RED DEVILS IN DEPTH: LEEDS V SALFORD

It must have seemed the ideal opening fixture to the Leeds Rhinos, when first announced – a home game against a Salford side which had had to overcome a somewhat more turbulent close-season than most, whilst the fact that two of its former stars, Andy Ackers and Brodie Croft, were now resplendent in the ranks of the new-look Rhinos side, added even more spice to the occasion.

Fast forward to the seventieth minutes of the game itself, however, and that assumed, initial exuberance must have soured considerably, with the Red Devils having put all of the above behind them, taken the game by the scruff of the neck, and enforced their domination onto it to the extent that they were, by this point, in the lead at 14-16, having held pole position on the scoreboard for around three-quarters of the encounter.

It had all been down to the sheer determination, commitment, self-belief both as a team and individually, and clear understanding, adherence to, and confidence in the game plan, which for much of the time appears to have worked like a dream. It started with an immaculate kicking game from scrum half, Marc Sneyd, which had the home side’s defence in all sorts of trouble, turning them around, scrambling to defuse them, and even causing handling errors in recovery.

He, it was, who put in the neatest of angled kicks, behind the defence, for fellow halfback, Cade Cust, out of all the debutants on view that evening, to be the one to open the scoring by grounding between the posts, with Sneyd converting for a six point lead.

Oli Partington, surprisingly, was Salford’s other try scorer; ‘surprisingly’ because in his role he gets little opportunity of doing so. On this occasion, however, Leeds’s defensive line opened up for him, seemingly convinced he was going to send out a pass to the left. His speedy reaction of exploiting same opening brought him his first score in Salford colours.

Not that there were not adversities to overcome. Two sinbinnings meant that the Reds were down to twelve men for ten minutes in each half, and indeed Leeds scored two of their three tries during those two spells. The first saw the Rhinos utilise the extra man in getting Handley in the clear close to his own line, whilst the other came from powerhouse, Lisone, who supported a half break close to the line and, from there, there was no chance of stopping him putting the Rhinos ahead at this crucial point of the game.

What none of this does, however, is reflect the incredible defensive effort the Salford players put in right throughout the game. Two periods, one in each half, had the home side camped on the Red Devils line for seemingly interminable lengths of time, without any possession to give them some little respite, as Leeds got repeat set after repeat set, yet ending it all with absolutely nothing to show for either.

In the end, it was down to an extremely high penalty count in favour of the Rhinos. Not only did this give Martin chance to add to his hundred percent goal kicking performance, on other occasions it added to the energy-sapping defending the Reds had to do. Undoubtedly, the coaching staff will have this in hand a will work to eliminate this particular snag. All the other signs are that the team could cause some real upsets as the season progresses.

TRIBUTE TO GRAHAM JONES

Everyone connected with Salford Red Devils is extremely sorry to have learned of the passing of former Salford player, Graham Jones, on 4th November, aged 91. Graham played for Salford between 1954 and 1962, making his debut on 27th November 1954, against Leigh.

A Welshman by birth, Graham was signed from Penarth Rugby Union Club, initially as a stand-off half, but, three years later, his exceptional pace was deemed to be better utilised on the wing, where there was more space, in which for him to run.  This proved to be an inspired move because he became a quite prolific try scorer, over the years, going on to complete a total of 119 touchdowns, bringing 357 points, over 239 appearances.  The first of these came against Whitehaven, exactly one month after his debut.

The pinnacle of his time here came in the 1959/60 season, when he equalled the club’s post-war try scoring record of 27 tries for the season, which had stood for eleven years, and was only broken in 1971/2, by Maurice Richards.

Over his eight seasons, Graham played in a number of high-profile matches for the Reds.  In November 1955, he played against New Zealand, at The Willows, in one of their tour matches.  Four years later, he was in the Salford team which took the, then, Australian tourists right to the wire, in an incredible game, before being pipped at the post, 22-20.  He, it was, who had put the Reds 10-7 in front, at the interval, with the last score of the first half.

