury earlier in the week.
The full squad can be seen below:
Salford Red Devils team captain Mark Flanagan attended the 2018 Super League launch yesterday at the John Smith’s Stadium.
The loose-forward spoke to Rugby AM about Salford’s ambitions for the upcoming season and hopes the side can achieve something special this year.
Flanagan, sponsored by Sparta Lightning Services, said: “It’s been tough training.
“We’ve been doing a lot of wrestling and a lot of defence so hopefully we should start off with a good defensive record.
“We’ve got some new recruits Jack Littlejohn and Ben Nakubuwai from Australia and Luke Burgess has returned to the Club and he’s been training really well.
“Some new faces and some old faces as well who are ready to go and just hoping for the season to start tomorrow to be honest because it has been a long cold pre-season.”
“I think we need to start well again.
“If we can replicate we’ll be in a good position I think you need a bit of luck we were unlucky with injuries last year we lost a lot of key personnel at the same time.
“I think it’s just kicking on to the next level we were in a good position to do well and win some silverware last year probably fell down at the last hurdle but we’ll gain from the experience.
“I think the lads will be better prepared this season and there’s no reason why we can’t really do something special this year.”
Flanagan missed the last third of the 2017 season with a shoulder injury and is aiming to get a full season under his belt with the Red Devils this time around.
Flanagan said: “Off the field keep being happy and keep smiling and on the field just keep playing hopefully stay injury free and lets do something special and maybe win something get to a final and really kick on from last year.”
After suffering a 18-6 defeat at the hands of Warrington in our second pre-season friendly of 2018 we take a look at three talking points from the game.
- The battle in the halves
There is a real fight underway for the half-back shirts at Salford with Rob Lui, Gareth O’Brien and Jack Littlejohn all having put good cases forward to start the first game of the Betfred Super League season against Wigan in less than two weeks time.
Lui and O’Brien started in the halves against Warrington yesterday with Lui grabbing the Red Devils sole try. O’Brien has adapted well to his way into the halves after a few years at full-back while Littlejohn entered the fray in the second half and was a constant threat.
O’Brien eluded to the competition for places in his pre-Warrington interview and this can already be seen in the push for a half-back spot. This can only be good for the Red Devils attack in 2018.
- Josh Jones’ performance
One standout performer for Ian Watson’s side at the Halliwell Jones Stadium yesterday was second-row Josh Jones.
Jones was tasked with keeping Ben Murdoch-Masila quiet throughout the game and he man did an excellent job matching the former Salford man physically even forcing him to knock-on.
The former St Helens man was also dangerous going forward with his offload game opening a few opportunities for Salford. Last year Jones switched between the centres and back-row but if he continues to play like he did yesterday there is no doubt he’ll cement a permanent spot in the second-row.
- Former Salford men
Despite Jones keeping Murdoch-Masila quiet for the majority of the game it was two former Red Devils who unlocked the Salford defence and helped Wire to victory.
The Tongan forward managed to get a hand free in the closing stages of the first half and offload to Joe Philbin to level the scores going into the interval.
In the opening stages of the second half it was another former Red Devil in Stefan Ratchford who managed to reach out and plant the ball down to give Warrington a lead which they didn’t surrender despite Salford’s best efforts.
Ahead of tomorrow’s pre-season friendly against Warrington Wolves Gareth O’Brien feels there is a strong competition for places amongst the Red Devils squad.
Regarding starting in the halves Gareth O’Brien, sponsored by Murray Metals, said: “Who knows we’ve got great competition for the two half-back spots.
“We’ve got myself, Jack Littlejohn and Rob Lui and then me and Niall are fighting for that number one jersey as well so there’s competition all over the park which is good and healthy.”
O’Brien linked up with Littlejohn well in the halves last weekend in Salford’s 50-12 victory over Swinton and feels the partnership went well alongside the new Australian addition.
O’Brien said: “Yeah he’s been good he’s a good bloke as well and we worked quite well together as well all do me and Rob do as well so it’s going to be interesting to see who wins the battle for the two shirts throughout the year.”
The versatile back will face one of his former clubs this weekend and is looking forward to facing his old side as well as an old friend.
O’Brien said: “It’ll be a tough game but I’m looking forward to going back to one of my old clubs we managed to beat them in the league last year there so looking forward to it.”
“I think he [Ben Murdoch-Masila] is their back-rower so he’s going to be running at me all game but I’ve already told him me and Junior are after him yeah watch out Benny.”
Tickets are still available for tomorrow’s game at Warrington at the Club Ticket Office. Supporters can also purchase the ticket prior to the game from the Ticket Office at the Halliwell Jones Stadium.
Salford Red Devils Head Coach Ian Watson has named his squad for the upcoming pre-season friendly against Warrington Wolves at the Halliwell Jones Stadium on Saturday.
Luke Burgess is set to play his first game back in the red of Salford after missing the 50-12 victory over Swinton Lions last weekend with a minor knock.
Kriss Brining, who was named in last week’s squad but didn’t feature, will miss the game this weekend as a precaution. Ryan Lannon will also miss the game as he serves the second match of a three-game suspension.
Robert Lui is set to start the game alongside Gareth O’Brien in the halves while Jack Littlejohn moves down to the bench. Derrell Olpherts and Manu Vatuvei will start on the wings in place of Greg Johnson and Jake Bibby with the latter moving into the centres.
Watson has picked the same five-man forward pack as he did for last week’s comfortable victory over Swinton however fully expect all 25 men named in the squad to feature at some point.
Here is the squad in full:
Following a 50-12 pre-season victory over local rivals Swinton Lions we take a look at three talking points from the game
1. Impressive Debutants
Yesterday’s game saw a handful of Red Devils wear the Salford shirt for the first time with Levy Nzoungou, Gavin Bennion, Ben Nakubuwai, Jack Littlejohn and Derrell Olpherts all debuted for Salford.
Australian half-back Jack Littlejohn was named as the press’ Man of the Match before also winning the Twitter Man of the Match poll after a fantastic opening performance. Levy Nzoungou and Ben Nakubuwai displayed their power in the forwards making yards with every carry.
Both Derrell Olpherts and Gavin Bennion found themselves on the scoresheet with the former Newcastle Thunder centre finishing off two flowing moves before Bennion powered over in the closing stages.
I’m sure all the Red Devils fans are looking to see more of the new additions.
2. Young guns on show
This pre-season friendly was the perfect opportunity for Ian Watson to try out all his players and youngsters Josh Wood, Jake Bibby and Daniel Murray all got a runout.
Josh Wood was one of the standout performers for the Red Devils breaking the Swinton line on multiple occasions with his quick jump from acting half-back.
Jake Bibby became a regular starter at the backend of the 2017 season and it’s clear to see why with another solid performance in the back line. Daniel Murray made an impact of the bench and will be a real contender for a starting position in the forwards this season.
3. Rugby in the local area
If there’s one thing to take from the yesterday’s game it’s that there is definitely an appetite for Rugby League in the local area with both Salford and Swinton putting on a great showing on the field with the fans turning up in numbers.
Both clubs are entering new eras and it will be exciting to see how both sides progress both on and off the field throughout 2018 and onwards.