Tag: Rhys Williams

SALFORD RED DEVILS SET NEW CLUB RECORD FOR WORLD CUP REPRESENTATIVES

Salford Red Devils have set a new club record for World Cup representatives, with TEN players set to compete in the showpiece home tournament this autumn.

Andy Ackers, Marc Sneyd and Kallum Watkins will be donning the England shirt. Sneyd and Ackers will have the honour of making their Three Lions debuts, while Watkins continues to be a consistent figure in the team after his long-term injury.

Ryan Brierley – who has already made seven appearances for the Scottish National Team – has been rewarded for an excellent club season with a call-up to the Scotland squad. As has Sam Luckley, who recently joined Hull KR, but was an important part of Paul Rowley’s side last season.

Record appearance-maker Rhys Williams will continue to set the pace at international level with Wales, as the Dragon continues his regular spot in the Welsh squad.

Morgan Escaré made his France debut in 2013 and has since gone on to make 12 further appearances – scoring seven tries. He will get the opportunity to add to that this November, after making the 24-man squad ahead of their World Cup endeavours.

King Vuniyayawa has been a regular in Rowley’s forward pack this season and his excellent form has earned him a spot in Fiji’s squad.

Finally, Ken Sio and Tim Lafai – two members of the 2022 Dream Team – joined up with the Samoan squad ahead of their second Group Stage game against Greece.

After seeing the club record increase to ten, director of rugby and operations, Ian Blease said: “Seeing Ken and Tim join-up with the Samoan squad is a proud moment for the whole club. Both players were instrumental to our success in 2022 and totally deserve this recognition.

“I’m sure playing on the World Cup stage is something they’ve always dreamt about, so to see them have that opportunity will be a special occasion.

“Taking the Club record up even further to nine has just emphasised how much progress has been made on and off the field last season. It’s an incredible achievement for everyone involved and we wish everyone good luck in the rest of the tournament!”

Picture by Will Palmer/SWpix.com – 15/10/2022 – Rugby League – Rugby League World Cup – England v Samoa – St. James’ Park, Newcastle, England – Kallum Watkins of England breaks through to score against Samoa

The previous record – back in 2000 – saw Salford have seven representatives at the World Cup, with Paul Highton, Chris Morley, Kris Tassell, Mark Johnson, Martin Crompton, Paul Southern and Mike Wainwright all earning call-ups to their respective nations.

Salford did have eight players play in the 1975 World Championship Series – which is considered the Rugby League World Cup – however, the format of this tournament differed from the usual format. The matches were played over an eight-month period in five countries, no squads were announced and players were selected on a match-by-match basis.

Earlier this month, reacting to such an outstanding achievement, Head Coach Paul Rowley said: “To have a record number of internationals from our 2022 squad is a fantastic achievement and recognition for the tremendous efforts from the players this year.

“It’s a privilege and honour to be a part of the Salford 2022 team and to see the players rewarded with international recognition. To create a little piece of Salford history is something that the whole working group can be very proud of.”

RED DEVILS IN DEPTH:  SALFORD V WARRINGTON

After two back-to-back games in one weekend, Red Devils’ Head Coach, Paul Rowley, rewarded the team, which had, most remarkably, won both, and doing so straight after an energy-sapping trip to Catalans, by giving them what one would suspect they desired most of all, a well-earned rest.  The consequence of this was that the team given the task of facing the Wolves, at the weekend, was a rather makeshift group.

With six players from the Reserves making their debuts, and other more experienced players selected in most unfamiliar positions, expectations, among fans, of a victory were not high, and those expectations proved correct.  What, however, was not correct was the fear that the side might get swept aside by an opposition keen to make the most of what they regarded as a winnable match.

Far from that, although struggling in the early stages to adapt to new positions, the speed of the game, and one another, they grew into it extremely well, and the longer it went on the more they forced the visitors into handling errors, which aided their own cause and increased their confidence considerably.

Indeed, it was the home side which produced the first of a number of scoring opportunities, in the second minute when right winger, Myles-Dalton Harrop, was unable to take advantage of an extremely awkwardly bouncing ball from an end-of-set kick to his corner.