Sadly, his chances of international honours were thwarted by the lack of a Welsh international side, throughout that period.  He did, however, pull on the red jersey of Wales, when he was selected at stand-off, alongside three other Salford players, in an unofficial game against France, in Toulouse, on 1st March 1959, which he celebrated with a try in their 25-8 reversal.  Because the match had not been recognised as a full international none of the players who took part received international caps for it.

Despite its being his final season in the game, 1961/2 continued in similar vein to all its predecessors, with Graham registering a further 18 tries in 39 appearances, before hanging up his boots, following his final game, which was, remarkably, against Leigh, once more, on 4th May 1962.

His love for Salford, however, never diminished and he continued to live in the region, taking a keen interest in the club’s results and progress. In later years, he was a regular attendee at the Lance Todd Trophy Presentation Dinner, in company with his great friend from that team, Welsh, former centre to him, John Cheshire.

Our sympathies and condolences go out to all his family and friends, at this sad time. His funeral will be held, this coming Wednesday, 22nd November, at St Michael’s Church, Flixton, at 1pm.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

Graham Morris – Club historian, and author of ‘100 Salford Greats’

U19S TURN OVER LEAGUE LEADERS

Salford Red Devils 16  Castleford Tigers 10             Match Report

Just one month after their tremendous victory away at Wakefield, Salford’s U19s College Academy side hosted current league leaders, Castleford Tigers.  With both teams undefeated thus far in all fixtures it was only the cancellation of the Red Devils’ away match at Barrow, which separated the two teams in the table.

It did not take long for the visitors to take the initiative with an early score following back-to-back sets as a result of a goal-line drop-out on the third set, too far out for a successful conversion.  The confidence they took from this saw them having the edge in the exchanges which followed over the first fifteen minutes, so much so that no-one would ever have anticipated that they would remain totally scoreless for the next seventy minutes, which was what transpired.

Gradually, but surely, the dogged determination of the Salford pack in delivering hard, full-pace hit-ups and meeting the same with bone-jarring tackles, brought a swing in momentum to the Red Devils by the middle of the half.  Nor did the remainder of the side shirk any element of the physicality in this arm-wrestle.

The consequence and evidence of the sheer physicality they brought to the encounter was greater and greater penetration into the Tigers’ ranks, which brought them improved field position to apply pressure on the Castleford line.  Indeed, they might well have opened their account rather earlier, but for errors with ball in hand and in decision-making around a couple of penalties awarded to them.

Just as it was beginning to seem that scoring opportunities would be so sparse as to ever happen, especially when Jim Shields was held up over the line, on 26 mins, the Reds struck, two minutes later, with a really well executed try, direct from a scrum.  As the above photograph shows, the ball was moved to the blind-side and an overlap forged for right winger, Joe Griffiths, who went over in style to go round to ground behind the posts, giving Ryan Makin a straight-forward goal-kick to give them the lead.

And the Salford players were not finished there.  They continued to dominate for the rest of the half, finishing off with probably the best try of the game, the build up to which came over forty metres down the left flank with every player making progress and timing his pass outside to perfection.  Nevertheless, it still needed scoring when the ball got to winger, Ellis Clarke, who, despite the attentions of the Castleford cover, managed in true professional style to reach out and place the ball over the line as he was falling to the ground a little short of the line.

The six-point half-time lead might not have seemed a winning one, at the time, but as the second half unfolded both sides went head-to-head in an almost seemingly endless stalemate.  Jake Briffa was held up over the line, on 47 mins, and Castleford too, with the slope now in their favour, had their moments, but all in all the two sides cancelled each other out until it became apparent that the next score would prove crucial.

And so it proved, with a little piece of individual brilliance from stand-off, Sean Murray, who first side-stepped his marker, and then dummied the fullback to dart over close enough to the posts for Murray to add the conversion and open up a ten point lead, which they were able to hold onto until six minutes from the end, when the visitors produced an equal piece of individual innovation  with a  chip & chase to make the final minutes of the game as tense and enthralling as it had been throughout.

Coach, Danny Barton, was in no doubt as to the way his charges had managed the win:

“It was a superb team effort with everyone playing their part, in what was a high-class game.  That is what we train to do each week, and this week we produced it right through.  Whilst everyone played their part, the leaders throughout the side provided the direction and example for all the others to follow.”

