A double brace of tries from Ken Sio, one at the start and the other at the end of the game, served to sandwich this remarkable game against the visiting newcomers to Super League, Toulouse Olympique.
Remarkable that is, in a number of ways. Remarkable in the severity of the adverse conditions, which blasted over the pitch in the form of Storm Franklin, remarkable in the variety of ploys both sides, but especially Salford, used to combat the elements, and remarkable in the total number of points the Red Devils were able to post in such conditions.
So strong was the wind swirling around the field that it was almost like another opposition team intent upon foiling the bravest endeavours of both sets of players. There has been many a game, when, in similar circumstances, the team regarded as underdogs would have been chomping at the bit to get out there, use the conditions to their advantage, and consequently spring a surprise victory seemingly from nowhere.
For the Red Devils, therefore, to run up a total of thirty-eight points, for it can hardly be imagined that the Frenchmen would not have eager to use such an opportunity to notch up their first win, was most praiseworthy.
The tactics they used in posting no less than seven tries, was quite eye-opening, because modern day rugby is often regarded as being somewhat stereotyped and predictable, by its critics. Nothing could be further from the truth, on this occasion.
Not that there was a lot of off-the-cuff play to be seen, because so much was clearly well-rehearsed, and not only in the build-up to tries. Take, for example, Marc Sneyd’s twenty-first minute cross-field down-town kick, direct from a scrum a mere fifteen metres from his own line, to the left wing, followed by Joe Burgess’s dive for the ball, a good three metres away from it, but which he then skidded onto, to retain possession, despite the attention of a number of French defenders.
It was, though, of course, the tries which brought the greatest pleasure to the Salford faithful, with many of them, unsurprisingly, coming from kicks.
This was the case with Sio’s first, which came within the opening couple of minutes when he won the race to touch down Sneyd’s immaculate in-goal kick, centimetres before the ball went into dead.
Others followed, with Tim Lafai benefitting in the second half, from a real tester of a bomb which dipped suddenly in the gale, completely bewildering the Toulouse defenders.
And, as if only to keep them guessing, on twenty three minutes, Sneyd shaped up near to the line, to kick through, only to hold onto the ball and cut through the gap left by the surprised opposition.
It was not only the kicks, or on this last occasion the lack of one, which opened up the way to the visitors’ line. Brodie Croft made a marvellous break from well inside his own half to make a fifty metre run, and, although his final pass was deflected by a French arm, Sio did an excellent job of mopping up to cross for his second.
Indeed Croft later got in on the kicking game, himself, to put through a neat little stab for Sio’s third, to show the home fans that he, too, is going to be a force to be reckoned with, as he settles more and more into the side.
In such treacherous conditions, however, passing moves are at a premium though Salford did extremely well when they sent the ball from right to left to get Burgess away down his left wing, and his inside pass secured, for the supporting Ryan Brierley, his first Super League try for Salford.
Not that the Olympique were without ideas of their own, and indeed they had already asked a number of questions of the Salford defence before they managed to penetrate it with former Salford U19s Chris Hankinson, touching down in similar fashion to Sio’s opener.
Indeed, it was the visitors who shook the Salford fans with the opening try of the second half, bringing them to within striking distance of their hosts’ lead, for a short period which undoubtedly will have caused some little concern on the terraces.
The day, however, belonged to Salford, and Ken Sio, who, with three tries under his belt already, capped it all with the most exciting of them all as he sped eighty metres down field for his final, culminating score of the afternoon.