With nothing to show for this Warrington took the opportunity to open the scoring, two minutes later, when they forced an overlap on their left flank to score in the corner.  They then succeeded in doubling their score to eight points, on twelve minutes, with another try wide out to the touchline.

Harvey Livett’s superb kick-off found open ground and bounced into touch, thereby securing the Red Devils unexpected possession in ideal territory, and from the ensuing attack James Greenwood forced his way over and twisted round to ground the ball to the referee’s satisfaction.  Stand-in goal kicker, Livett, proved to be a more than adequate replacement, landing all three of his attempts, some from the most difficult positions.

The next fifteen minutes saw the Wolves mount a succession of attacks which had their hosts at full stretch and pinned down in their own twenty metre area, staving off each attempt to increase the winning margin.  In fact, it was the 32nd minute before the Wolves eventually managed to cross the line between the posts and take the score to 6-14.

Three minutes later, an impromptu football match, started by Warrington hacking on a loose ball and then less successfully continuing to try to control it with further kicks, was won by Rhys Williams who secured possession and returned play back to the Wolves end of the field.  A goal-line drop-out was forced, and Salford raced through for what looked like a simple try.  Too clean and simple for referee, Ben Thaler, however, who had spotted an obstruction in the build-up.

It was, nevertheless, the Reds who finished the stronger, adding to their points tally with a Livett penalty-goal in the 39th minute, to bring the half-time score to a most respectable, 8-14.

The second half started with yet another spell, this time of eight minutes, of the Salford players thwarting periods of Warrington attack, until the visitors got onto the end of a low kick into the in-goal area for a converted try.

The highlight for Salford of this second forty came on 59 mins, when Myles-Dalton Harrop was put in the clear, on his wing, and he romped over to gain some compensation for his earlier unrewarded attempt, and, despite the difficult angle, Livett had no problem in slotting over the extras.

Although they failed to trouble the scoreboard operator thereafter, they certainly did cause problems for the Wolves’ attack, limiting them to only two further converted tries, during the period in which more experienced sides usually rachet up a quite overwhelming score, in such seemingly uneven contests.

Even the final score went contrary to the context surrounding it.  Having denied the visitors a score yet again, on the 79th minute, this time by preventing the prospective scorer from grounding the ball over the line, the Reds suffered the cruel twist of fate of having a well-intended pass to the right flank intercepted, leading to a winning margin, which failed to reflect the true balance of the game.

It was, nevertheless, a great experience for all of the players making their debuts, and credit must also go to the more experienced members of the side, who similarly rose to the occasion to provide direction and support for the newcomers, thus making it a truly, all-round team effort.

RED DEVILS IN DEPTH:  SALFORD V HULL

It was not quite the game we had been expecting.  Looking over the fixture list a few weeks ago, games against St Helens, Catalans, and Huddersfield loomed large on the horizon, but with Hull FC seemingly in free fall, at the time, this appeared to be one game we could possibly look forward to winning with rather more ease, particularly with it being a home fixture, and the rampant form that the Red Devils had shown in their most recent outings

In the event, however, this all proved to be a far cry from the game which ensued, with the visitors arriving with a rather more representative side than had been on view over recent outing and the benefit of this to their performance became increasingly evident.

Salford, themselves, might have been a shade off their lethal best, on the night, which to a certain extent is most understandable when taking into account the energy sapping travels to and from the south of France last weekend, coupled with the extremely short recovery period in the run-up to last night’s encounter.

Consequently, the scintillating attacks, to which have now become accustomed, were in somewhat short supply, and as the game wore on, the players had to adapt to a rather less flamboyant style in order to get the job done and bring home the two vital league points.

The opening exchanges had not, though, signalled anything different as they tore the Hull defence asunder with a blind-side move, which put Brodie Croft in the clear, but, with support available on either side of him, he attempted to dummy his way past Jake Connor, at fullback.  If he were to have that moment again, Brodie would probably take a different option, but with so many players alongside him, he possibly had too many from which to choose, on the spur of the moment.

Having seemingly been able to snuff out such a clear scoring opportunity did wonders for the motivation of the Humbersiders, and they seemed visibly to grow in confidence, from that point on.  It was, consequently, not until the eleventh minute that Salford notched their first points, which came on the back of sustained pressure, courtesy of a Hull goal-line drop-out.