With a blank fixture next week, the players will get a little respite before making the long journey over to Hull FC the following week, for their next outing.

RED DEVILS’ PROGRESS EVIDENT IN PLAY OFF SEMI-FINAL

Leigh 28  Salford 10                         Match Report

In what was undoubtedly the most keenly contested of the four encounters between the ladies of the Salford Red Devils and their near neighbours, the Leigh Leopards, the home side were made to battle for every point before eventually progressing through to the final of Super League 2’s end of season play-offs.

Indeed, it was a considerable achievement for the Salford players to have been making an appearance in this stage of the competition in their very first season in Super League, when many a side would, in such circumstances, have more than likely been battling to avoid relegation.  Not so, the Red Devils, who had finished a most creditable fourth to travel to third place Leigh, in this, the semi-final.

Each of the three previous encounters had seen a noticeable narrowing in the differential between the two sides, and although the scoreline failed to reflect this, the outcome, this time, was in the balance right through to the final fifteen minutes, when the home side managed to find a couple of holes in what had been a magnificent defensive effort by the visitors.

Just how tight the game was going to be was evident from the outset, with both sides locked in an arm wrestle – in which neither side could gain dominance – the like of which had not existed in either the pre-season friendly or the two, home and away league fixtures.

It was, however, Leigh who opened the scoring in the 15th minute, as a result of their gaining a penalty near their own line, followed by a set-restart inside the Salford half, before working an overlap on the left flank with an unconverted try in the corner.

Unfazed by this setback, the Reds continued to muscle up in defence, repelling every Leigh onslaught and setting up line-testing attacks of their own.  One magnificent tackle by centre, Alex Simpson, prevented a near certain try, on 23 mins, and six minutes later she was most unfortunate to be denied a try of her own, when a prior tackle on her winger, Lauren Ellison, was adjudged to have been completed.

As so often seems to happen these days, a disallowed try at one end of the field led to a recognised try at the other, once again coming after another set-restart, with the successful goal-kick giving the Leopards a 10-0 lead, on 32mins.

Once again, the Salford defence was called into action with one of the biggest hits of the afternoon being affected jointly by Player of the Year, Brogan Evans, and fullback, Sage Bannister, on 36mins.  It was that both were able to combine timing and targeted body areas with such precision that made this so impressive.

Efforts such as this can certainly give a team an uplift, and this proved to be the case on this occasion.  A high, end-of-set kick by Demi Jones was dropped, thus gaining the visitors further possession with which they set up, second rower, Viki Kini to force her way over, on 39 mins, enabling Jones to narrow the half time margin to 10-6.

The inspiration that the score had brought the Red Devils was carried through into the second half, and a Leigh error in their own half, early in the tackle count, gave away possession, which Salford were able to use to set up captain, Louise Fellingham, for a try on 43 mins, not only to level the score, but to rattle the home side at the loss of their lead.

The arm wrestle, which had been so tightly fought in the opening period, reappeared as both teams sought once again to gain dominance, but this time the Salford players had developed a confidence which continued to force the Leopards into uncharacteristic errors, by their defensive efforts.  Left winger, Ellison, was prominent in this, in the way she made excellent decisions when faced on a number of occasions with an overlap, which, each time, she unerringly snuffed out.

The introduction from the bench of Becki Davies, who had had to spend the whole of the season recovering from surgery on a serious leg injury, added a new dimension to the side in both attack and defence, as she performed most promisingly, throughout the rest of the match.

A Leigh penalty, on 55 mins, however, was to prove the turning point in the game, as a change of direction from a strike player got her through the consequential space to score by the post to re-establish the Leopards’ six-point lead.

The Salford defence, nevertheless, continued to work overtime as their hosts rediscovered their composure.  Another try-saving tackle, this time from hooker, Taz Corcoran, on 61 mins, temporarily, saved the day, but the Red Devils were beginning to show signs of tiredness, and a handling error gave the home side the opportunity to secure the win with another try under the posts.

