Tag: st helens

TRIBUTE TO DENNIS BROWN

Salford Red Devils have been saddened to learn of the passing of their former centre, Dennis Brown, on 28th September 2022, at the age of 83.

Dennis signed for Salford in 1963 from Thames Board Mills Club, Warrington, and made his first team debut away at St Helens in March 1964, in his recognised centre berth.  Over the four years he had with us, he made a total of forty-nine appearances, of which four were as substitute, and he crossed for eight tries bringing him a total of twenty-four points, since one try was worth only three points at that time

His final appearance for the Reds was away at Huddersfield, in the last match of the season, on 25th April 1966,  and owing to a long term injury, which prevented his continuing his playing career with any further professional club, was sadly forced to retire from the game.

Our thoughts and condolences are with his family and friends at this time.

RUGBY LEAGUE’S QUALITY STREET GANG (9) – ERIC PRESCOTT PT 5

Part 5 – THE PROUD FATHER OF STEVE PRESCOTT MBE

Fondly as Eric is remembered and respected, it also has to be borne in mind that he is only one of a whole family of Prescotts, of which his uncle, Alan Prescott, was  the famous St Helens prop, who, when on international duty with Great Britain in 1958, suffered a badly broken arm, but who, because this was in the days before substitutes were allowed, chose to stay on and, despite his impediment, succeeded in helping The Lions to Test Match victory over the Australians.

“He was quite exceptional in doing that, even then, because he had absolutely no use in that arm whatsoever; it just hung there, while he had to do all his tackling with the other one.”

More recently, Eric was followed into the game by his son Steve Prescott, MBE.  As father of someone who commands such admiration as Steve does, for all that he has done, firstly as a player, and then in both his fight against his own personal illness allied to his work in raising awareness of the condition, Eric, understandably, has very mixed feelings.

“I loved helping him along as a young, up and coming, player, going along to matches with him and giving him encouragement and guidance along the way.  Probably not all my advice was as helpful as it might have been, because he was a different type of player from me, with him being predominantly a back, whereas most of my career was spent in the forwards.

“He and his older brother, Neil, used to come training with me, in their early playing days, as teenagers, when I was playing at Runcorn Highfield, and I can remember Geoff Fletcher coming to me with the suggestion of Steve’s playing on the wing, on one occasion, but I considered he was far too young for that then.  That shows, though, just how talented he was, even at that young age, but it would, nevertheless, have been really nice for us to have played alongside each other.”

Neil started out playing rugby league, but then went on to play soccer, and later rugby union, eventually becoming an Iron Man Triathlete in the fifty to fifty-four age group.  Steve, meanwhile, stuck with rugby league, signing, much to his father’s pride and joy, with St Helens.

“Like many a lad, he always wanted to try to improve on what I, as his father, had done, and he certainly got one over on me by winning his way to Wembley, in 1996, and not only winning the Cup, but also scoring two tries.  No father could have been prouder than I was, and not just on that day.

“He stayed at St Helens for four years, and also won the Regal Trophy and the First Division Championship with them, in the final season before the inauguration of Super League.  At the end of his time with Saints, he moved over to Hull, along with Alan Hunte, which made it more difficult for us to get to see his every game, though we did our best to do so.”

One remarkable similarity Steve has with his father’s career is that just as Eric returned to Salford after having played with Widnes, so Steve, returned to Hull for a second stint, having had a season away playing for Wakefield.

“He never seemed to mind who he was playing for.  So long as he was enjoying his rugby and getting good game-time he was perfectly happy, wherever he was.  He finally sustained a serious knee injury, playing for Lancashire, during his second spell with Hull, and that proved to be his final game.”

It was shortly after this, in 2006, that Steve was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer and given only a matter of months to live.  Such tragic news was very hard for Eric to take.

“I just wished it could have been me because I’d had most of my life; Steve should still have had his in front of him.  It just never works like that though.”

What Steve achieved in the remaining time he had left, which proved to be considerably more than the few months originally estimated, by means of the Steve Prescott Foundation, was absolutely phenomenal, and he was awarded the MBE for his services to rugby league and charity, in the 2010 New Year’s Honours List.

“It really was phenomenal what he achieved, particularly in aid of Manchester’s Christie’s Hospital.  He loved doing it though, which, when you consider that his body by this time was well past anything like its physical peak, is incredible.  I did a marathon in four hours and ten minutes, and his immediate response was that he was going to beat that, which he did, not at the first attempt, because he was very low with the cancer at the time, but at his second attempt.”