Kallum Watkins, it was, who followed up his brace of surging runs at Catalans, the week before, when he was put through for another great run, to score close in, with Marc Sneyd converting.  Back-to-back tries have not been uncommon for Salford over recent weeks, but any thoughts of that happening in this game, soon evaporated, when it surprisingly turned out to be the visitors who were next to cross the line, after Salford had conceded a penalty to set them up to attack.

The Reds had a great deal to be thankful for goal-line drop-outs, as one having already led to one try, another such restart saw the ball moved along the line to Tim Lafai, who, in the absence of Joe Burgess, fed Rhys Williams, who made just as much of the opportunity as Burgess, himself, would have done to take the score to 10-6.

Finding that their normal routes to the try-line were being well policed by Hull defenders, the Salford players were required to draw upon every individual skill they had at their disposal, and a superb 40-20, on 26 mins, from Sneyd, laid a platform for the Reds, but sadly without anything coming of it.

Not so Sneyd’s opposite number Gale, who had been causing endless trouble for the Reds, with his end-of-set kicks.  Indeed, Hull’s opening try had come from a kick, and so too did their second, though only with the assistance of an extremely awkward bounce – directly into the hands of Fash – which gave the visitors an eyebrow-raising, 10-12, half time lead.

It was a much more determined home side which emerged for the second half, and the patience they needed to accompany this was certainly tested to the full, at vital times.  Six minutes from the resumption they got their reward, in the form of a try straight from a scrum 25m out, which concluded with Ken Sio crossing in the corner to restore their lead, at 16-12, with Sneyd’s conversion.

Deon Cross’s 57th minute try between the posts went some considerable way to settling nerves, especially when Sneyd added on the extras, and there was an air of expectation that this might be  the portender of several more.  Far from that, however, it was Hull, who next got on the score sheet.

A most unexpected Hull downtown kick into touch – usually used by teams in the lead to wind down the clock – worked magically in their favour, when Salford lost the ball inside their own half, and the Yorkshire side opened up the defence on their left wing to bring them back to within four points, and those nerves began to jangle again.

Not for the players, though.  They remained totally calm, and used their experience from previous matches to soak up the sets, and the remaining seven minutes, with a steadiness which must have disheartened their opponents, until a final Hull error from a kick gave possession back to the Red Devils who celebrated with Ryan Brierley’s try, to wrap up the game.

A tough game it most certainly was, but possibly just the right thing to prepare the players for the challenge which awaits them, on Monday, at Castleford.

RED DEVILS IN DEPTH: HUDDERSFIELD V SALFORD, MAGIC WEEKEND

After two of their most impressive wins of the season, over Wakefield and Warrington, Salford Red Devils travelled to Newcastle for this season’s Magic Weekend Supported by SKY O, to take on Huddersfield with the hope that they would not only be able to avenge their loss in the away game, earlier this season, but also extend their run of victories to three, for the first time this season.

The Red Devils have become well-practised in the art of backing up one win with a second, as has happened on three occasions, Castleford & Toulouse, Leeds & Castleford, and the aforementioned Wakefield & Warrington, but have not, so far, been able to put a run of three or more together.

Unfortunately, that proved to be the case once more, at St James’s Park, with the Giants being the ones to walk tall, at the final whistle.  It was a lack of consistency throughout the encounter, which was to be the Reds’ downfall, with at least one period in which they were totally dominant  the with opposition on the rack, but there were too many occasions where they lost concentration and fell away.

The roasting conditions, out on the pitch, were not helpful to any side, but, as always, were the same for both teams, and with a lighter, more mobile pack, one might have expected that they would have suited Salford rather more than the aptly named Giants.  That, however, did not prove to be the case, and a somewhat hesitant start handed the initiative to the opposition.

The game was barely three minutes old, when a lost ball in a tackle, close to the Giants’ line, gifted them possession, and a towering end-of-set kick caused a little hesitancy in the mind of fullback, Ryan Brierley, with his being beaten to the catch by the oncoming Toby King, who took it on the full to race over between the posts.

