Salford U19s Red team opened up 2020 in style with an emphatic home win against the Huddersfield Giants, last Wednesday afternoon. In the most ideal of conditions for early January, the Red Devils took control of the match in the first half to establish a 24-6 half time lead, as a result of a totally dominant display of power and skill by their pack.
Add to that a pair of halves whose ability to create openings was equally significant and a back line which was able to use those openings to advantage, and they looked to be a really well-balanced and well-drilled formation, which, at times, gave the impression that they could score at will.
Not that the visiting Giants side were without strengths of their own, and their ability to sense the slightest drop in defensive concentration, on the part of their hosts, led to their exploiting this with tries of their own, particularly in the second half, when they rallied considerably.
The game swung Salford’s way in the most unlikely of circumstances, after around ten minutes of play, when fullback, Josh Stafford, fielded a threatening kick into our in-goal area, and then beat three advancing attacking Huddersfield chasers with clever footwork to make progress up the field and put his side on the front foot.
The confidence which this engendered throughout the side was evident from the fact that, within four tackles, they had scored their first try following good work down the left flank which culminated in centre, Luis Roberts, being put clear by a clever pass from stand-off, Morgan Kelly.
Five minutes later, it was fellow half back, Charlie McManus, who sent out a wide pass to winger, and Man of the Match, Will Timmins, who did well to beat the covering defenders, and move the score on to 8-0.
The lead was extended further still, shortly after, when loose forward, Callum Hughes, ran a great line onto another shrewd pass from McManus, before handing on to Connor Aspey who scored by the posts. Josh Stafford was successful with his first straightforward conversion attempt.
With confidence now possibly bordering on over-confidence, the Giants promptly showed that they were still in contention, by taking advantage of a lapse in concentration within the Salford defence and posting a converted try of their own to narrow the gap to 14-6.
The Red Devils responded as one would have hoped they would, by taking a complete stranglehold on the game, thanks to the sterling efforts of the forwards, who led the charges upfield to set up position for the final two tries, from left winger, Connor Law, and the second from Connor Aspey.
The second half was a much more even affair, with the visitors using the interval to regroup and apply themselves with rather more vigour, while the comfort of an eighteen point lead somewhat reduced the home side’s determination and level of endeavour.
They did, nevertheless, continue to keep their score ticking over and maintain their lead, with further scores from Harvey Hulmes, Dylan Hartley, Ben Wharton, and Callum Hughes.
Coach, Danny Barton, was fulsome in his praise for his charges’ first half dominance.
“It was all down to their great attitude that they did so well in that first half. We had worked hard at defending well on the edges, in training, and the lads applied all we had worked upon to good effect during that period. I had warned them, beforehand, that if we were to win the game we would have to defend some back-to-back sets, which we did in that first forty.
“I knew that Huddersfield would be capable of scoring tries themselves because they have some talented people, but we were able to keep them under wraps, on the whole, through to half time. To a certain extent we dropped off a bit for the second period, while Huddersfield came out with a much-improved attitude.
“A lot of this is down to maturity, and they are still young lads, so when the going appears to be easy they are still likely to ease off a bit. When it comes around to the cup competition, and other games in which you don’t have a second chance, though, you cannot afford to do that.
“Harvey Hulmes’s one on one ball-steal, at the start of the second half was most impressive, and got us off to a great start again, with the try which he got from it. Similarly, Ben Wharton’s try from Charlie McManus’s pass was well-worked.
“Overall, it was a great start to the second half of the season.”
Meanwhile, the Black team had travelled to Priestley College where they ran out comfortable winners by 46-16.
“We are starting to get a quite competitive environment here now, where players are continually having to fight for their shirts, and we have talented players in both sides, so they are all pushing each other for positions, which is really good.”
SALFORD RED TEAM
Josh Stafford, Connor Law, Luis Roberts, Dylan Hartley, Will Timmins, Charles McManus, Morgan Kelly, Pat Johnson, Connor Aspey, Tom Hunter, Michael Loss, Sam Eyres, Harvey Hulmes, Colin Hughes, Ben Wharton, Jak Fairbrother