Tag: The Qualifiers

The Qualifiers in Focus | Widnes Vikings

Following the recent Qualifiers fixture release, Salford discovered that they will face Hull Kingston Rovers, Widnes Vikings, Halifax RLFC, Toronto Wolfpack, Leeds Rhinos, London Broncos and Toulouse Olympique. Here we take an in-depth look at another one of the sides the Red Devils will lock horns with – Widnes Vikings. 
Season so far
2018 has been nothing short of miserable for everyone connected with Widnes. The Vikings have struggled throughout the campaign and have conjured up three victories from their 23 fixtures this season – consequently leaving them bottom of the Betfred Super League table.
The club parted company with long-serving coach Dennis Betts in May and replaced the former Great Britain International with another capped British representative in the form of Betts’ ex-assistant – Francis Cummins. Whilst Cummins’ arrival as interim coach initially spread a level of optimism around the Select Security Stadium, the club are still yet to record their first win since beating Salford 24-16 back in March.
Salford did earn their comeuppance from the return fixture in June though, two tries from Kris Welham alongside further scores from Jake Bibby, Robert Lui and then on-loan Widnes man Greg Burke helped the Red Devils return to winning ways in emphatic fashion and secure two valuable Betfred Super League points.
As well as the round 7 triumph over Ian Watson’s side, Widnes have also beaten both Leeds Rhinos and Catalans Dragons – though that’s about as good as things have got for the Cheshire-based side.
In recent weeks the Vikings have produced several spirited showings, the 24-26 home defeat to Hull KR in particular, was a positive note for Cummins’ side. Although the hosts did ultimately succumb to defeat, the loss did spark something of a revival. Widnes battled well throughout the contest and narrowly missed out on earning a point at the very least.
The club have also boosted their Super League survival hopes with the signings of Salford club captain Weller Hauraki, prop-forward Charlie Gubb, former Salford and Leigh forward Harrison Hansen and Wakefield Trinity half-back – and Ireland international – Liam Finn.
Hauraki joined the club on-loan as part of the deal that saw duo Burke and Ed Chamberlain move to the AJ Bell Stadium in June, but the second-rower has struggled for form in Halton and will be joining Hull KR on a permanent deal at the end of the season. Forwards Gubb and Hansen meanwhile, have arrived on deals until the end of 2018 and 2019 respectively.
Finn – who is currently on-loan from Wakefield – has racked up almost 400 career appearances and has been drafted in to instil a level of leadership, experience and quality into the squad to help aid the relegation fight.
Francis Cummins joined the club in 2016, initially as an assistant coach to Dennis Betts. The 41-year-old was then appointed as interim head-coach upon Betts’ sacking in May. Cummins spent the entirety of his 12 year playing career with Leeds, a spell that saw him become the youngest player – at 17 years and 200 days – to feature in a Challenge Cup Final, lift the Challenge Cup and gain representative honours for England, Ireland, Great Britain and Yorkshire.

Just a year after retirement in 2005, the full-back became assistant coach at the Rhinos before subsequently joining Bradford Bulls in a similar role in 2010. Two years later, Cummins was rewarded with his first head coach role at Odsal but was sacked in July 2014.
If he manages to lead the Vikings to Super League survival, it could be one of the greatest stories in the modern era.
Half-back Joe Mellor and forward Chris Houston are the club’s current co-captains – though Houston is set to retire at the end of the campaign. The pair were appointed captains following Kevin Brown’s departure to fierce rivals Warrington in 2016.