In fairness to the Salford players, their response to this setback was admirable as they built up pressure on the Huddersfield line, and were most unfortunate not to score from Marc Sneyd’s kick into the in-goal area, with the ball just bouncing away from Rhys Williams’s hand as it came down to ground it.

A try at that point would have been most beneficial, but, as it was, things just deteriorated further with the Yorkshire side taking advantage of a seven-tackle set to proceed down-field and double their score with a try to the right of the posts.

With Huddersfield’s confidence sky-high by this point, it took some considerable endeavour in the heat, and some lengthy spells defending their line, on the part of the Salford players  to prevent their going even further behind, but it was only a matter of time before the Giants got their third score of the afternoon, from McQueen, in the 26th minute.

At long last the Reds did get some possession in good field position and were able to apply some pressure of their own and show a response, which they did with some seemingly off-the-cuff inter-passing, and switches of direction, until Deon Cross was able to hand-off a wrong-footed defender and open the Reds’ account, on 33 minutes.

Had they been able to retain this twelve-point deficit to half time, the outcome might have been very different, but the last five minutes saw repeated assaults on the Salford line, culminating with the loss of the ball, after only one tackle, affording the opposition one extra chance, with less than a minute remaining, – a chance they did not scorn.

How different things proved to be at the start of the second half, with the Red Devils coming out of the blocks determined to put right things, which had gone awry, earlier.  Secure in the belief that, particularly in those conditions, even an eighteen-point lead could be overturned, they started to build pressure of their own, but it was the individual contribution, and incredible footwork of Brodie Croft, which were to be the undoing of the Giants, in the first fifteen minutes.

Twice, on 47 and 51 minutes, he put himself in space to employ the most bewildering of tricky runs to bring the Reds back into the game.  The first came from a speedy play-the-ball by Sam Luckley, which enabled dummy-half, Andy Ackers, to scoot towards the defensive line, before passing to Croft, who sped through a gap to round Lolohea and score by the posts.

Four minutes later, the same threesome of Ackers, Luckley and Croft combined again, with this time Croft once again breaking the defensive with a slight change of direction, drawing in Lolohea, and then passing inside to the rampaging Luckley who held off all challengers to go in under the posts.  His celebration, on doing so, was such that it drew the attention of one, Alan Shearer, whose subsequent tweeting of the try, and afters, has, to date, brought just under two thousand, eight hundred ‘likes’.

One week earlier, a similar turnaround in momentum was sufficient to bring home the spoils to Salford.  Sadly, on this occasion, there was no repetition of that, with the Giants’ regrouping, playing percentages, and managing the remaining time, well.  Consequently, it was they, and not Salford, who went on to add one final try to make the game safe.

On that previous occasion, the Red Devils had built up an early eight-point lead, which was, subsequently, the winning margin.  This week, they did not have any early points to draw upon, and in that, thereby, lies a lesson which, hopefully, the whole squad will be quick to learn, even more hopefully, in time for next Sunday’s home fixture with Catalans Dragons.

RED DEVILS IN DEPTH: WARRINGTON V SALFORD (2)

An absolutely magnificent fightback, in the final quarter of the game was the hallmark of an exceptionally entertaining, afternoon’s rugby league, when the Red Devils visited the Halliwell-Jones Stadium, to take on the Warrington Wolves.

There will be many, who will have left the game feeling quite disconsolate and disappointed, but they will not be Salford fans, and nor can anyone have anything to complain about, in respect of the entertainment on view.

No, the Salford fans left rejoicing at their side’s incredible reversal of a 24-8 score line, which the Wolves had built up ten minutes into the second half.  That this was, in itself, a reversal of the 0-8 lead into which the Red Devils had scorched during the opening fifteen minutes, simply underlines just how unpredictable, and riveting, this encounter turned out to be.

From the very outset, it was the visitors who turned on the style.  A Marc Sneyd kick, at the end of a seven-tackle set, was collected by left winger Rhys Williams, amid a most static Wolves’ defence, which he exploited to the full by racing into space and crossing for the opening try, on six minutes.

Seven minutes later, a well-directed pass from Ryan Brierley, from dummy-half, saw Deon Cross dart through the defensive line for Salford’s second score.  Although Sneyd was unable to convert either of them, these two tries were to constitute the winning eight-point margin, at the final whistle.

