Salford Red Devils fullback Niall Evalds has been selected for the England Knights squad ahead of their two-game series against Papua New Guinea.
Evalds finished the year as Salford Red Devils’ top try-scorer for the second consecutive season racking up an impressive 13 tries.
England Knights Head Coach Paul Anderson has called the 25-year-old fullback up in place of Wigan – and former Salford loanee – Oliver Gildart who has moved into the England side for the Autumn internationals against France and New Zealand.
Gildart moves into the England squad in place of an injured Sam Burgess while Warrington’s Tom Lineham has moved into the England Knights squad as a replacement for Castleford’s Greg Minikin who has withdrawn through injury.
Luke Gale has also pulled out of the England squad with a knee injury and a replacement will be named early next week before the one-off Test against France at Leigh Sports Village.
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Salford Red Devils back-rower Ben Murdoch-Masila has been named in the 2017 Super League Dream Team.
The Tongan forward has crossed for 14 Super League tries this season and was the form forward in the league in a run which saw Salford win 12 out of 13 games on the run in all competitions.
Murdoch-Masila becomes the first Red Devil to appear in the Super League Dream Team since David Hodgson back in 2006.
Murdoch-Masila said: “It was a massive surprise for me to be selected but I am delighted with being named in the team.
“There’s some really good players been named in this side and to be amongst them means a lot to me.
“We’ve had a real good season this year particularly if you look back to where we were at last season. Of course, we’d have liked to have kicked on and pushed a little more in the Super 8s but we’re heading in the right direction.
“I’ve just done my bit for the side throughout the season and scored a few tries. Now, I’m looking forward to a bit off and spending some time with my family who have been supportive of me since I first arrived at Salford.”
Seven Super League clubs are represented in this year’s team with League Leaders’ Shield winners Castleford Tigers (6) dominating the selection along with Hull FC (2), Huddersfield Giants (1), St Helens (1), Leeds Rhinos (1), Salford Red Devils (1) and Wigan Warriors (1).
The 2017 Dream Team features eight players making their debut, including Huddersfield Giants’ Sebastine Ikahihifo, St Helens’ centre Mark Percival and Leeds Rhinos hooker Matt Parcell, who makes his debut in his first year in Super League.
Wigan Warriors and England Captain Sean O’Loughlin makes his sixth Dream Team appearance – his last appearance was in 2014.
All three players shortlisted for the prestigious Steve Prescott Man of Steel award: Albert Kelly, Zak Hardaker and Luke Gale are included.
Joining Hardaker and Gale from Castleford Tigers, who have the most representatives in the Dream Team, are centre Michael Shenton and debutants Greg Eden, Grant Millington and Mike McMeeken.
Ladbrokes Challenge Cup winners Hull FC have two representatives in the Dream Team – Albert Kelly, who features for the first time and Mahe Fonua, who appears for the second consecutive year. The Betfred Super League Dream Team is selected by a panel of the sport’s broadcasters and journalists in a secret ballot and represents the form team of the Betfred Super League season.
The 2017 Betfred Super League Dream Team is as follows:
- Zak Hardaker (Castleford Tigers) Dream Team appearances: 3 (2014, 2015, 2017)
- Greg Eden (Castleford Tigers) Dream Team appearances: 1 (2017)
- Michael Shenton (Castleford Tigers) Dream Team appearances: 3 (2014, 2015, 2017)
- Mark Percival (St Helens) Dream Team appearances: 1 (2017)
- Mahe Fonua (Hull FC) Dream Team appearances: 2 (2016, 2017)
- Albert Kelly (Hull FC) Dream Team appearances: 1 (2017)
- Luke Gale (Castleford Tigers) Dream Team appearances: 3 (2015, 2016, 2017)
- Grant Millington (Castleford Tigers) Dream Team appearances: 1 (2017)
- Matt Parcell (Leeds Rhinos) Dream Team appearances: 1 (2017)
- Sebastine Ikahihifo (Huddersfield Giants) Dream Team appearances: 1 (2017)
- Ben Murdoch-Masila (Salford Red Devils) Dream Team appearances: 1 (2017)
- Mike McMeeken (Castleford Tigers) Dream Team appearances: 1 (2017)
- Sean O’Loughlin (Wigan Warriors) Dream Team appearances: 6 (2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2017)
The Red Devils fell to their sixth straight defeat at the hands of league leaders Castleford Tigers in their first home game for over a month.
Ian Watson’s side now sit 6th in the Super League Super 8s trailing Wakefield, who currently sit in 4th, by two points. As for Castleford, they have all but confirmed their status as league leaders unless a huge mathematical swing in the upcoming weeks should happen.
Watson had to make a last-minute change to his side as Tyrone McCarthy pulled out with a calf injury in the warm-up and was replaced by Craig Kopczak.
Castleford took the lead early on as some clever play from acting half-back Paul McShane allowed Zak Hardaker to dive over the line from close-range. Luke Gale converted.
But, Salford looked to have hit back through Manu Vatuvei however video referee Ben Thaler disallowed the try after Ryan Lannon was adjudged to have obstructed the Castleford defence in the build-up.
The Red Devils had a lot of pressure on Castleford’s line but couldn’t make it prove dividend and the Tigers soon made Salford pay. Jy Hitchcox’s jinking run from hooker caught the Red Devils off guard and Hardaker was in support to slice through the Salford defence and race 30 metres to extend the visitors lead. Luke Gale converted.