27-year-old Mellor arrived at the club – initially on-loan – from Wigan in 2011 and has since become a household name at the Select Security Stadium, whilst 33-year-old Houston has spent the last three years at Widnes having previously seen the entirety of his career in Australia. Mellor is a talented figure who boasts four tries and 11 try assists this season, whilst Houston was voted the club’s players’ player and supporters’ player of the year last season.
If the Vikings are to stave the drop, the pair are likely to have a major influence on the team’s success.
One to watch
In the last edition of ‘The Qualifiers in Focus’ we looked at Adam Quinlan’s impact and fine try-scoring form for Hull Kingston Rovers this season. Here we analyse another versatile back-rower – this time in the form of Krisnan Inu.
At 31, Inu has showed zero signs of slowing down. The centre – come full-back or winger – has racked up six tries and 21 goals for Widnes throughout the year, as well as assisting a solitary effort.
Despite struggling with injuries this term, former Catalans man Inu is an integral part of the Vikings spine and is handy at centre, full-back or winger. Inu is a creative player who has a knack of unpicking opposition lines, despite it not always seeming viable.
The back-rower scored versus Salford back in March and the Red Devils back-line will have to be at their best to prevent Inu from crossing over once more.

When’s the game?
Salford welcome Widnes to the AJ Bell Stadium – in what will be the Red Devils’ first home game in the Qualifiers – on Saturday, August 18th. The game is set to kick-off at 3:15pm and will be broadcast live on Sky Sports!
Ticket details will be released in due course. 

The Qualifiers in Focus | Hull Kingston Rovers

Following the recent Qualifiers fixture release, Salford discovered that they will face Hull Kingston Rovers, Widnes Vikings, Halifax RLFC, Toronto Wolfpack, Leeds Rhinos, London Broncos and Toulouse Olympique. Here we take a look towards the first team that stands in the way of the Red Devils’ extending their 10 year stint in the Betfred Super League – Hull Kingston Rovers. 
Season so far
The Robins have endured very much a season of two halves in many respects. Tim Sheens’ side conjured up just three wins from their opening ten games. Since then, they Yorkshire side have won a further five fixtures – and drawn once – across 13 games, averaging almost a win every other game.
In those five wins, Hull KR have triumphed over Salford, Wigan Warriors, Huddersfield Giants, Widnes Vikings and local rivals Hull FC. Last week’s victory at the KC in particular, will put the Robins in great stead heading into the Qualifiers.
Following their return to the top flight in 2017, Rovers lost a number of key players as Jamie Ellis and Jordan Abdull’s loan deals expired whilst Ben Cockayne and Mitch Clark joined York City Knights and Castleford Tigers respectively.
Former Salford Director of Rugby, Sheens, swooped to sign Danny McGuire from last year’s champions Leeds and the veteran half-back has been a standout performer throughout the year. The 35-year-old – who picked up the Harry Sutherland Trophy in last year’s Super League Grand Final – has racked up five tries and 11 try assists for KR this term. Three of his five efforts came against Salford last month. Other arrivals included the highly experienced Danny Tickle and former Red Devil Tommy Lee who have both performed well at KCOM Craven Park.
Ryan Shaw – who has been a KR player since arriving from the Bradford Bulls in 2016 – has enjoyed another impressive campaign. The versatile back-rower has notched 11 tries throughout the year and is currently the side’s top scorer.
In recent weeks, the club strengthened their connections with Salford further when Todd Carney – who left the AJ Bell Stadium in the close season – signed on a short-term deal until the end of the season to boost KR’s survival push.
Tim Sheens is one of the most infamous names associated with Rugby League. The 67-year-old Australian played as a prop-forward for the Penrith Panthers across a 12 year-spell, before enjoying an illustrious 34-year coaching career ever since – a spell that has seen him lead his country to a World Cup title and two Four Nation successes.

The man who currently occupies the KCOM Craven Park hot-seat is familiar with Salford fans, having spent 13 months at the AJ Bell Stadium from July 2015 to September 2016.
Sheens will be desperate to get one over on his old club as the Robins look to remain in Super League.
Experienced hooker Shaun Lunt is the club’s captain, the former England international has racked up over 300 career appearances and is a huge focal point of the side’s attack, as well as being a key figure of their defensive line.

