RED DEVILS IN DEPTH: SALFORD V SWINTON PRE-SEASON FRIENDLY
As was probably widely expected, Salford Red Devils concluded the first of this season’s three friendly games, with a comfortable 48-12 victory, at the A J Bell, on Sunday afternoon, over their historic, local rivals, Swinton Lions. The scoreline might have appeared that way, but the plucky visitors, at times, tested their hosts to the hilt, particularly at the commencement of each half.
The opening ten minutes to the encounter saw the Lions firmly established in the Salford twenty metre area, where they launched foray after foray of attacks on the home team’s line. Although there was nothing on the scoreboard to show for it all, they did force a couple of goal-line drop-outs, and were somewhat unfortunate to lose the ball in the act of crossing the line, on one occasion.
There is nothing like back-to-back tries, however, to put aa team in the driving seat, and it was not a case of two, but three scores in a five-minute blitz, between the 11th and 15th minutes, which put the Red Devils 14-0 up and firmly in command, thereafter.
The Lions’ period of ascendency, at the start of the second half, however, was rather more protracted, and considerably more rewarding in terms of points. It was fifteen-minutes into the half before the impasse was broken with the first of their two tries, when Salford failed, close to their line, to secure a loose ball from a Swinton kick.
Unlike their Super League opponents, however, they were unable to make their scores back-to-back, with the Red Devils cancelling out this first one, four minutes later, with a try of their own sandwiched between the Lions’ pair, the second of which came as a result of Salford players being foxed by a tricky kick-off, and former Salford U19s forward, Will Hope, took advantage to double their score. Indeed, Swinton had had an earlier success in reclaiming the ball from one of their own kick-offs, in the first half.
For Salford, though, the outing was more one for performance, and in this respect there was much to please the home fans, with the left flank looking absolutely unstoppable and most incisive on attack, and indeed not only did those first three back-to-back tries come down that edge, so too did a couple of others, later.
Not to be outdone, however, the right side also featured, courtesy of Ken Sio’s brace, coming singly in each half, and he would appear to be every bit as reliable in crossing as he was in last season’s leading SL try-scoring feat. With three defenders left straggled on the ground for his first, it might have seemed to have been as a consequence of weak tackling, but we are all only too aware of the surprising power in his hit-ups against much more experienced opposition to be lulled into that kind of thinking.
True there were a few issues, which, so early in the season, and with so many newcomers into the side, is hardly surprising. Many of these appeared to be around timings, as exemplified by Sam Luckley’s premature run onto Brodie Croft’s chip kick and the consequent disallowing of his try between the posts.
It was particularly encouraging to see so many of the tries going to new players in the team, with Brodie Croft, Ryan Brierley, Deon Cross, and Shane Wright joining established Salfordians Andy Ackers, Matt Costello, and Rhys Williams, who all also crossed for a try apiece.
The visit of Halifax, this coming Friday evening, will see an upping of the intensity before a full-on Super League level clash, at Warrington, KO 7.30pm, concludes the preparations for the 2022 season.