Living with the illness he had, and all the inevitable consequences which go with it, understandably brought out a different side to Steve’s character.

“He became more open in his conversations with me, and he had a greater awareness of others, because he relied on other people for the support he needed to undertake all he was wanting to do.  The way the rugby league community rallied round was absolutely superb.  They were all totally brilliant.

“The fact that he was so actively involved in all the challenges he undertook did go some way in providing us, his parents, and Neil, his brother, with some element of comfort, that he was achieving so much.

“It’s also rewarding that the Foundation is still going strong, under the direction of his wife, Linzi, and also that since 2014, the top individual rugby league award has been known as the Steve Prescott MBE Man of Steel.  In addition, the bridge leading into the Totally Wicked Stadium is named after him, which is utterly brilliant because you can never forget him, every time you go over that bridge and into the ground.

“I can’t say it was a shock, when Steve passed away in 2013 because we had seen him going downhill for a while, but it still takes some coming to terms with, because we are not ‘programmed’ for anything like this to happen.  It is just so very sad, but there are memories of him all around.  Even when I do the National Lottery each week, I can still hear him deriding my chances of winning it.  He just always wanted to be better than me.”

Eric, therefore, was the yardstick by which his remarkably splendid, younger, son, measured himself, and what greater form of flattering acknowledgement can there be, for any father.

RUGBY LEAGUE’S QUALITY STREET GANG (9) – ERIC PRESCOTT PT 2

Part 2 – MEMORIES OF HIS TIME WITH SALFORD

The abundance of talent within the St Helens team, during the first couple of years of the 1970s had reached levels that were almost an embarrassment with highly ambitious players vying with one another for places within the team, the back couple of rows in the scrum being of particular concern, as Eric discovered.

“We had players like Eric Chisnall, John Mantle, and Kel Coslett, all of whom would have commanded places within any team, so I was finding myself confined to the bench, where a position in those days would not necessarily mean you would get a game.

“Substitutes back then were there solely to cover for injuries, and if no-one actually got injured, the two bench players might go for weeks without getting onto the field.  I began to become frustrated at not getting much game time, so went to the St Helens Chairman to request a transfer.

“He didn’t want me to leave at all, and to this end he put me on the list but at the price of £15,000.  That didn’t deter Salford, though, and chief scout, Albert White, came and asked whether I would join Salford to which I readily agreed knowing the quality that was present in the rest of the team.  The whole backline, from one to seven, were internationals, and with the likes of Mike Coulman and Colin Dixon in the forwards I knew I was joining a great team.

“I already knew one or two of the players, but turning up for my first training session, I was made really welcome.  The whole group of players was more like a family than a sports team.

“I already knew coach, Cliff Evans, from his days at St Helens, and I knew the way he wanted his teams to play, which was particularly helpful, because there was certainly a similarity in what he was advocating at Salford.”

Salford had brought Eric to the club with the firm intention of playing him at loose forward.  There was, however, already a regular incumbent of that position.

“Colin Dixon had been playing there for quite a while, and I really felt sorry at moving him from his position, but he was a real gentleman – you couldn’t wish to meet anyone better – and he just accepted the situation with the utmost grace.  For me, having players like him alongside me was just absolutely marvellous.

“My first game with them all was against Rochdale, which we won, 46-18, at The Willows, all within the same week as my signing for them.  When you sign for a new team, there is always a settling-in period as you get to know everything, and there is no way that you can possibly acquire all that in only two training sessions.

“Salford had a lot of moves which they would deploy at various times in the game, which made for a really good setup.  They would call these moves out and everyone really needed to know their part in them.

“Defending teams, at that time, were kept only three yards back, which meant that they were able to get up onto the attacking team very quickly, and so having their practised moves enabled them to fox the defence in some way.  Nowadays, being up to ten metres apart moves are rather less effective as there is so much time for defences to read what is happening.

“Salford played really good football and the ball always went through a lot of hands in every match.  We were always at our most dangerous in our own half of the field because when the other team were lying up on us, Kenny Gill or John Butler would put a kick through for Keith Fielding, and there was no-one going to catch him.

“Everyone had their own job within the team.  I liked tackling.  I liked the physicality involved, and also in aiming to get my technique just right on each occasion.  There was also the benefit of limiting the effectiveness of the opposition’s attack.