A well-earned, goal-line drop-out to Salford, on 70 mins, was unfortunately mis-fielded, and, direct from the resultant scrum, the ball was collected by one of the Leigh speedsters, who sprinted the seventy metres to the other end of the field to give the score-line a somewhat one-sided impression of what had been a tough, and most enthralling encounter.

SALFORD:

Sage Bannister, Katie Garry, Sam Evans, Alex Simpson, Lauren Ellison, Louise Fellingham, Demi Jones, Megan Condliffe, Tamzin Corcoran, Summer Harris, Helena Walker, Victoria Kini, Brogan Evans

Substitute:

Sarina Tamou, Abi Collins, Hannah Wicks, Becki Davies

RED DEVILS IN DEPTH: SALFORD V WARRINGTON

It might have taken up to eighty-three minutes to get a result, but when it came the celebrations throughout the Salford stadium were comparable with having won a major trophy, as the Red Devils gained the two league points at the expense of the visiting Warrington Wolves, to go level with them on points, with only two games remaining.

Such was the importance of this particular fixture that the tension and intensity, prevalent throughout the match, led to rather more errors than might be expected at Super League level, yet on this occasion so closely matched were the two sides that these merely added to the excitement as to how the game would continue to unfold.  Twists and turns really do keep your concentration, and nerves, keyed up to the final whistle.

And when it eventually did come, what a tremendous way to secure the win – not with the anticipated drop-goal, but through a near length of the field, try of the match, which capped everything that had gone before, in terms of quality.  Slick hands moved the ball swiftly to the left wing, to put Joe Burgess in the clear.  That he was backed up the whole of the way by Sam Stone, a second row forward, was quite remarkable taking into account both the energy and pace needed to be in position to take the inside pass to score.

That it was the home side which had eventually taken the game was, in some respects, justice, for they had, on the whole, been the better of the two teams throughout, showing more ideas and organisation on attack, whilst defending their line, in particular, to greater effect.

This was evidenced in the three tries each team scored during the regular eighty minutes.  Warrington’s first two came from individual errors from our wingers, usually so reliable under the high ball, each dropping a keenly contested bomb giving the Wolves a dream start to each half.

Williams’s score between the posts, on 68 mins, was the one time they did successfully breech Salford’s goal-line defence, though, in fairness, there had been three occasions in the first half when their efforts were chalked off, the most noticeable being on the stroke of half time, when the video referee overturned the on-field decision to Thewlis’s grounding, in Salford’s favour.

In contrast, however, Ben Hellewell’s 22nd minute try came as a result of his beating his marker, in one of the quite few, man-on-man, line breeches in the whole game.  Then there was Brodie Croft, now coming back into the form he had shown to such dazzling effect last season.  His first, on 29 mins, followed two tremendous tackles, the first from Ryan Brierley on his opposite number Dufty, and then from the magnificent King Vuniyayawa and Chris Atkin which forced the ball out of the grasp of Ratchford.  Andy Ackers was on hand to collect it with next Atkin then sending out a wide pass to Croft in acres of space to score unopposed.

There was much more to his second, on 62 mins, than just a lucky ricochet.  Twice he put in short, low, end-of-set kicks to the Wolves’ line, the first of which forced a goal-line drop-out for a repeat set.  The second hit an opponent’s leg with Croft being easily the most alert person on the field to react by turning back on himself collecting the loose ball, and going over by the right-hand upright.

Salford too, had had a couple of disappointments, the first coming as early as the seventh minute, when a good attacking move to the right enabled Deon Cross to straighten up and go for the line, only for a first attempted tackle to be adjudged by the video referee as effective, owing to the fact that there was still contact between the defender’s hand and Cross’s foot as his ball carrying arm touched the ground.

All of which combined to make this a most riveting contest, of which both sides seemed to make heavy weather, in their endeavours to secure the points.  In the considerable heat of the day, however, it was the Salford players who always showed the greater desire and determination throughout and the fact that they had already had successful experience of Golden Point extra time, in their first home fixture with Wakefield, stood them in good stead for the final culmination.