Whilst the 31-year-old is undoubtedly influential, his season has been hampered with injury after suffering a knee injury in March, before facing a re-occurrence less than a month later.
Lunt made his long awaited comeback during the side’s stunning fightback at Castleford in June. Rovers trailed 24-12 but earned a point in the final ten minutes of the tie.
Whilst the former Huddersfield man’s season has been dominated by injury, he has managed to feature in five of the last six fixtures and will be hopeful of continuing this run into the Qualifiers to provide Rovers with a much needed boost.
One to watch
Adam Quinlan is one of the most underrated full-backs in the competition. The 25-year-old Australian is in the peak of his career and has shone for the Robins this season. Quinlan arrived at KCOM Craven Park from NRL outfit St. George Illawarra Dragons in 2017, but has also spent previous time in England following a brief spell with St Helens two years prior.
The full-back – who is also capable of featuring in the halves – has 10 tries and 12 try assists to his name this season and with his handy ball-handling ability and sheer pace, Quinlan is certainly one to watch out for during the Qualifiers.
After scoring during KR’s win over Salford last month, the Red Devils’ defensive line will be extremely weary of the Australian’s abilities and will do everything they can to ensure he has a quiet evening this time around.

When’s the game?
Salford make the long trip to Hull on Friday 10th August with an 8pm kick-off schedule for the clash at KCOM Craven Park. The sides will lock horns for the third time this season, the Red Devils won the first contest between the sides 36-12 back in February, but Rovers claimed their revenge with a 52-22 pummelling in July.
Ticket details and coach travel will be released in due course. 

Ian Watson | “This time we are really excited about the challenge”

With the end of the regular season a week ago, the Salford Red Devils come to the end of season split facing the challenges of the Qualifiers. For Head Coach, Ian Watson, as he takes a look ahead over the coming two months, this is a challenge he positively relishes, with the opportunities it also presents.
“Obviously we wanted to be back in the Super 8s this year, but it wasn’t to be on this occasion with our having been in something of a period of transition, both on and off the field.
“Now, though, we are really positive about the calibre of player we have available, and the start of the middle 8s marks something of a restart to our season.”
Two seasons ago, when we last featured in the Qualifiers, the players never really seemed to adjust to the competition at all, and that took its toll in the long run as the competition unfolded.
“The players who were here at that time had probably done well enough during the regular season to have been in the Super 8s, but owing to a points deduction found themselves in a position which they felt was undeserved, on their part. Then they might also have felt that they were too good to be in it, which is always fatal because that is what catches you out.
“London Broncos certainly made us pay when they came here and beat us, because our team had a mentality that they were too good for that competition. The defeat certainly woke us up and we suddenly had to start performing in the Batley game, and then the Million Pound Game.
“The players who are still with us now will know the importance of not underestimating any of the teams like London.”
It always seems to be quite evident that the Championship teams come into the tournament with a quite different level of enthusiasm for the contest, having worked all season to earn the right to be there, whilst the Super League clubs have been trying to avoid the same.
“There is also a little bit of the unknown with the Championship teams, because there isn’t the video footage of them the way there is of Super League sides. The fact that they have been desperate to achieve their place in there comes from their winning most of their games, whilst Super League teams have been losing the majority of theirs.
“For us this time, though, we are really excited about the challenge, unlike last time when there were a lot of nerves about it. We also understand fully what it is about and what to expect, and of course we have injured players coming back to swell the troops, which will also give the remainder of the team added confidence, not to mention competition for places.
“On top of that we have a couple of new boys coming in, and that will give everyone a massive lift, because it shows that the club is behind them all, and we are all going in the right direction.”
One look at the final Championship table will show a stark difference between the top and bottom halves, with Leigh in sixth position being an incredible sixteen points ahead of Batley in seventh, which would really seem to point to some easy and comfortable wins for the top sides, in over half of their fixtures, throughout the season. As a result, these teams will be relatively fresh for the rigours which lie ahead.
“There are virtually two leagues in the Championship, with the full-timers and experienced players at the top clubs, whilst for the part-timers at the lower clubs, who have been working all week, it is a big task for them to go up against these fulltime professionals.
“Halifax are an example of a club with good experienced professionals, some of whom have played Super League in the past. This goes a long way in the Championship for a club to have players of that quality and experience. They will know exactly how to handle the coming games.”