“Tackling round the legs was probably the best way of tackling in those days, because you can’t go without your legs.  Nowadays, it is regarded as more important to stop an offload, so tackling has drifted to the upper body.  Elbows, back then, were far too discouraging to make that type of tackle worthwhile.

“I got my nose broken in my early days, in a match against Warrington.  I was just getting up from a tackle to play the ball, when someone came in and smashed me across the face breaking my nose.  You have to learn from those incidents.”

As with many of his teammates, Eric still regrets the fact that the team never managed to fulfil its promise of winning trophies, and having come from a club like St Helens, this sat a little more uneasily on his shoulders.

“We should have won a whole lot more than we did, considering the talent that we had in the team, and having left St Helens to come to Salford, I had to sit and watch their success from afar.  They went to Wembley in 1976, and against all the odds won the Challenge Cup, and I remember thinking to myself that I’d missed out on that one.

“One of the reasons for my coming here was that, with the team packed with all those internationals, I was expecting much the same from us, but we just couldn’t get through those early rounds of the Challenge Cup to get to the final.  One season we were knocked out by St Helens themselves in what was, for us, a home match.  That really hurt.”

Invariably, though, it was a trip into Yorkshire, to face Leeds or Castleford, around Rounds two or three, which put Salford out of the competition.

“Another problem was that, then, virtually all the teams were of a similar playing standard, so whilst we were one of the top sides, and, on our day, probably the most entertaining of them all, the remaining fifteen teams in the first division were not far behind.  If we had an ‘off’ day, any one of them could have won.  I remember Rochdale coming to the Willows and beating us, on one occasion.  That sort of thing hardly ever happens nowadays.

Wembley may have had a hoodoo cast over it as far as the Salford team was concerned, but the calibre of the side was twice reflected in their winning the First Division Championship, in 1973/4 and 1975/6.

“That was certainly handsome compensation and probably worthy of greater notoriety than it received at the time because the equality in standards throughout the league made it all the more challenging and difficult to achieve.  Doing it twice, and so quickly after each other was a tremendous achievement.

“The first time was at the expense of St Helens, for once.  It was a late Easter Weekend at the end of the season, and we needed to win at Wigan, on the Easter Monday, and then for Widnes to beat St Helens, later that evening, in order for us to lift the Trophy.  We did all we could for ourselves in defeating Wigan, and then we all went over to Naughton Park, Widnes, which was so packed that we had to stand behind the posts to watch.

“It was quite absorbing because the game was so tight, with Saints in front at half time, but Widnes, with nothing but pride to play for, came back in the second half to win.  Saints were such a good team at that time we couldn’t really have expected anything other than for them to win, but they came unstuck and we became Champions.

“We also won other trophies.  We lifted the BBC2 Floodlit Cup, in 1972, with a win over Warrington, at Wilderspool, after drawing with them the week earlier at the Willows.  That came very shortly after I had moved to Salford and was a real reward for my having done so.

“The Lancashire Cup and the John Player Trophy were other competitions in which we also had successes, at least in reaching the final and semi-final.  I think it is a loss to the game that these competitions have gone by the board, because they brought a bit of variety to the season, whilst as a player you always wanted to win something, and there was something there to be won.

“The Lancashire Cup win was one of my best memories.  I had been injured just before, and came back to play in the final, against Swinton, at Warrington.  We controlled the game well, and apart from the first twenty minutes of the second half, when they really came at us, we were on top throughout, and fully deserved the win.”

By the later years of the seventies, there was a fairly noticeable deterioration in the team, as players got older, some retired, and others moved elsewhere.

“The mid-seventies were extremely good, but standards did start to decline over the coming seasons.  I still had the hankering to play at Wembley and still felt we had a good team then, but we just couldn’t get past those three or four clubs which had always been our downfall.  As time moved on, I began to realise this was not going to happen at Salford, so I started to look round for another club.

“Working, as I did, for Widnes Council, I sounded out the possibility of my moving there, because it was a club which was making significant progress, by then.  The response from them was that they were quite willing to take me on board, if I were willing to play in the second row, which I was, and so I made the move to join them.”

Nothing is for ever, though, and a couple of seasons later he returned for one more spell, with prop, John Wood, transferring over to Widnes, in exchange.

“Salford approached me with a view to returning, and because I had been so very happy there, for so long, I agreed.  Coming back again rekindled the memories of all those good times, and even though it was different this time around, I had absolutely no regrets in having done so.