Efforts to improve upon that, however, proved surprisingly fruitless, mainly because the home defence regrouped and determined to snuff out the Salford attack at its source, namely, half back, Brodie Croft, who had been running rampant for the duration, to this point.  Consequently, three or four attacks went unrewarded, and the result was a building frustration within the team, which led, in turn, to a complete shift in momentum.

It was not the sinbinning of Kallum Watkins on thirty-seven minutes, which was responsible for the Warrington comeback; that merely served to illustrate the effect of being a man short, on such a firm, dry pitch, in such a fast, free-flowing game.

It was, in fact, the conceding of a succession of no less than seven penalties, within only a couple of minutes, which invited Warrington to attack, that was the real cause of the problem, most of which were for off-side.  Such an amount of possession, in such good position, is never going to go without presenting subsequent problems, and indeed, on twenty-two minutes, Salford fans were most relieved that a possible Wolves’ try, by the side of the posts, was disallowed.

Indeed, they will have been equally thankful, on the stroke of half-time, when Sitoleki Akauola superbly denied Thewlis another try, by pushing him into touch.  There had been no denying Warrington, on 27 mins, however, when a scoot from Daryl Clark, caught out the Salford line of defence, and he scored close to the posts for the conversion to bring them within two points, 6-8, at half time.

The fact that, at the start of the second-half, Watkins still had by far the majority of his time in the sinbin to sit out, was exploited by the home side to the full, and the Red Devils had a rather challenging spell, until his return, on 48 minutes, by which time Warrington had taken the lead with two converted tries, on 41 and 45 mins, and to which they promptly added a third, on 51.

When, at that point, former Salford favourite, Stefan Ratchford, slotted over his final conversion, the game was hanging in the balance.  Any further score would, undoubtedly, have been extremely difficult for the visitors to overturn, but the sixteen-point lead was by no means a winning margin.

The incredible stamina and resolve which the Salford players showed over the remainder of the game was nothing but outstanding. So many teams in this situation would have gone into their shell, longing for the final whistle.

With a full complement restored, they simply rolled up their sleeves and set to, to get the result.  The swing in momentum started on 55 mins, with some great handling, particularly from Watkins, whose wonderful pass out of a tackle, seemingly to nobody, ended up in the hands of Chris Atkin for him to score and so start the fightback.

Prop forwards are not renowned for their try-scoring feats, and back-to-back tries from props are a considerable rarity.  Jack Ormandroyd, whose stature has recently been growing by the week, and whom we singled out, last week, for his off-the ball work, put the cap on an outstanding performance, yesterday, to cross, most remarkably, on both 70 and 73 mins, for Sneyd-converted tries, the second following a barnstorming run by fellow prop, Tyler Dupree, to put Salford back in front by two points.

It was only fitting that the dominance of the Salford victory should be underlined by a further six pointer, started by the impressive Atkin and finished by fullback, Ryan Brierley, which gave them the cushioning to be able to soak up Warrington’s final attacking flurries, in the last three minutes with relative ease.

Winning at a top club, like Warrington, is most commendable.  To end up having to win the game twice, as they did, is a truly magnificent achievement, and the players deserve all the plaudits that the fans, and their coaches, bestowed on them.  With Magic Weekend supported by Sky Zero, now only seven days away, what better place to show the whole nation, and rugby league in particular, just what this attacking force of Salford Red Devils has become.

Rhys Williams to captain Wales on record-breaking appearance

Rhys Williams will captain Wales when he makes a record-breaking 31st appearance for his country against France on Sunday. 

Williams will set a new record for appearances for the men’s senior side, surpassing former teammates Jordan James and Ian Watson. He already holds the record for most tries scored by a Welshman at men’s senior level, with 22.

Our winger could face off against Red Devils teammate, Morgan Escare, who was yesterday named in France’s squad for Sunday’s clash.

