After returning home from last week’s trip to Perpignan, Salford host Leeds Rhinos at the AJ Bell Stadium tomorrow evening as the Red Devils look to forge some momentum heading into the Qualifiers.
Last time out
Ian Watson’s men head into this weekend’s showdown after succumbing to a 44-10 defeat at the hands of the Catalans Dragons last Saturday, though Salford did battle well at times in the second period.
Derrell Olpherts and Josh Wood both crossed over in what were two well taken efforts, but the Dragons proved too hot to handle as Fouad Yaha struck four times to seal a fine eight try victory for the hosts.
Wood’s try in particular, was a positive note for Salford. The half-back has been one of the side’s most improved players throughout the campaign and deservedly touched down for his first score of the season at the Stade Gilbert Brutus.
As for Leeds, new management team Kevin Sinfield and James Lowes saw their side triumph for the first time last Friday as the Rhinos comfortably dispatched Widnes Vikings 34-0.
Tries from Brad Dwyer, Luke Briscoe, Richie Myler, Matt Parcell, Joel Moon, Tom Briscoe and Jack Walker saw the hosts pummel the struggling Vikings.
Both sides haven’t quite matched their successes from 2017 this time around. After seven successive losses, the Rhinos parted company with long-serving coach Brian McDermott earlier this month following a 46-8 humiliation at Wigan.
Club legend Sinfield arrived as the club’s new Director of Rugby – alongside former Great Britain hooker Lowe who has been appointed as First-Team Coach – but Leeds’ form didn’t immediately improve. A 42-10 defeat at Castleford was followed by a frustrating 20-all draw with Wakefield at the Emerald Headingley Stadium.
Last time out sparked a revival as the side bounced back to winning ways in emphatic fashion with a clinical 6 try demolition over Francis Cummins’ Vikings.
2017 was a year to remember for Salford, the club achieved its finest regular season finish in almost 40 years, accompanied by a spot in the semi-finals of the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup. This year though, the objective is far more straightforward – to preserve the club’s Super League status.
The transition to a community-based club has proved challenging throughout the year, but with the recent eye-catching acquisition of half-back Jackson Hastings, Watson’s side will be confident of ending a four-game losing streak tomorrow evening.
In this week’s head-to-head we compare highly-rated half-backs Jackson Hastings and Richie Myler against each other, as we highlight the pair’s potential impact on tomorrow’s clash.
Hastings – who signed for the Red Devils two weeks ago on a deal initially until the end of the season – was one of the most exciting talents in Australia’s NRL prior to his release from Manly Sea Eagles and will be hopeful of carrying this form into the final stages of the season, starting with his potential debut tomorrow night.
The 22-year-old is renowned for his ability to unpick an opposition line and is a dependable try scorer and playmaker. If Hastings plays anything like his best during the showdown between the two sides, the Rhinos’ defence will be in for a long night.
Similarly to Hastings, former Red Devil Myler is also a capable playmaker. The 28-year-old boasts almost 10 years Super League experience and is a proven England international, Myler leads the Super League chart for top try assists and acts as the team’s main threat alongside top try-scorer Ash Handley. Salford’s defence will have to be at their best if Myler is to have a quiet evening at the AJ Bell.
Recent arrival Hastings is included in Ian Watson’s 19-man-squad for the first time and is line to make his debut for the club, the 22-year-old replaces fellow half-back Jake Shorrocks. Craig Kopczak misses out through injury and is replaced by Gavin Bennion – who has returned from a loan spell at Betfred Championship side Rochdale Hornets.
???? Ian Watson has named his 19-man squad for Friday's game against Leeds Rhinos.
????️ Club Ticket Office, over the phone and online.
— Salford Red Devils (@SalfordDevils) July 25, 2018
Leeds meanwhile, have initially named an 18-man squad due to an ongoing injury crisis. Despite the shortage in numbers, Jamie Jones-Buchanan has returned to the squad following a knee operation whilst Nathaniel Peteru also returns to the squad.
Salford: Junior Sa’u, Niall Evalds, Robert Lui, Josh Jones, Mark Flanagan, Lama Tasi, Ryan Lannon, Tyrone McCarthy, Ben Nakubuwai, Josh Wood, Derrell Olpherts, Lee Mossop, Jake Bibby, Levy Nzoungou, Daniel Murray, Gavin Bennion, Ed Chamberlain, Greg Burke, Jackson Hastings.
Leeds: Ashton Golding, Tom Briscoe, Liam Sutcliffe, Joel Moon, Richie Myler, Matt Parcell, Brad Singleton, Jamie-Jones-Buchanan, Carl Ablett, Brad Dwyer, Mitch Garbutt, Jimmy Keinhorst, Nathaniel Peteru, Ash Handley, Cameron Smith, Josh Walters, Luke Briscoe, Dom Crosby.
Just six points separate the sides in the Betfred Super League table. Leeds currently occupy 9th position, whilst Salford lie 11th. A Salford Red Devils victory would move the side to within a point of 10th place Hull Kingston Rovers – providing they lose at local rivals Hull FC tomorrow evening – and four points adrift of the Rhinos.
A win for Leeds meanwhile would move reduce the gap between them and Huddersfield to a solitary point, providing the Giants fall to defeat when they welcome Wakefield Trinity to the John Smith’s Stadium tomorrow.