“I liked the type of rugby Salford have always played, and alongside that, the people who were there were all so very friendly and approachable.  I also still believed that we could have made up for the lack of trophies previously, by winning something this time around, but sadly this was not to be.”

RUGBY LEAGUE’S QUALITY STREET GANG (9) – ERIC PRESCOTT

Salford’s Former International Loose Forward, Eric Prescott, Looks Back On His Rugby League Career

CONTENTS

Part 1 – HIS EARLY RUGBY CAREER

Part 2 – MEMORIES OF HIS TIME WITH SALFORD

Part 3 – HE REMEMBERS SOME OF HIS FORMER SALFORD TEAMMATES

Part 4 – HIS POST SALFORD RUGBY CAREER

Part 5 – THE PROUD FATHER OF STEVE PRESCOTT MBE

                                                                                                                                

Part 1 – HIS EARLY RUGBY CAREER

Although not the only Salford player of that era to have done likewise, both former loose forward, Eric Prescott, and Salford RLFC, had such a high regard for each other, that he not only had one lengthy spell at the club, as their first choice loose forward, from 1972 to 1980, he also returned in 1983 for a further season.

For those of us who might automatically, and understandably, associate him with St Helens, it may come as something of a surprise to learn that he was born, and grew up, in neighbouring Widnes, where he developed a love for the game watching the Chemics, as his home-town team were affectionately known.

“I remember watching the famous Frank Myler, starring in the centre, and then, in later years, I had the great privilege of playing alongside him when we were both at St Helens.  Bobby Chisnall had been his winger, and the pair of them were my boyhood idols.

“It was around that time that Alex Murphy, who I think was the best ever player, was playing scrum-half for St Helens, and then I later played under him, when he became coach at Salford.”

Despite the lure that rugby league had to him in such a stronghold as Widnes, it was at football that Eric initially was drawn towards.

“I was a goalkeeper in soccer for most of my childhood and early teenage years, but then, at the age of fifteen, I went with a friend to take up an apprenticeship at our local rugby union club, Widnes ICI, and although that led to my change from football to rugby, it was to rugby union.  I played either fly-half or fullback in the Colts team.”

Things looked as though they were about to change, however, when St Helens invited him down for trials.

“I played a couple of trial games, at stand-off, but nothing came of it so I decided to go back to playing union – only I couldn’t.  I had now played rugby league at a professional level, so there was no way for me to go back to union.  Fortunately, St Helens came back to me with an offer of a further few trial games, so of course I took them.

“I played three games in all, with their ‘A’ team, but, yet again, nothing seemed to be forthcoming, and it was only thanks to Tony Karalius, who used to give me lift to training, going to the secretary and persuading them, that they agreed to sign me, at the age of eighteen.  The ‘A’ team at the time included Billy Sheffield (Quality St Gang No 7), and Alan Bishop, brother of Tommy.

Much to his surprise, for his first match as a professional, he was selected on the wing.

“I signed for them in 1967, and played my first match as a professional, again in the ‘A’ team.  I would have preferred to have played at centre, which I had quite come to like but I just had to take my chance, which I did, and the following week I was promoted to the first team.

“My first match was against Swinton, who were a good team in those days, having twice been League Champions three or four years earlier.  I started on the bench and came on, to replace the famous Graham Rees, who had previously played for Salford.”

The St Helens side at that time, rather like today, was full of rugby league stars.

“I had the privilege of playing amongst the likes of Les Jones, Cliff Watson, Phil Sayer, and Geoff Pimblett.  During my time with them, we won six trophies, including the League Championship, Lancashire Cup, and Challenge Cup, which should have been particularly special for me, because all I had ever wanted to do was to play at Wembley.”

Sadly, that opportunity failed to materialise, as he picked up a shoulder injury, in the end-of-season play-off semi-final, the week before.

“All week I was desperate for my shoulder to be right.  I even had my name in the programme, but in the end I had to stand down.”

With five seasons in which to enjoy the numerous successes which came their way, there was one which stands out in his memory.

“We were playing Leeds in the League Championship Final, at Bradford, and I scored two tries and also won my first medal.  I played in my usual position, on the left wing, and the ball just came my way, with two chances which I finished off with tries.”

Successful as he was, as a winger, a move into the forwards came in 1969.

“I had put a bit more weight on by then, and it was the logical move to make at that time.”

It was a move that was to have significant impact on his career, three seasons later, when Salford suddenly took note on his considerable attributes in that position.