Again, Salford applied pressure to Castleford’s line in the closing stages of the first half but couldn’t manage to get over the line but they did get on the scoreboard two minutes into the second half.
An accurate low kick from Todd Carney got in-behind the Tigers defence and home debutant Manu Vatuvei was on hand to plant the ball down. Unfortunately, Carney couldn’t add the extras.
Ian Watson’s side were on top in the opening 20 minutes of the second half with both Kris Brining and Lannon being held-up over the line before Lannon was denied again by video referee Thaler.
Castleford again made Salford pay when they crossed on the 60th minute mark. McShane, who was instrumental in the Tigers first try, again jumped from acting half-back and jinked his way over from close-range.
And, the Tigers sealed the victory a few minutes later through Hitchcox. Hardaker made an initial break before Robert Lui looked to have tackled Gale however the half-back managed to get the ball back to Hardaker who threw a looping pass to the Australian winger who went over in the corner.
Salford continued to look for another try but it just wasn’t to be for the Red Devils and a late Gale drop-goal finished the scoring for the evening.
Red Devils: Evalds, Johnson, Jones, Bibby, Vatuvei; Lui, Carney; Walne, Tomkins, Hauraki, Murdoch-Masila, Lannon, Kopczak.
Interchanges: Griffin, Brining, Krasniqi, Murray.
Castleford: Hardaker, Monaghan, Webster, Minikin, Hitchcox; Roberts, Gale; Millington, McShane, Sene-Lafao, Holmes, McMeeken, Massey.
Interchanges: Milner, Springer, Cook, Foster.
Referee: Chris Kendall. Video referee: Ben Thaler.
The Red Devils Super 8s home opener against league leaders Castleford Tigers will see the two most free-scoring teams in the Super League this season go head-to-head.
Daryl Powell’s side currently top the try-scoring charts with a huge 134 tries while Salford have crossed for 104 tries – level 2nd with Wigan Warriors.
Castleford wingers Greg Eden and Greg Minikin have scored 50 of the sides 134 tries in the league this season with half-back Luke Gale also being in double figures.
The Red Devils tries have been distributed a little more evenly with second-rower Ben Murdoch-Masila, who grabbed two the last time Salford hosted Castleford, the club’s top try-scorer this season with 13.
Full-back Niall Evalds took his tally up to 12 for the season with his spectacular effort at Hull FC last Friday while Greg Johnson, Junior Sa’u and Kris Welham are all one try away from hitting double figures for the season.
Welham, who has also enjoyed spells with Hull KR and Bradford, is still in search of his 100th career try. The 30-year-old centre notched a try on the Red Devils visit to the Mend-A-Hose Jungle this season and will be looking to cross again to climb into treble figures.
While Gale is central to everything Castleford produce going forward he trails teammate Michael Shenton in terms of try assists. The England half-back has racked up 18 try assists however Shenton has set-up 19 tries in the Super League this season.
However, both men are surpassed by Salford half-back Robert Lui who has notched up an impressive 21 Super League try assists and trails only George Williams, who has 25, overall.
The Red Devils have won three of the last five meetings between the sides in all competitions however Castleford do have the edge in Super League winning 25 of the 36 meetings since 1996.
Tickets are still available for Friday night’s game against Castleford over the phone, at the club’s ticket office or online via the club’s website. Supporters are reminded that season tickets are valid for all Super 8s home games.
Ahead of this Friday’s Super 8s home opener against runaway league leaders Castleford Tigers we look at their previous visit to the AJ Bell Stadium this season.
The Tigers made a dominant start to the 2017 Super League season winning all their four opening games with victories over Leigh, Warrington, Leeds and Widnes.
As for Salford, it had been a mixed bag of results in the opening weeks of the season. Victories over Huddersfield and Warrington were between narrow losses against Wigan, Leeds and Wakefield.
However, the Red Devils managed to upset the odds by coming from behind to pull off a memorable victory which has fuelled Salford’s most successful season in recent memory.
Luke Gale put the visitors ahead as he capitalised on a spilt kick to cross under the sticks. But, Red Devils powerhouse Ben Murdoch-Masila forced his way but a missed conversion meant the Tigers led going into the break.
Another error from Ian Watson’s side allowed Greg Minikin to scoop up the ball and score but again Murdoch-Masila came to the aid of the Red Devils bundling over the Castleford line and taking four Tigers defenders with him. Gareth O’Brien’s conversion closed the deficit to two points.
O’Brien was on target again a few minutes later as he successfully converted a penalty from in front of the posts to level the scores.
And, in similar fashion to 2016’s Million Pound Game, O’Brien would be the hero as he slotted a drop-goal in closing stages to seal a 13-12 victory for the Red Devils.
The victory over Castleford would begin a five-game winning streak for the Red Devils which saw them climb the Super League table.
Ian Watson will be hoping for a similar result on Friday night that will again lead to Salford hitting form at this crucial stage of the season.
Salford team that day: O’Brien, J. Carney, Sa’u, Welham, Johnson; Lui, Dobson; Mossop, Tomkins, A. Walne, Griffin, Murdoch-Masila, Flanagan. Subs: Kopczak, Krasniqi, Brining, T.Carney.
Fans can still buy tickets for Friday’s game against Castleford over the phone, by visiting the club’s ticket office or online via the club’s website. Supporters are reminded that season tickets are valid for all Super 8s home games.