Having to play extra time in the run up before another do-or-die encounter the following week, away at Hull KR, who had already had an extra two days’ recovery from their visit to Huddersfield, does not seem at all helpful, but such was the euphoria from, and the manner of, this win, that the boost it will have given the players, both jointly and individually, might just be enough to carry them through despite the adversities they face in the run-up to the game.  The fabulous support of our travelling fans will undoubtedly be a vital factor in keeping their spirits up throughout the encounter, so please all do get yourselves over there and make yourselves known, throughout.

TRIBUTE TO DAVID WATKINS MBE

Everyone at Salford Red Devils is so greatly saddened at the news of the passing of one of its greatest icons in the history of the club, David Watkins MBE, aged 81.  Frequently as superlatives are often attributed, David fully warranted every single one ever used about him, rising to become a dual international in both rugby league and rugby union.

Heralding from South Wales, he quickly developed, to play 202 top-flight union matches with Newport, going on to gain his first representative honours with Wales, for whom he played on twenty-one occasions, together with a further six for the British Lions, all in his recognised position of fly-half.

His move to join Salford in 1967 absolutely transformed what, at the time, was an up-and-coming team into one of the top sides in the league, certainly in the entertainment stakes, if not in the winning of trophies.  Such was the esteem in which he was held throughout the country that, upon his signing, the attendance of 3,500 at The Willows, for the previous week’s game v Castleford, rose to an incredible 10,500 for his home debut against Oldham, the following Friday, as sports fans travelled from all around the north-west, to witness it, and he did not disappoint, turning in a try-scoring performance after only two training sessions with the team.

Within eighteen months of joining Salford, he was leading the team out at Wembley, as captain, in the 1969 Challenge Cup Final v Castleford, having defeated Batley, Workington Town, Widnes, and Warrington, along the way.  Although the trophy was eventually lifted by their Yorkshire opponents, Salford’s very presence on that great stage was evidence of the significant development, of which David had been a catalyst, within the team, in the interim.

Successes in other finals, such as the Lancashire Cup Final over Swinton in 1972 and the BBC2 Floodlit Trophy Final replay over Warrington, in 1975, eventually came as some tangible reward.  Sandwiched in between those two was the winning of the club’s first major post-war trophy, the First Division Championship for the 1973/4 season, under his captaincy, which they then repeated two seasons later in 1975/6, after he had relinquished the captaincy to Chris Hesketh, but with his then becoming the league’s leading points scorer for that season.

Such was his talent on a rugby field that it superseded anything required for any one position so that over his ten-year tenure, in 1971 he moved from his initial stand-off half berth to centre, and then in 1974 to fullback.  It was in the centre, however, where he made his greatest contribution, revelling in the greater spaces that the position afforded him, and he repaid the club by notching a total of 30 tries in his very first season, ‘71/2, in that position.

It was in a match against Barrow, in December 1972, that he came on at centre from the substitute’s bench, ten minutes from time, to score the fastest hat-trick of tries – within 5 minutes – in any game, to that time.  His first international representation came against England in November 1968 at The Willows, and he went on to be selected for international duty with Great Britain on 6 occasions, and Wales 16 times, both of whom he later coached.

Individual records needed to be rewritten for him, as one after another was broken.  In the 1972/3, he kicked a world record of 221 goals in a single season and during the period from 19th August 1972 to 25th April 1974, he established the longest running record of scoring in every one of 92 consecutive club matches with 41 tries and 403 goals bringing him 929 points.

In 1979, after making his final appearance for Salford, in an away match at Rochdale Hornets on 1st April, he transferred to Swinton, where he spent a further season, before retiring having amassed a total of 2907 points..  In 1986 he was awarded the MBE for services to rugby league, and more recently, in December 2022, he was inducted into the Rugby League Hall of Fame.

Our thoughts and condolences go out to his family and friends at this really sad time.

RED DEVILS IN DEPTH: SALFORD V WAKEFIELD

Although there may have been recent games in which the Salford Red Devils have put in better performances than the one last Friday evening against Wakefield Trinity, the outcome in those was far less satisfactory than that of this one.  We would however all have given a great deal, on those occasions, to have been coming away with two more league points, as we were able to do, this time.