RED DEVILS IN DEPTH: ST HELENS V SALFORD (PLAY OFF SEMI-FINAL)

Salford Red Devils’ hopes and aspirations for a place in this year’s Grand Final, together with their 2022 season, came to an end on Saturday last, with their 19-12 semi-final defeat at the hands of the League Leaders Shield holders, St Helens, at the Totally Wicked Stadium.

Disappointing as the result has been, for everyone connected with the club, it has to be viewed in the context of the whole season.  There can have been very few, who, at the start of the year would have given Salford much chance of reaching the play-offs, let alone the semi-final, after vanquishing the much-vaunted Huddersfield side on their own meadow, and keeping them pointless in the process.

Following that, St Helens, with a place in the Bet Fred Super League Grand Final at stake, had clearly done their homework on the Red Devils and there can be no mistaking that they had identified their own strengths and played to them, with considerable gusto.

These lay, most significantly, around their superior physicality and intensity.  Not by chance are they the team to have conceded the least number of points in the season, for their tackling, particularly in the opening period, was ruthless, and at times, verging on the brutal, while the pressure they put on the Salford players with their line-speed restricted Salford to a mere few metres on the occasions they had the ball.

By comparison, the Red Devils took some while to utilise their own strengths in order to gain much in the way of ascendency.  Their initial problem had its roots from the previous week, with the loss of Brodie Croft, but no-one could possibly have imagined that this would be compounded, two minutes into this game, by the complete withdrawal of Andy Ackers, with yet another head injury.

Not that anyone should detract from the contributions of their two replacements.  Amir Bourouh put in an incredibly sterling performance in defence with an extremely high number of tackles, while Chris Atkin was the subject of some extremely hard hits, including a chicken-wing tackle which saw the sin-binning of Knowles shortly after an accidental head-high knock from Welsby, yet he continued to perform to his best, being involved in setting up Kallum Watkins for his try, two minutes later.

Salford’s surge up the league table, in the last three months has been built around the ability of their strike players, out-wide, to tear through opposition defences as a result of the team’s setting them up with exciting flamboyant rugby, which has been so marvellous to watch.  Croft and Ackers have been so pivotal to this: Ackers with his speedy ball distribution from dummy-half and his darting scoots through retreating lines, while Croft has been central to the decimation of so many opposing teams with his clever footwork, allied to his shrewd timing and accurate passing.

Losing both of these for such a finely balanced encounter was much greater than simply losing two-fifths of the spine of the team, which was bad enough in itself.  Other players found themselves having to execute their own plays with much less time than they normally have had.  Marc Sneyd, for example, was pressured on almost every kick, as evidenced by his forty-twenty attempt just failing to make the line, and Saints regaining possession for the restart.

Nevertheless, the Red Devils can take great satisfaction with the way they coped with all of this.  Initially, it was their valiant defence in the face of that early pressure, which impressed, with their limiting the Saints to two scores only and then keeping them try-less for the following fifty-three minutes.  By comparison, Salford’s first try came from Watkins on their first attack, in the thirtieth minute.

As has come to be expected of them, the Reds’ handling was the more adventurous and entertaining, as indeed were their tries.  St Helens were reliant upon short kicks into the in-goal area for two of theirs, whereas both of Salford’s came from clever, slick handling, with Ryan Brierley’s 60th minute score being easily the best of the afternoon, starting with swift hands to the left putting Joe Burgess in the clear down the left wing.

At 13-12, then, it really had become either side’s game, but sadly fortune favoured the Saints, with both Elijah Taylor and Tim Lafai being denied opportunities to score, the first for an obstruction in the build up, and Lafai’s being obstructed by Makinson, who was sin-binned for doing so.

It would be too easy for short-term disappointment to over-shadow the team’s achievement in being out on the field, that afternoon.  Far more important is for them to use the experience upon which to build next year.  Their 2017 Challenge Cup Semi-Final defeat by Wigan became a platform from which they became Grand Finalists, eighteen months later.  Next season could well be the time they go one-better-still.  2023 season tickets are available already, so take advantage of our Early Bird offer, which runs until 15th December.

MATCH PREVIEW | ST HELENS VS SALFORD RED DEVILS | SATURDAY 17TH SEPTEMBER 2022

Salford Red Devils are travelling to the Totally Wicked Stadium on Saturday to face St Helens in the play-off semi-final – just 80 minutes away from a place at Old Trafford.

