On an evening more resembling mid-January rather than late March, the Salford Red Devils U19s struggled, throughout the full eighty minutes, to come to terms with both the Bradford Bulls and the difficult conditions in which the game was played.
It certainly was not an evening for expansive flowing rugby, and, in the absence of this, the young Red Devils experienced significant problems in handling the ball, even at close quarters. Numerous times opportunities, afforded by penalties to them, went to waste as lost possession on the second or third tackle enabled the visitors to keep their line intact until the 53rd minute. By then the Bulls had built up a 16-0 lead, which, on such a night, was virtually unassailable.
Not that the Bulls were totally without errors of their own; they had them, but in nowhere near the same number as the home side. If anything, it could be said that the conditions favoured the Yorkshiremen. They certainly adapted to them by far the better. Solid, physical defence, better ends to their sets of six, and a superb kicking game, kept Salford firmly ensconced in their own half for considerable swathes of the first half.
The Red Devils improved matters considerably, in the second half, and, during much of it, they had ample opportunity to build pressure and so wear down the opposition. Indeed, with the half time score at 10-0, had Salford been first to score, following the resumption, they would have been well placed to have taken charge of the game. Sadly, this did not happen, and after some ten minutes of almost sustained pressure on the Bulls’ line, the visitors went to the other end of the field, and stretched their lead with a converted try under the posts.
Eventually, some fourteen minutes later, one of Bradford’s handling errors was punished by a surging run from prop, Jonny Scott, who set up the position for hooker, Aaron Moore, to continue his run of having scored in every game so far, when his trademark dummy, from a play-the-ball, opened up the defence for him to dive over the line.
Lewis Fairhurst added the extras, and the Salford players were inspired to work to apply much greater pressure on the Bulls, forcing four consecutive Bradford handling errors, which enabled the Red Devils to keep them contained within their own thirty metre area.
It was not to be, however, and when one of Lewis Fairhurst’s intimidating high bombs, which had caused problems for the Castleford fullback the previous week, was exceptionally well defused by Bradford’s fullback, Brandon Pickersgill, players on both sides seemed to sense that it was not going to be Salford’s night, and the score ran on to a 32-6 victory to the visitors.
Croft, Verite, Calland, Maders, Caine, Whittaker, Fairhurst, Scott, Moore, Cottington, Jones, Hatton, Worrell
Cella, Okanga-Ajwang, Bent, Storey
Pickersgill, Pickering, Hooley, Oakes, Rickett, Trueman, Baker, Kirk, Butterworth, Wilkinson, Bartle, Bentley, Waite-Pullan
Moxon, Chrimes, Sowerby, Hodgson
Match Report – David Clegg