Fixtures | Salford begin Qualifiers at Hull KR

Salford Red Devils will begin The Qualifiers campaign with a trip to KCOM Craven Park to take on Hull Kingston Rovers on Friday 10th August, 8pm kick-off.
The Red Devils first two home fixtures against Widnes Vikings and Toronto Wolfpack will be featured live on Sky Sports.
Salford are set to face Widnes – live on Sky Sports for the third time this season – on Saturday 18th August, 3:15pm kick-off.
While the game against Canadian side Toronto will take place on Saturday 8th September and will also be a 3:15pm kick-off.
The Red Devils will travel to the Mbi Shay Stadium to face Halifax RLFC between these home games on Sunday 2nd September, 3pm kick-off.
Ian Waton’s men are then set to have back-to-back away fixtures beginning against Leeds on Friday 14th September – 7:45pm kick-off – followed by London Broncos at Ealing Trailfinders on Sunday 23rd September.
Salford are scheduled finish The Qualifiers campaign at the AJ Bell Stadium on Sunday 30th September against French side Toulouse Olympique, 3pm kick-off.
However, the final three rounds of fixtures against Leeds, London and Toulouse are subject to change dependant on whether the games are chosen for broadcast by Sky Sports.
Synchronise all the fixtures direct to your phone by clicking here.

Brian Noble | “He’s clearly set a marker down”

Jackson Hastings debuted for the Red Devils in an impressive victory over Leeds Rhinos on Friday evening and Brian Noble feels he has lifted spirits at the AJ Bell Stadium.
Speaking on the BBC’s Super League Show, Noble said: “The break from dummy half is fantastic – a bit of speed and bit of zip.
“You want new players to do something for you and he clearly has I think he’s involved in an assist as well, so he’s clearly set a marker down.
“He’s saying all the right things publicly.
“I think he freed up Robert Lui a little bit there which has helped his game and clearly there’s an enthusiasm about Salford there that maybe wasn’t before Hastings was.”
Former Salford halfback Luke Robinson, also speaking on BBC’s Super League show, said: “Bringing in new players as Brian said earlier it just lifts the players.
“It’s a bit of a morale boosting lift when you’re bringing in someone of that quality and he seemed to have a big impact on the day.”
You can watch Jackson Hastings’ full debut by purchasing or renting the full eighty-minute game here.
Or, you can watch the highlights on Salford Red Devils TV below:

Disciplinary | Lee Mossop receives zero game penalty notice

Salford forward Lee Mossop has been given a 0-match penalty notice for a headbutt in the Red Devils recent victory over Leeds Rhinos.
This means Mossop will be available for the opening fixture of The Qualifiers which will be released on Wednesday 1st August at midday.
You can re-live the full game against Leeds and Jackson Hastings’ impressive debut by clicking here.
Or, the highlights are available below:


Kevin Sinfield | “Hastings won the game for Salford”

Leeds Rhinos Director of Rugby Kevin Sinfield admitted his side were outplayed by the Red Devils and pointed to halfback duo Jackson Hastings and Rob Lui as the reasons why. 
Hastings featured for the opening twenty minutes scoring and creating a try while Lui also crossed and racked up four try-assists in a great attacking display from Ian Watson’s men.
Sinfield said regarding his sides performance: “Clearly not good enough, clearly outplayed by twelve men.
He added: “I thought [Jackson] Hastings had a great first twenty minutes and he won the game for Salford.
“On the back of that [Rob] Lui just kicked the ball out, slowed the game down, managed the game and unfortunately we’re not capable of dealing with that at this moment in time.”
You can listen to what new signing Jackson Hastings said regarding Kevin Sinfield in the lead up to the game earlier this week in the video below:

Niall Evalds | “We were pleased given all the adversity we faced”