Paul Rowley’s side carried their late-season momentum into the play-offs with a 0-28 demolition of Huddersfield Giants last weekend. The result had plenty of attacking flair, but some dogged defending in the second forty, in particular, limited Ian Watson’s sides chances.

It’s set up a mouthwatering clash against the reigning champions, who won the Betfred Super League Leaders Shield a fortnight ago and have been waiting in the wings to see who their semi-final opponents would be.

Speaking ahead of the game, Head Coach Paul Rowley has been discussing whether Brodie Croft’s absence will be driving factor for the rest of the group.

Our number six unfortunately failed his HIA in last weekend’s eliminator and protocol means he has to miss a week’s worth of action.

Rowley responded: “As a club, I think it would be nice for anybody to reach a final. We’re a team, so we’re here for each other and everyone is important. We recognise Brodie’s influence and importance to the group, so that is a motivating factor.

“However, if anybody needs motivating in the semi-final then there’s something wrong. We’re all good, we’ll just do it for the good of the group.”

Moving on to discuss what reaching a Grand Final would mean to himself and club, Rowley was quick – as he usual is – to praise the collective.

He said: “Extremely proud. It’s not the getting here to this point that makes me proud, I just feel proud because I’ve got a group that’s all pulling in the same direction – win or lose. Whatever the result, on whatever week is it, our group knows the importance of acceptance and honesty within our group and that’s the main thing.

“The fulfilment comes from within the group and team. I’m very, very proud of everyone within the club to be featuring in a semi-final, but again, it’s just another part of the journey.”

Just like at Huddersfield last week, a crowd of 3,000 plus is expected in St Helens to roar on the boys. To join them at the Totally Wicked Stadium, tickets are available on the turnstile, but there are no guarantees you’ll be sat with the Salford faithful.

RED DEVILS IN DEPTH:  ST HELENS V SALFORD

Anyone who had felt that the Red Devils would not be able to follow up their vastly improved performance at Wigan with anything similar, only five days later, against the current Super League Champions, again on their own ground, must have had one almighty shock.  Not only did the Reds repeat their dominant performance of the previous week at the Totally Wicked Stadium, they improved on it even further.

Whereas at the DW, everyone had left feeling disappointed at our not managing to take the Warriors into Golden Point Extra Time, last night we were all disappointed that we had not won, for indeed, over the eighty minutes, Salford were the better team.

In fact, St Helens can consider themselves rather lucky to have come away with the points, and indeed there were many of their fair-minded supporters who readily acknowledged this.  They are renowned throughout the league for their uncompromising, physical, style of play, but, on this occasion, they came up against a team which was every bit as physical as they always are, if not the more so.

The first evidence Saints had that we were up against such a well-drilled, enterprising, and committed side, came as early as Josh Johnson’s first bone-crunching hit-up straight from the kick-off, followed in the third minute, when prop, Jack Ormondroyd, made a magnificent thirty metre break through the middle of the field.  Although that came to nothing in itself, with Brodie Croft eventually being held short of the line, the fact that Ormondroyd had torn through the defence with seeming ease, served to inspire the whole side even further.

It was, consequently, of no surprise, when, on a second foray into their hosts’ ten metre area, their slick handling carved out sufficient room for Morgan Escare’s cleverly angled running to get him over the line, and with Chris Atkin’s conversion from his only reasonably positioned goal-scoring opportunity, giving them a six-point lead.

Indeed, if you were looking for an aspect of the game in which Salford were particularly unfortunate, it was that their subsequent two attempts at goal, which included a penalty on half time and a second half conversion, were both considerable distances out.

The game changed, unfortunately, at the mid-point of the half, when carelessness in the timing of their defensive line speed, which throughout most of the game so troubled the home side, on this occasion brought Saints a penalty, at a time when they were being penned back on their line.   In one of their best sets of the match, they gained sufficiently good field position, and possession, to cross for an unconverted try.

Sadly, this proved to be not just one but two, back-to-back, scores, the second of which came most fortuitously for the Saints, from the ball ricocheting at the end-of-set kick, off Escare and into the arms of Welsby, barely a metre from the try line.

The only try of the second half came from Salford, as a result of their continued adherence to their game-plan, in which they had gone head-to-head with St Helens, set by set, giving every bit as good as they were given, in a trial of physicality.