The acquisition of these two, on Friday, to go alongside the pair achieved the previous weekend at Huddersfield, could prove vital in building future momentum, and ultimately gaining a position in the top six play-offs.

And there were certain aspects of this game, which were quite noteworthy in themselves, not least the Salford defence.  The greatest ignominy one can inflict upon a team is to keep them totally scoreless, and this, the Red Devils achieved with some distinction.

There will be some discussion within the Wakefield ranks about the number of handling errors in their approach work, which spoiled their chances, but these were predominantly in the second half, as a consequence of the pressure the Reds had exerted upon them earlier, thereby unsettling their attacking rhythm and their nerves, as the game wore on.

The opening exchanges were, in stark contrast, most intensely fought with both sides going set for set in a quite fierce arm-wrestle for the first ten minutes, with the only break in play coming with Salford’s opening try.  Indeed, this apart, it had been proving to be the visitors who were getting the upper hand, pushing the Red Devils further and further to their own line, thanks to the power of their forward drives and long raking end-of-set kicks.

If there were one moment which typified the strength and resilience of the Salford defence, however, it came in the twenty-first minute, with a four-man, gang-tackle, by Sam Stone, Kallum Watkins Andy Ackers, and King Vuniyayawa on the mountain of a man which is David Fifita, driving him back. 

Of course, four men are always going to prove too much for any one person – including David Fifita – but it is the ability to get the four men in there, all together at the same time, which is the real achievement.  It was this and many other such defensive efforts which eventually led to the lacklustre Trinity attack, later in the game.

Scores, though, were at a premium to both sides.  Indeed, there seemed to be something of good fortune about each of the Reds’ trio of tries.  In tight games, it often proves to be the mis-pass which breaks a team’s defensive line as the players get sucked out of position so leaving gaps, and that is exactly what happened with Salford’s first. 

An intended pass went to ground but then stood up neatly into Kallum Watkins’s hands enabling him to go straight through the gap in front of him, and, with support on either side of him, he chose Ryan Brierley on his inside, who went the remaining distance to the posts.

How important taking every point was proving to be led to Marc Sneyd improving upon his three successful conversions to tries the last of which was from the touchline, with a penalty goal, on 28 mins.

Ackers probably felt most thankful to the Wakefield player who palmed the ball back to him, unmarked, from a short goal-line drop-out, for his 49th minute try.  The real credit for that, though, should go to the outstanding Vuniyayawa for his ferocious crash-tackle on a Wakefield ball-carrier, to force the drop-out, and even prior to that to the Salford kick-chasers for tying the Trinity onto their own line, for the start of their set.

The culminating, final, ninety metre, try of the match came as a result of Ken Sio’s getting in the way of a Wakefield pass and setting off on the journey to the other try-line, before selecting Brierley, yet again, to go over, this time, in the corner, with less than three minutes left.

A twenty-point victory is, in itself, impressive, but what was somewhat frustrating was the number of other opportunities which could have counted, but on this occasion evaded them, not least the wet ball squeezing out of Brodie Croft’s grasp as he sought to take control of it, over the try line, from a short kick.  On another night, many of these chances would probably have combined to go some way towards doubling their final tally.

TRIBUTE TO ERIC PRESCOTT

Everyone at Salford Red Devils has been greatly saddened at the news of the passing of the their marvellous, former loose forward, Eric Prescott.

A member of the great Salford team of the 1970s, the club is extremely proud that, of his incredible twenty year professional career, Eric chose to spend half of it with us. In special tribute to him, we reproduce an excerpt from an interview with him, first published last year, in which he describes his time playing for Salford and also shares his memories of his late son, Steve Prescott MBE:

Although not the only Salford player of the 1970s to have done so, both loose forward, Eric Prescott, and Salford RLFC, had such a high regard for each other, that he not only had one lengthy spell at the club, as their first choice loose forward, from 1972 to 1980, he also returned in 1983 for a further season.

A native of Widnes, it was however St Helens who first recognised his potential and talent, but competition for places there led to his transferring to Salford, where he very quickly made his mark.

