In what turned out to be an absolute ding-dong battle, in which both teams made it tit for tat in the scoring stakes, Salford Cat 3 U19s progressed into the quarter finals at the end of this second-round cup-tie.
A bye in the first round had been followed by home advantage in the second, and the Reds made it pay with a tremendous opening volley of tries in the first fifteen minutes, which took them to a 16-0 lead, as a result of an opening brace from left winger, Josh Stafford, and a third from second rower, Lewis Zammit. All of these were really good well worked tries, which impressed everyone on the touchline.
Just as it appeared that the Red Devils might coast to a comfortable victory, their visitors shook off the effects of their five-hour journey from South Wales, and hit back with two tries of their own, which pegged Salford’s lead to a mere six points, at 16-10, and set out the stall for the remainder of the game.
Stand- off half, Callum Hughes, steadied the nerves ten minutes from the interval, to keep them 22-10 ahead, but the visitors were to send jitters throughout the Salford ranks with scores, either side of half time, amassing a total of twelve points which brought them level with their hosts.
It fell to winger, Connor Law, who had had three early successful conversions, but was unable to add to this tally, thereafter, to pull his side back into the driving seat by notching Salford’s first try of the second half. He showed a clean pair of heels once he had been put in the clear down the left flank, and he won the race to ground in the corner.
The respite that this brought turned into confidence five minutes later, when good handling in the left- hand corner, saw hooker, Connor Aspey squeeze over and give the Reds a two-score margin, which was just as well as the Welshmen were still not finished, and still had one more try in them, to bring the scoreline to 30-26, with eight minutes remaining.
It was, however, the Red Devils who had the final say, when classy centre, Lewis Roberts, cut through for yet another try in the left had corner, and who can now look forward to discovering whom they will meet in the quarter finals, as coach, Danny Barton explains.
“We felt from the outset that this would be a good opportunity to test ourselves and see how far we could progress, so to be in the quarter finals is very encouraging. We had to work really hard to get there, too as a result of the passion and enthusiasm our opponents had.
“Not only that, they were skilful and fast. Their stand-off was particularly so, and he led them around the field, and also had a great kicking game.
“Getting off to such a good start helped us considerably, but, as we seem to have done all season, we took our foot off the gas and let them back into it. We have to remember, though, that our lads are all first years, and lack the experience of slightly older players. They could do with a leader who has that bit more experience.
“Losing Lewis Roberts in the first half provided problems, and it was noticeable the contribution he made later, on his return. Man of the Match, though, was definitely prop, Jack Fairbrother, who stood out with his determination and effort.
“Importantly, the lads pulled out the stops in the final few minutes when the game was won thanks to their digging deep and curtailing the errors which had marred the earlier period of that half.”