On a couple of occasions Saints were even forced to end their sets with kicks still within their own thirty metre area, while time and again, back would come Salford, to pin them down in their own twenty.  It was from one such set that with the assistance of a set-restart, former Saint, Matt Costello, had the great pleasure of going over in the corner for an equalising try, against his former club

Even after going behind to the two penalty goals, the Red Devils were not finished.  An interception by Chris Atkin saw him race clear over seventy metres, only to be caught from behind less than ten metres from the try line.

The final minute of the half, following the sin-binning of Welsby for the professional foul of preventing a quick play-the-ball, saw St Helens having to resort to using the set-restart rule to their own defensive advantage, by which they limited the number of tackles they had to complete, in the final fifty seconds, to only three, simply by holding tackled players down for several seconds at a time, thereby preventing any properly organised assault on their line, and finally forcing one of very few Salford handling errors, to overcome the threat.

Without succeeding in winning, however, Salford players must have gained considerable confidence from their performance against such illustrious opponents.  The fact that the Saints were able to scrape home, thanks only to two kickable penalty goals in the last ten minutes, tells its own story.  All that is needed now is for this form to be taken into the next few fixtures, starting with our home game with Leeds in a fortnight’s time.

RED DEVILS IN DEPTH: ST HELENS v SALFORD

After the most heart-breaking of Betfred Challenge Cup exits against Castleford Tigers, probably the last thing the Salford players needed was to be travelling to face the might of the Betfred Super League Champions, St Helens, ten days later.  If that were the case, however, there was absolutely no evidence of it, whatsoever, in the opening forty minutes, for throughout the whole of the first half, the valiant Red Devils went head-to-head with their hosts, matching their unrelenting, fastidious defence, with an equally uncompromising one of their own.

Indeed, for a full twenty minutes, when both defences were causing significant problems for the other’s attack, it was the Saints who made the first three handling errors, the second of which saw the pitting of the power of Chris Atkins’s magnificent tackle on the man-mountain that is Alex Walmsley, in the greatest mismatch of the evening.

Mismatch, as far as size is concerned, it may have been, but the little halfback got everything just right and the result was the giant prop not only being toppled to the ground but coughing up possession in the first tackle of their set, in the process.  If anyone on the ground had had any doubts about the visitors’ resolve and determination, they were left with none, thereafter, and the Saints continued to struggle to find their attacking rhythm in the face of such determined tackling.

Not that Salford were able to make any in-roads into the St Helens defensive line, either, however, with the home side virtually negating any Reds’ forward advancement up the field, when in possession.  That became equally the case on the occasions when, as a result of penalties or troublesome kicks, Salford got within sight of their opponents’ try line, with a totally flawless goal-line defence keeping them pointless, for the full 80 minutes.

It was 23 minutes of complete stalemate before a try was eventually registered, and, as so often has happened this season, it came as a result of a Salford handling error, whilst on attack in the Saints half, and then, this time, further compounded by conceding a penalty.  If only the Red Devils’ attack could have been as efficient as their defence had been, they really would have caused St Helens some concern, but sadly that was not the reality.

On a positive note, it should be observed that, unlike in many previous games, that first try did not lead to another just before half-time, and it must have been a much happier dressing-room to which the team retired, at the interval, trailing by only six points and still very much in contention.

Sadly, that happy state was not to remain for very long with the home side reappearing determined to increase the pace of the game, to their own advantage, and the next score came within two minutes of the resumption Dispiritingly, it came from one of Salford’s best attacking moves of the evening, with the ball having been moved swiftly to the right wing, where Ken Sio had been freed up to race clear.

The kick he put infield for his teammates to latch onto, unfortunately, stood up beautifully into the arms of Theo Fages, who, with the involvement of two teammates, started, and then finished, a sixty-metre inter-passing run to the line, to double the Saints’ score.

That try, and in particular the circumstances in which it came, proved to be a real game changer, for although it was over a quarter of an hour before they scored again, St Helens went on to notch up a total of five tries, four of which were converted.

The most disappointing of those came on the stroke of time, when Salford, with three seconds remaining, produced some rather static resistance on the right, from a play the ball in front of their own posts.  It would have been a fair reflection of their efforts during the first half, had they snuffed out any chance of conceding again.  As it was, the scoreboard became a rather uncomfortable representation as to how the second half had unfolded.

It would also be true to say, however, that had they been playing any less commanding a side than St Helens, that first half performance could well have paved the way for a deserved victory.

CHANGE IN BETFRED SUPER LEAGUE FIXTURES TO ACCOMMODATE RETURN OF FANS

Rounds 6,7 and 8 of the 2021 Betfred Super League schedule have seen changes as a number of Super League clubs have decided to bring their round 6 games forward to Monday 17 May – the date that fans are expected to be allowed back into stadiums. 