“My first game with them all was against Rochdale, which we won, 46-18, at The Willows, all within the same week as my signing for them.  When you sign for a new team, there is always a settling-in period as you get to know everything, and there is no way that you can possibly acquire all that in only two training sessions.

“Salford had a lot of moves which they would deploy at various times in the game, which made for a really good setup.  They would call these moves out and everyone really needed to know their part in them.

“Defending teams, at that time, were kept only three yards back, which meant that they were able to get up onto the attacking team very quickly, and so having their practiced moves enabled attackers to fox the defence in some way.  Nowadays, being up to ten metres apart moves are rather less effective as there is so much time for defences to read what is happening.

“Salford played really good football and the ball always went through a lot of hands in every match.  We were always at our most dangerous in our own half of the field because when the other team were lying up on us, Kenny Gill or John Butler would put a kick through for Keith Fielding, and there was no-one going to catch him.

“Everyone had their own job within the team.  I liked tackling.  I liked the physicality involved, and also in aiming to get my technique just right on each occasion.  There was also the benefit of limiting the effectiveness of the opposition’s attack.

“Tackling round the legs was probably the best way of tackling in those days, because you can’t go without your legs.  Nowadays, it is regarded as more important to stop an offload, so tackling has drifted to the upper body.  Elbows, back then, were far too discouraging to make that type of tackle worthwhile.

“I got my nose broken in my early days, in a match against Warrington.  I was just getting up from a tackle to play the ball, when someone came in and smashed me across the face breaking my nose.  You have to learn from those incidents.”

As with many of his teammates, Eric still regrets the fact that the team never managed to fulfil its promise of winning trophies, and having come from a club like St Helens, this sat a little more uneasily on his shoulders.

“We should have won a whole lot more than we did, considering the talent that we had in the team, and having left St Helens to come to Salford, I had to sit and watch their success from afar.  They went to Wembley in 1976, and against all the odds won the Challenge Cup, and I remember thinking to myself that I’d missed out on that one.

“One of the reasons for my coming here was, with the team packed with all those internationals, I was expecting much the same from us, but we just couldn’t get through those early rounds of the Challenge Cup to get to the final.  One season we were knocked out by St Helens themselves in what was, for us, a home match.  That really hurt.”

Invariably, though, it was a trip into Yorkshire, to face Leeds or Castleford, around Rounds two and three, which put Salford out of the competition.

“Another problem was that, in those days, virtually all the teams were of a similar playing standard, so whilst we were one of the top sides, and, on our day, probably the most entertaining of them all, the remaining fifteen teams in the first division were not far behind.  If we had an ‘off’ day, any one of them could have won.  I remember Rochdale coming to the Willows and beating us, on one occasion.  That sort of thing hardly ever happens nowadays.

Wembley may have had a hoodoo cast over it as far as the Salford team was concerned, but the calibre of the side was twice reflected in their winning the First Division Championship, in 1973/4 and 1975/6.

“That was certainly handsome compensation and probably worthy of greater notoriety than it received at the time, because the equality in standards throughout the league made it all the more challenging and difficult to achieve.  Doing it twice, and so quickly after each other was a tremendous achievement.

“The first time was at the expense of St Helens, for once.  It was a late Easter Weekend at the end of the season, and we needed to win at Wigan, on the Easter Monday, and then for Widnes to beat St Helens, later that evening, in order for us to lift the Trophy.  We did all we could for ourselves in defeating Wigan, and then we all went over to Naughton Park, Widnes, which was so packed that we had to stand behind the posts to watch.

“It was quite absorbing because the game was so tight, with Saints in front at half time, but Widnes, with nothing but pride to play for, came back in the second half to win.  Saints were such a good team at that time we couldn’t really have expected anything other than for them to win, but they came unstuck and we became Champions.

“We also won other trophies.  We lifted the BBC2 Floodlit Cup, in 1972, with a win over Warrington, at Wilderspool, after drawing with them the week earlier at the Willows.  That came very shortly after I had moved to Salford and was a real reward for having done so.