The squad in full: Bailey Antrobus* (York City Knights), Joe Burke (West Wales Raiders), Chester Butler (Huddersfield Giants – on loan at Bradford Bulls), Michael Butt (Swinton Lions), Connor Davies (Workington Town), Curtis Davies (Workington Town), Will Evans* (Whitehaven), Ben Evans (Bradford Bulls), Kyle Evans* (Wakefield Trinity), Jude Ferreira* (Hull FC – on loan London Broncos), Matty Fozard (Widnes Vikings), Dalton Grant (London Broncos), Cobi Green* (Rochdale Hornets), Tom Hopkins* (Barrow Raiders), Lewis Hulme* (Widnes Vikings), Elliot Kear (Bradford Bulls), Owen Restall* (Oldham Roughyeds), Luis Roberts* (Leigh Centurions), Luke Thomas* (Warrington Wolves), Anthony Walker (Bradford Bulls), Rhys Williams (c) (Salford Red Devils).  *Uncapped

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: CHALLENGE CUP TIE WIGAN V SALFORD

RED DEVILS IN DEPTH: CHALLENGE CUP TIE WIGAN V SALFORD

There must have been many a huge sigh of relief across those clubs still to be drawn from the bag, when Salford Red Devils were announced as the visitors to the DW Stadium, in the sixth-round tie, of this year’s Betfred Challenge Cup.  Not for nothing, are Wigan known as The Cup Kings, especially after their decade-long run of winning every final of the late eighties and early nineties.

In fairness, Salford do not have a bad record of recent results in cup ties against the Warriors, including that marvellous victory of 1996, which brought the aforementioned run of victories to its conclusion, with Salford having home advantage in the majority of those games.  This one was different, though, with it being the Red Devils having to do the travelling, and the usually tight, or unexpected, result was never on the cards, at least not judging by the final score.

A twenty-point victory sounds quite a comfortable win for the home side, especially when they kept the visitors to nil.  That is only part of the story, however, as those who attended will testify, with the Reds having every bit as much of the game as their illustrious hosts.  What they did not do, however, was turn any of their opportunities into points.

For a full fifteen opening minutes, the travelling Salford faithful must have been lulled into a feeling of growing confidence, as their favourites went head-to-head in an intriguing arm wrestle, which gave no indication of the disappointments to come shortly after, as they succeeded in containing Wigan between the two twenty metre lines.

Indeed, for the vast majority of the game, the Reds’ defence coped extremely well with the challenge presented by the Warriors.  Where it all went wrong was in the number of handling errors and set restarts, which quickly crept in, thereafter, and although not the first, it was one of the first of these, when Tim Lafai tried an adventurous offload to Joe Burgess, which paid dividends to Wigan with their first try under the posts, by Liam Byrne.

To compound matters even further, a set restart on the fourth tackle of the next set gave their hosts sufficient extra possession to score a back-to-back pair, and we all know how demoralising those can be, particularly when both conversion kicks are successful.

Yet the Red Devils did mount a number of promising, but unsuccessful attacks on the home line.  The first of these came on twenty-minutes, when a long pass at the end of a flowing move from left to right found Rhys Williams in space, but excellent Wigan covering forced him into touch before he could cross the line.

A similar foray into the Wigan ten metre area, although helped by a rare Salford set-restart, was snuffed out by the Warriors’ defensive pressure, forcing a lost ball on the final tackle.  In fact, Salford’s only partially successful attack came on thirty-three minutes, when they forced a goal-line drop-out.

Wigan’s determination to exploit each and every one of the Red Devils’ errors had been laid bare, on twenty-three minutes, when a Wigan set-restart was followed by a kickable penalty, which Hardaker confidently slotted over.  It might have been only two points, but it turned their lead into a three-score margin.

A concerted effort to curtail the errors, immediately after the interval, led to some of Salford’s most imaginative and entertaining ball-handling approach work, but Brierley’s fumbled attempt to take a crucial pass led to Leuluai regaining possession and sprinting away, down their right touchline.  With Hardaker and Field in support, it looked all the world like another try was on the way, but everyone had reckoned without the pace and determination of Joe Burges who hared back to snuff out the danger before Hardaker could get the final pass to Field.

This totally unselfish contribution to the Salford cause, from Burgess, was typical of the endeavour and commitment of all the Red Devils throughout the match.  It just proves rather fruitless, though, if you concede so many errors that they all contribute to your own downfall.