Niall Evalds returned to the AJ Bell Stadium for the first time in almost three months and was delighted to see the Red Devils overcome adversity to beat Leeds Rhinos for just the third time in the Betfred Super League era.
Evalds, sponsored by The Dog & Partridge, said: “We were pleased with the performance particularly given all the adversity we faced with Lee Mossop getting sent off and Jackson Hastings having to go off after twenty minutes.
“It was a tough stint. Leeds play fast as they always do with a lot of offloading, so our defensive effort was outstanding you know we clung on in there.
“There were times in which we fatigued, and Leeds were looking good so but yeah I thought we showed great determination to hang in there.
“We played pretty smart as well kicking the ball out when we needed a rest and I thought we played well overall.”
Niall Evalds also discussed his return from injury, crossing for a double against Leeds Rhinos and the upcoming Qualifiers campaign all of which can be seen on Salford Red Devils TV.
Watch the full post-match interview below:

Three talking points | Salford Red Devils 38-22 Leeds Rhinos

Following last night’s memorable victory over Leeds Rhinos, we take a look at three talking points in the aftermath of the game. 
Jackson Hastings 
Where else do you start?
Jackson Hastings made his much-anticipated debut for Salford Red Devils last night and – despite only playing the opening twenty minutes – made a massive impact at the AJ Bell Stadium.
Hastings began lively and almost put Niall Evalds through a gap inside the opening minute. On the ten-minute mark the two would eventually link up as Hastings took advantage of a quick play-the-ball, bamboozled the Leeds defence with a dummy before finding Evalds who would finish.

And, Hastings wasn’t done there. He was quickest to react to a low Rob Lui kick moments later notching a try on his Red Devils debut. The 22-year-old had to leave the field early however both the Australian and Head Coach Ian Watson confirmed that this was precautionary after a long week for the new arrival.
In his post-match press conference Ian Watson pointed to his sides resilience as a key factor behind their victory over Leeds; the biggest in the Betfred Super League era for Salford against the Rhinos.

Prop-forward Lee Mossop saw himself sent from the field after just twenty minutes for an altercation with Carl Ablett however it didn’t seem to hinder the Red Devils. Leeds did score on the back of the red card however Salford battled it out and managed to play for a whole hour with a one-man deficit and still come away with the victory.
In fact, during the period in which Salford were down to twelve men they actually matched Leeds scoring sixteen points apiece. There was a lot of big defensive efforts across the park for Salford in the second half before Niall Evalds’ crucial second try.
While we’ve touched on Jackson Hastings, there were a handful of contributing factors to the Red Devils looking more dangerous than in previous weeks.
Rob Lui – who was named Man of the Match – played an almost perfect game against Leeds yesterday evening. Lui was exceptional alongside Hastings and then controlled the game once the youngster left the field. The halfback crossed for a pivotal try on the stroke of half-time before hurting Leeds continuously with his pinpoint kicking game.
Niall Evalds returned to the AJ Bell Stadium for the first time in almost three months after a spell on the sidelines and what a return it was. Evalds crossed for two tries with his first showcasing his brilliant support play while his second displayed his ability to come into the attacking line.
Finally, sticking with the back line, Ed Chamberlain was another standout performer hitting lines out wide and racing away for a try in the first half. Chamberlain recently signed a two-year contract with Salford and has already began to show what he is capable of.

Ian Watson | “I think that resilience showed”

Head Coach Ian Watson was thrilled with the resilience his side displayed as they overcame Leeds Rhinos for just the third time in the Betfred Super League despite spending sixty minutes with twelve men. 
Watson said: “The boys have been goods all the way through the season they’ve always been on the same page alongside what the Club has been going through and the situations we’ve faced but they’ve stayed really strong as a group.
“Even when we’ve lost they’ve come in trying to improve and wanting to get better and I think that resilience showed when we went down to twelve men with how hard they worked for each other.
“We just need to build on that now and take it forward.
“When we complete sets we’ll cause any team issues and that’s what we did. If you look at our games when we complete sets, we normally win games – that’s the key for us.”
Watch Ian Watson’s full post-match press conference below where he also discusses the impressive debut of Jackson Hastings, the imminent arrival of Joey Lussick and how he is expecting some players to return from injury for The Qualifiers.
Full video below: