Tag: Ken Sio

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: 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: SALFORD V CATALANS

 

Returning to the A J Bell for only their fourth home fixture of the season, the Salford Red Devils will undoubtedly have been hoping for a turnaround in fortunes after three successive away fixtures in which they had come out second best, when they took on the Catalans Dragons, in Easter Monday’s encounter.

Unfortunately, on the day, this did not turn out to be the case, and the visiting Frenchmen returned home to Perpignan with the two league points to promote further their Super League title aspirations.

That seemed far from likely in the opening stages however, as Salford opened the game with aplomb, dominating possession and turning their most advantageous field position into points, with the first of their tries coming in the fourth minute from Ryan Brierley’s kick over the line, to which Deon Cross won the race to ground.

Indeed, the visitors had really looked at sixes and sevens during that opening onslaught, conceding three set-restarts and a penalty, but once the Red Devils had put in their end-of-set kick after the restart, the visitors began to enjoy a share of possession, and chalk up scores of their own.

What will have disappointed the home fans particularly was the way in which Salford contributed to their own downfall, with unforced individual errors, a number of which led directly, or indirectly, to the Dragons’ six tries, all of which were converted.

Two back-to-back penalties, both towards the end of sets-of-six, set up the visitors for their first, on nine minutes, and then, nine minutes later, they forced a goal-line drop-out, which was followed by their being awarded two further penalties, one of which came on the last tackle of their set.  That was more than enough possession for them to go over again and double their score.

The error, which will have caused most annoyance in the Salford ranks, however, was from a penalty awarded to the Dragons at a scrum for the Reds failing to have secured the ball in readiness to feed it in. The shot-clock sounded, while they were still recovering it, and, from the ensuing penalty, Catalans rang up their third try to bring a 6-18 half-time score.

Twelve points is by no means a match-winning lead and there must have still been hopes of a resurgent home side overturning this, particularly against an opposition depleted by a sin-binning, immediately before the interval.  Far from that, however, it was the twelve-man French side which opened the scoring, following a Salford handling error close to their own line, with the ball firting out into the grateful hands of Whitley with the line at his mercy.

It was not until the sixty-fifth minute that Salford were able to add to their opening score, with their second coming after Marc Sneyd had instigated it with one of his favourite chip and chases, which so used to delight spectators of our Youth team, back in the late noughties.  Brierley regathered before putting in a kick ahead of his own for Sio to add to his growing number of tries for the season.

This, however, was merely sandwiched between two further tries by the visitors, the final one of which came as a result of yet another unforced error, this time an incorrect play-the-ball, which gave the Dragons possession to notch one more.

Standing up to a side as big and physical as the French side is, is a considerable task, particularly with the spate of injuries currently plaguing the Red Devils.  The effort they put in to doing this was tremendous, and the go forward provided by Sam Luckley was significant, as was that of the returning Kallum Watkins, in the unaccustomed role of second row following his introduction off the bench shortly before half time.  With the return eventually of others, that effort will hopefully be turned into victories.

RED DEVILS IN DEPTH: WARRINGTON V SALFORD

The travelling Salford Faithful who had made the trip to support their favourites at the Halliwell-Jones Stadium, in the Rivals Round against Warrington Wolves, must have left the ground wondering what has gone wrong with the Reds’ defence over the past couple of games, for it was only three weeks ago that they had limited Wigan to three tries only, despite the Warriors having a significant proportion of possession and field position.  One week earlier, Leeds had been kept try-less in the second half allowing the Red Devils to capitalise with a 26-12 home victory.

Since then, however, a total of eleven tries has been leaked, with some tackling being of quite questionable quality.  Both Wakefield and Warrington exploited Salford’s right edge defensive frailty, with the Wolves scoring four of their five tries on their left wing through King (3) and Ashton (2).

It had been the Red Devils’ attack which had been a matter of concern until recently, but, having equalled Wakefield’s scoring tally last week, they notched another three against this week’s hosts, on Thursday evening, from Ken Sio who latched onto Brierley’s kick into his corner on the stroke of half-time, Andy Ackers who scooted over from a play-the-ball close to the Wolves’ line, and Ryan Brierley who brought the curtain down on the game with a last gasp score.

Good as those tries were, there were a number of other occasions when the Reds came close to additional scores, particularly in the second half, during which the visitors built several periods of pressure.  There were a number of occasions when potential tries failed to satisfy the referee sufficiently for him to award them.

Infuriatingly, the first of these led to a twelve-point whammy, with the home side utilising the subsequent seven-tackle restart, by scoring from that final, extra play-the-ball.  Sneyd’s kick into the in-goal area, had been initially adjudged to have been grounded by a Warrington defender which would have then led to a goal-line drop-out, but the verdict of the in-goal judge was that Brierley had first fumbled the ball over the line, and so a twenty-metre restart was determined.

Shortly afterwards, Burgess was tackled into touch before he could ground the ball, then Sio was tackled with the ball almost in touching distance of the line, and finally a Warrington defender managed to get himself between the ball and the ground, as he tackled Taylor over the line.  All were evidence of the Reds’ vastly improved attacking play, but thwarted, on the night, by extremely determined Warrington defending, the like of which Salford would have benefited from copying.

A significant total of five goal-line drop-outs was further evidence of the extent to which the Red Devils tested their hosts’ goal-line defence, with the majority of these coming as a result of a home defender having to make the ball dead, either by grounding it in-goal, or being tackled over the dead-ball line.

It is widely regarded that the acquisition of eighteen points should be a match-winning score.  That this proved to be far from the case, on Thursday, was purely down to the six tries scored by Warrington, who were allowed to play the game at whatever pace suited them at the time.  One particular set-of-six, towards the end of the first half, saw them up and playing the ball at exceptional speeds and consequently making remarkable progress up the field, in hardly any time at all.

It is up to the defending side to control this, by various options which do not incur the wrath of the referee.  That, with a mere thirty seconds left on the clock, the penalty count was an incredible eight to two, in favour of the Wolves, would seem to indicate a lack of success in this area.  Salford’s tally was actually doubled, in the dying moments, by some gamesmanship from the home side which led to their reduction to twelve players, and Brierley’s last-ditch score.

There have been a number of games now which have produced a mixed bag of performances, but it is producing balanced consistency throughout the full eighty minutes, which will return them to return to winning ways.  An Easter Monday home game against the Catalans Dragons would be the ideal place to start.

RED DEVILS IN DEPTH: WAKEFIELD V SALFORD

For sheer entertainment value, this Round Seven game had everything anyone could have wished for, with classy, expansive, skilful handling, rampaging hit-ups, tricky defence-splitting running, end-to-end movement, and tries aplenty, all in one afternoon’s worth of Super League.

At first glance, it might appear to have been a game of two halves, with first Trinity, and then the visiting Salford side having total ascendency, in each of the forty-minute periods.  That assumption is certainly supported by the scoreboard, with Wakefield rattling up a 24-4 interval lead, and the Reds winning the second stanza by twenty points to six.

There was more to it than that, however, with Salford, in particular, making some notable impact when Wakefield held the whip hand.  For example, after the home side had taken an eighth-minute, six-point lead, it took the Red Devils a matter of only two minutes’ play,  before they eroded into it, with the first of Rhys Willams’s tries, after deft hands from the ever-impressive, Tim Lafae, and it was only thanks to their successful conversion that Wakefield continued to hold onto the lead.

Indeed, when you look at the number of tries rather than points accrued, it was completely even, with five each, four of which, for both teams, came in just one half.  Unfortunately, with both Salford wingers scoring a brace each, the majority of their scores were out wide, making it far more difficult for kicker, Marc Sneyd, to acquit himself as accurately as he probably would have liked, and, in the end, it was the three missed attempts from the most difficult, which were responsible for the final six-point difference between the sides.

Even after Trinity had opened up a 12-4 lead after fifteen minutes, Salford ripped through their defence, on twenty-six minutes, when Elijah Taylor made a clean break down the left, but was unable to take advantage of his teammates’ support as a Wakefield defender cleverly put himself between them, and the difficult inside pass went adrift.

If there were a period in which Trinity were totally dominant, it was in the final ten minutes of the half, when they doubled their number of points on the board.  It started with a poor Salford chase after a kick into their opponents’ in-goal area, which enabled Wakefield to build up a head of steam, and they promptly went a hundred metres down the field, in only five tackles, to score by the posts.  Winger, Tom Johnstone, then rounded off the half with one of his typical individual tries.

Much as they contributed to the game on attack, unusually, there must have been questions about the visitors’ defence, at times during the half, to be facing a twenty-point deficit.  There had been, nevertheless, a period mid-half, when they had withstood two back-to-back goal-line drop-outs, followed by two back-to-back penalties, all within close proximity to their own line.

Whatever the nature of the discussion during half time, Salford were a team transformed, from the start of the second half.  The immediate pressure they applied led to the initial rewards of two back-to-back goal-line drop-outs, of their own capped with a penalty, and they all added to the Red Devils’ total dominance, which culminated in Deon Cross’s converted try, on forty-seven minutes.

Momentum had swung in Salford’s favour, and they were now in the ascendency, so much so that it took merely seven minutes for the next score, from Ken Sio, such was the new-found confidence they were exuding.  They even went close to adding two further tries, only to be held up, over the line, on both occasions.

Wakefield, on the other hand. were now  confined to almost constant goal-line defence, and it was close to mid-point in the half before they launched an attack on the Salford line.

One aspect of play which the home side did command, however, was the ability to win most of the contested high kicks, though Rhys Williams will have gained considerable satisfaction from plucking the ball from one, short, goal-line drop-out, out of the air, and away from the waiting hands of an opponent to cross, unchallenged, for his second try.

Ken Sio, on the other flank, mirrored his colleague’s scoring rate, though, by the time he had the chance to complete his tally, thirty seconds from time, the Wakefield lead had increased to twelve points, and the victory was theirs.

There was much of which the Red Devils should be proud, however.  The notable improvement in their attacking play was most encouraging, as well as entertaining, and they certainly showed that they do have the clinical skills to turn their chances into points.  With a blank weekend coming up, there is the opportunity to hone these skills further, but also to rediscover their defensive strategy which has done so much to help them, in previous games.

RED DEVILS IN DEPTH: SALFORD V LEEDS

Two minutes of  talent, skill, and sheer opportunism, from two of Salford’s stand out players provided the game-changing moment, in last Friday’s home encounter with the Leeds Rhinos, when the Red Devils went from being under pressure to taking the lead, and, with it, dominance and control, for the remaining ten minutes of the game.

It started with the first of the twosome, Joe Burgess, collecting an overly weighted Leeds kick into the Salford in-goal area, racing to the twenty-metre line to take the tap restart, and then scything through the Rhinos’ disjointed defence, shrugging off attempted tackles, eventually, to be pulled down close to Leeds’s twenty.

That run immediately put Salford on the front foot, as the whole team had to race up for the play-the-ball, which then passed through the hands of the still advancing attack into the arms of Dion Cross.

Showing the talent of an absolutely top-class centre, he straightened up as if to go for the score himself, but then, having drawn the defence, sent out the sweetest of passes straight into the arms of Chris Atkin to romp in at the corner.  It was a piece of skill reminiscent of our own former international centre, Martin Gleeson.

Marc Sneyd’s goal from the touchline was all that was needed to put the Red Devils into the driving seat, but the actual match winning kick had come much earlier, at the end of the first half.  An easy penalty, on the sin-binning of Brodie Thompson, from in front of the posts with only half a minute to go, was slotted over.

That goal, unremarkable as it might have seemed at the time, not only kept Salford in touch with the Rhinos for the first thirty minutes of the second half, it also ensured that Atkin’s converted try put them two points in front and gave them the same cushioning enjoyed by Hull KR, the previous week.  It, furthermore, gave them a two-score advantage, shortly afterwards, when skipper, Elijah Taylor, cut through to chalk up an eight point lead, which in turn opened the way for Ryan Brierley’s final score under the posts, after he had supported King Vuniyayawa’s brilliantly angled run.

Over the years, victories over Leeds have been very few and far between, making them all the better to savour when one does eventually come along.   This one might not have been a classic, but, if anything, the win was especially important to both sides, with them each coming off the back of a run of defeats.

The first half was as much one of missed opportunities, as chances taken, with Leeds having an Ash Handley, opening score disallowed for a double movement, after five minutes.  Joe Burgess had similar misfortune when he was slid into touch before crossing in the corner, shortly after the Rhinos had eventually opened the scoring.

In fact, Burgess’s runs down his left wing led to two tries, one in each half, for although denied this try for himself, he had put Salford on the attack, and they took advantage of the position for Ken Sio to latch onto Brierley’s kick into the corner, to level the score at six points each, after Sneyd’s first conversion.

With a score differential of only two points, at the resumption, the majority of the second half was an arm-wrestle, though with far too many errors to make it totally enthralling.  Leeds may have come out on top in the set-restarts because they gave theirs away on the first tackle of the set, whereas Salford’s were ususally well into the set, and occasionally on the very last tackle.

It was the sin-binning of two players, Thompson being replaced there by Zane Tetevano mid-way though the half, which cost them dear, leaving them with only twelve men for a total of twenty minutes.   The Reds, on the other hand kept their slate clean and the full team on duty, throughout the eighty minutes.

Now, with a visit to Wigan in the Challenge Cup, next week, Salford can only benefit from the slaying of one bogey side, to help with a repeat performance on Friday at the home of anoth

RED DEVILS IN DEPTH: SALFORD V HULL KR

A markedly improved second half performance brought the Salford Red Devils close, but not quite close enough, to stealing the game from the resurgent Robins, who had dominated the first forty minutes.

A half-time analysis of the situation, and their performance to that point, though, was sufficient to galvanise the team together for an onslaught on their eighteen points deficit, which almost came off in paying the highest of dividends.

As has been said before, eighteen points is not an insurmountable lead, particularly with a full forty minutes in which to do so.  Starting the half, as they were doing, however, with only twelve players on the field – Ryan Lannon having been sin-binned for the second successive week just before half – was not the ideal way.

Nevertheless, the Red Devils made light of the handicap, after only two minutes, with slick passing from a scrum fifteen metres out from the Hull line, putting Ken Sio in at the corner.  With Sneyd’s conversion from out wide, they were on their way, and only a couple of scores behind.

A much more energised competitive lead was now being given by the pack who were suddenly making great inroads, and good metres, into the visitors’ defence.  The whole approach to their attack consequently appeared much more confident and assured, and out of the blue the Robins found themselves on the back foot.

When, eventually on fifty-five minutes, Shane Wright won the race to touch down Sneyd’s kick-in-goal it came as little surprise.  What was more of a surprise was that the angle proved somewhat awkward for Sneyd’s conversion attempt, and the deficit remained at two scores.

Sneyd certainly made up for the miss, five minutes later, with an interception from within his own twenty metre area, from which he set up Joe Burgess with a clear run to the line, and there was no mistake this time with the extra two points.

The problem was that Salford were still in arears.  It might have been by only two points, but those two points gave Hull the little bit of cushioning they needed to be able to slow the game down, steady themselves, and build pressure of their own, whilst the Reds, on the other hand, were still having to play ‘catch-up’ football.

The hammer blow, though, came ten minutes from the end, when full back, Ryan Brierley, repeated an error he had made towards the end of the first half, misjudging and then failing to take, a high kick from Jordan Abdul, which, on both occasions led to tries from the irrepressible Mikey Lewis.  The eight-point deficit now possibly appeared larger than it was, because the Yorkshiremen then controlled the game so well, and it was they who added further to their score with a late penalty goal.

The damage though, had been done in the first half, when the Red Devils were below par in their overall performance.  Hull certainly showed their intent and determination from the outset, while Salford were slow out of the trap, and made too many handling errors on attack, which promptly gifted the visitors additional possession and field position.

Even the defence which had been so commendable the week before, was well below the standard they had shown then, as was exemplified by the gap left for Storton to slip through for Hull’s second try.

Whether all of this was caused by the significant amount of energy they had had to expend at Huddersfield, and followed by a short turnaround, or attributable to some other reason, is unknown, but it was encouraging to witness the considerable upturn in their performance in that first thirty minutes of the second half, the quality of which will undoubtedly be beneficial in this coming Friday’s fixture with Leeds Rhinos.

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.

 

RED DEVILS IN DEPTH: CASTLEFORD V SALFORD

Getting off to a good start in anything, is often the best thing anyone could hope for, so, for Salford Red Devil’s to have travelled into Yorkshire, in the opening round of the season, and to have come away from the Mend-a-Hose Jungle with the points, is as much as anyone could have wished for, and possibly more than many might have expected. That, nevertheless, is exactly what they did, and most deservedly so.

A ten point winning margin, away at Castleford, is a notable achievement in itself, and whilst many people would have been hoping for a win, getting one so comfortably was possibly far from their expectations.  Closer scrutiny of the scoreboard reveals some interesting facts.

With three tries apiece, it was clearly the accuracy of Marc Sneyd’s goal-kicking, which eventually separated the two sides, and he certainly was a popular figure at the end, not just for that aspect of his play, but for his all round performance and impact throughout the game. 

There will be many a team during the coming season, who will lose matches through missing kicks at goal, but in Sneyd we have someone who will invariably put the points on the board, just when we need them most.  His seven successes on Friday will have surely put most teams on guard against the folly of giving him those opportunities, in the way the Tigers did in the second half.

That, however, is the icing on the cake.  Before kicks at goal could ever have been considered, there were key elements which needed to come right, and no-one should forget that purple patch, just before half time, when the Reds went from 10-8 down, to take a 10-20 interval lead.  

Back-to-back tries are hard enough for a team to take, even when the second score comes towards, or, at the end, of the resuming set.  When it comes straight from the kick-off, however, it must feel quite demoralising.  

King Vuniyayawa it was, who set the ball rolling, when one of Castleford’s indiscretions set the Red Devils up in a good attacking position, and his appearance, seemingly from nowhere on the blindside, the angle of his run, allied with his force and strength, all combined to get him over the line.  

An incredible break then, direct from the kick off, by Joe Burgess, saw him slice right through the home side’s defence, and a ninety metre attacking move, resembling the flair which that left edge had shown against Swinton in the first pre-season friendly, ended with Dion Cross grounding the ball near the corner.

Those twelve points, amassed in only a couple of minutes, literally turned the game on its head, and paved the way for Salford to show us all, how they could manage a game throughout second half, by respecting possession, securing good field position thanks in part to Sneyd’s kicks downfield, and taking any chances of scoring, which, apart from James Greenwood’s disallowed effort, turned out not to be tries.

This was all a far cry, however, from how things had looked in the opening stages of the game, when for a full ten minutes, after an early penalty goal,  momentum swung well and truly to the Tigers.  They dominated possession and camped on the Salford line, asking question after question, of the visitors’ defence.  

That was when the Red Devils really had to muscle up and repulse each of those assaults, which they did, magnificently, and it was in the hard graft demanded of them, during that period, that the foundations for their win were well and truly laid.

It turned out to be a full eighteen minutes before George Griffin got his side on the scoreboard, and within four minutes Ken Sio had eradicated it with a typical finish of his own, in the right-hand corner.  

As possession became more evenly shared, the inevitable arm wrestle followed, broken eventually by Derrell Olpherts’s first try in the left corner.  That, though, simply served to inspire the Reds to even greater things, as half time was approaching fast, and with it, was coming the opportunity for them to take control.

A good start can have more far-reaching effects, however. It is the catalyst for generating momentum, forging links and understanding between players, and building confidence.  With their first home game, against Toulouse, coming up next, those benefits could all be strengthened even further.