“I’m enjoying my rugby” – Rhys Williams extends contract

Salford Red Devils are pleased to announce that winger Rhys Williams has extended his contract until at least the end of the 2023 season. 

The Welshman joined the club from London Broncos ahead of the 2020 season and helped Salford reach their first Betfred Challenge Cup Final in 51 years, scoring one of the most standout Wembley tries in the history of the competition.

In 38 appearances, Williams has scored 11 tries for Salford and has been one of the most consistent players in the squad since his arrival last year.

Speaking on why he decided to extend his stay, Williams said: “I’m enjoying my rugby. As long as I’m happy and I’m enjoying being around the team and working hard for them, then that’s good enough for me.

“I pride myself on my consistency and professionalism, and I aim to continue bringing that every week to put in a good performance come game day.”

The 31-year-old has had little experience of the Salford faithful before COVID-19 hit, so Williams is looking forward to playing in front of unrestricted crowds again.

I’m very excited. It was hard times with no crowds, especially at Wembley, so to get out on front of the fans is such a buzz and another reason why I wanted to commit to another 2 years.”

Speaking on Rhys’  contract extension, head coach Richard Marshall said: “I’m delighted to have Rhys extend his stay here at Salford, as one of my main goals for 2022 and onwards is to keep the core of our squad together.

“Rhys is an established international player and is consistently good on the wing each week. I’m looking forward to building on the great relationship I already have with him.”

Director of rugby and operations Ian Blease added: “I am delighted in getting Rhys to agree a new deal with the Salford Red Devils. Rhys has been up there as one of our best players for the last few years and has been a tremendous acquisition for the club since we signed him.

“An ultimate professional with ambition to win every game, he is a player with an exemplary attitude, with total and absolute commitment for our club.  I am so pleased that I’ve been able to agree the deal that will keep Rhys at the club for the next two years.”

Join Rhys at the AJ Bell Stadium on Friday 13th August when we host Huddersfield Giants for Round 19 of the Betfred Super League. Buy your tickets HERE.

Group vaccinations in the Red Devils camp via NHS Salford CCG

With a recent increase in COVID-19 cases in Betfred Super League that has affected several clubs, including the Red Devils, a number of Salford players and staff members received their vaccinations on Tuesday through the NHS Salford CCG’s mobile vaccination clinic. 

Kallum Watkins, Rhys Williams, Jack Ormondroyd, Ryan Lannon and Jack Wells went down to the mobile clinic outside the Lowry in Salford this week, as well as our head of S&C Gareth Whittaker and our head of performance analysis, Chris Nelson. A number of players and staff had already had one or both of their jabs, with more group testing planned with NHS Salford CCG in the near future.

Salford Red Devils doctor Tim Sandels commented: “So I’ve been liaising with Richard Whitehead from the NHS Salford team to organise a squad covid-19 vaccination clinic. It’s been really important to get this done and great we managed it.

“The importance of covid vaccinations in the squad is key at trying to reduce covid-19 illness severity and also to reduce potential transmission within the sporting environment. Everyone involved at the clinic were great and it is brilliant that this first wave of players got their vaccines.

“It will hopefully have a positive impact on the community too to see the city’s only elite level sports club taking the pandemic seriously and getting their athletes vaccinated. We’re all just trying to work together and return to normality.”

Jack Wells is one of the youngest players in the squad this year, and he recognises the importance of getting vaccinated.

The 23-year-old said: “As a young athlete at the beginning of my career, I want to be playing at the top level for as long as I can. However, the risk of long COVID could really have an effect on me, such as cause me to develop long-term respiratory problems.

“That’s why I understand how important it is to get vaccinated, for my own health and also for the health of everyone else who I could transmit it to if I tested positive.

“Everyone seems to talk about how vital it is for the older generation to get their jabs, but it’s just as vital for us younger ones in helping stop the spread of this virus.”

All Salford residents over 18 years old, aged 16/17 years old and have an underlying health condition, or a carer either paid or unpaid can book their Covid-19 vaccine appointments here, or attend a walk-in clinic. NHS Salford Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) shares daily updates and details on walk-in clinics on their social media and their Covid-19 vaccine walk-in page.

The national booking system is also available for anyone to book or manage their appointment.