Salford Red Devils’ away clash with St. Helens will now be contested on Monday 17 May, 7:45pm kick-off, with Wigan Warriors later the same week in Round 7 on Saturday 22 May, which will kick-off at 1.00pm.

Marshall’s men will then face off against Warrington Wolves in Round 8 of the Betfred Super League on Thursday 27 May, kick-off at 7:45pm live on Sky Sports.

If the government’s roadmap goes to plan, Salford’s game against Saints could be one of the first sporting events to welcome fans back this year.

Ken Davy, Super League’s interim executive chairman, said: “We can’t wait to see our passionate fans back in grounds cheering their team on.

“We’ve waited a long time and that day cannot come soon enough, we will be another step closer to some kind of normality. We’re grateful for Sky Sports’ continued support and flexibility.”

The full schedule for Round 6,7 and 8 is below:

ROUND 6

Friday 14 May

19:45 Leeds Rhinos v Wakefield Trinity (Sky Sports)

Monday 17 May 

19:45 Castleford Tigers v Hull KR

19:45 Leigh Centurions v Wigan Warriors

19:45 St Helens v Salford Red Devils

19:45 Warrington Wolves v Huddersfield Giants (Sky Sports)

TBC

Hull FC v Catalans Dragons

ROUND 7

Saturday 22 May 

13:00 Salford Red Devils v Wigan Warriors

15:00 Warrington Wolves v Castleford Tigers

17:00 (18:00 CEST) Catalans Dragons v St Helens

Sunday 23 May 

15:00 Wakefield Trinity v Hull KR

15:00 Leigh Centurions v Huddersfield Giants

19:30 Leeds Rhinos v Hull FC (Sky Sports)

ROUND 8

Thursday 27 May

19:45 Salford Red Devils v Warrington Wolves (Sky Sports)

Friday 28 May

19:45 Castleford Tigers v Leeds Rhinos

19:45 St Helens v Hull FC (Sky Sports)

Saturday 29 May

17:00 (18:00 CEST) Catalans Dragons v Wigan Warriors

Sunday 30 May

15:00 Wakefield Trinity v Huddersfield Giants

15:00 Hull KR v Leigh Centurions

Image credit: Steve McCormick

MATCH REPORT | ST HELENS 29-6 SALFORD RED DEVILS | FRIDAY 26TH MARCH

Salford Red Devils fell to a 29-6 defeat to champions St. Helens in the first game of the 2021 Betfred Super League season. 

The season opener at the Emerald Headingley Stadium was Richard Marshall’s first Super League test as Salford’s head coach, with five debutants featuring in tonight’s defeat for the Red Devils.

Tommy Makinson opened the scoring for Saints within two minutes, collecting a chipped kick and grounding the ball in the right corner.

Saints’ Regan Grace slid over on the left wing five minutes before half-time to extend his side’s lead, with Jack Welsby scoring a drop-goal right on the hooter to make it 13-0 at the interval.

Half-time: St. Helens 13-0 Salford Red Devils

Image credit: Steve McCormick

Salford came out looking sharper in the second forty and got themselves on the scoreboard in the 55th minute.

Tui Lolohea found Ken Sio on the right wing with an outrageous pass, setting his teammate up to stroll over with ease for our first try of the 2021 season.

Saints responded five minutes later through Mark Percival, who rose to collect a Theo Fages kick before touching the ball down.

Two more tries in the final 10 minutes from Kevin Naiqama and Alex Walmsley confirmed defeat for Marshall’s men in their first runout of 2021.

Fulltime: St. Helens 29-6 Salford Red Devils

St. Helens: Welsby, Makinson, Naiqama, Percival, Grace, Lomax, Fages, Walmsley, Roby, Lees, Thompson, Bentley, Mata’utia, McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Amor, Paasi, Smith.

Salford Red Devils: Sarginson, Sio, Watkins, Kear, Inu, Lolohea, Brown, Mossop, Addy, Ikahihifo, Livett, Lannon, Taylor, Pauli, Ormondroyd, Wells, Patton.

Saints tries: Makinson, Grace, Percival, Naiqama, Walmsley.

Saints goals: Makinson (4/6)

Saints drop-goals: Welsby

Salford tries: Sio

Salford goals: Inu

Referee: Liam Moore

Image credit: Steve McCormick