“The Lancashire Cup and the John Player Trophy were other competitions in which we also had successes, at least in reaching the final and semi-final.  I think it is a loss to the game that these competitions have gone by the board, because they brought a bit of variety to the season, whilst as a player you were always wanting to win something.

“The Lancashire Cup win was one of my best memories.  I had been injured just before, and came back to play in the final, against Swinton, at Warrington.  We controlled the game well, and apart from the first twenty minutes of the second half, when they really came at us, we were on top throughout, and fully deserved the win.”

By the later years of the seventies, there was a fairly noticeable deterioration in the team, as players got older, some retired, and others moved elsewhere. 

“The mid-seventies were extremely good, but standards did start to decline over the coming seasons.  I still felt we had a good team then, but we just couldn’t get past those three or four clubs which had always been our downfall.  I still had the hankering to play at Wembley, and, as time moved on, I began to realise this was not going to happen at Salford, so I started to look round for another club.

“Working, as I did, for Widnes Council, I sounded out the possibility of my moving there, because they were a club which was making significant progress, by then.  The response from them was that they were quite willing to take me on board, if I were willing to play in the second row, which I was, and so I made the move to join them.”

Nothing is for ever, though, and a couple of seasons later he returned for one more spell, with prop, John Wood, transferring over to Widnes, in exchange.

“Salford approached me with a view to returning, and because I had been so very happy there, for so long, I agreed.  Coming back again rekindled the memories of all those good times, and even though it was different this time around, I had absolutely no regrets of having done so.

“I liked the type of rugby Salford have always played, and alongside that, the people who were there were all so very friendly and approachable.  I also still believed that we could have made up for the lack of trophies previously, by winning something this time around, but sadly this was not to be.”

Many years later, Eric was followed into the game by his son Steve Prescott, MBE.  As father of someone who commands such admiration as Steve did, for all that he had done, firstly as a player, and then in both his fight against his own personal illness allied to his work in raising awareness of the condition, Eric, understandably, has very mixed feelings.

“I loved helping him along as a young, up and coming player, going along to matches with him and giving him encouragement and guidance along the way.  Probably not all my advice was as helpful as it might have been, because he was a different type of player from me, with his being predominantly a back, whereas most of my career was spent in the forwards.

Tragically, in 2006, Steve was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer and given only a matter of months to live.  Such devastating news was very hard for Eric to take.

“I just wished it could have been me because I’d had most of my life; Steve should still have had his in front of him.  It just never works like that though.”

What Steve achieved in the remaining time he had left, which proved to be considerably more than the few months originally estimated, by means of the Steve Prescott Foundation, was absolutely phenomenal, and he was awarded the MBE for his services to rugby league and charity, in the 2010 New Year’s Honours List.

“It really was phenomenal what he achieved, particularly in aid of Manchester’s Christie’s Hospital.  He loved doing it though, which, when you consider that his body by this time was well past anything like its physical peak, is incredible.  I did a marathon in four hours and ten minutes, and his immediate response was that he was going to beat that, which he did, not at the first attempt, because he was very low with the cancer at the time, but at his second attempt.”

“It is so rewarding that the Foundation, in his name, is still going strong, under the direction of his wife, Jean, and also that since 2014, the top individual rugby league award has been known as the Steve Prescott Man of Steel.  In addition, the bridge leading into the Totally Wicked Stadium is named after him, which is utterly brilliant because you can never forget him, every time you go over that bridge and into the ground.

“I can’t say it was a shock, when Steve passed away in 2013, because we had seen him going downhill for a while, but it still takes some coming to terms with, because we are not ‘programmed’ for anything like this to happen.  It is just so very sad, but there are memories of him all around.  Even when I do the National Lottery each week, I can still hear him deriding my chances of winning it.  He just always wanted to be better than me.”

Eric, therefore, was the yardstick by which his remarkably splendid, younger, son, measured himself, and what greater form of flattering acknowledgement can there be, for any father!

RED DEVILS HANG ON IN TO THE END

Leigh 28  Salford 20               Match Report

In what was their third encounter since both teams were promoted into Super League 2, the Red Devils showed noticeable improvement upon both their pre-season friendly and their earlier home league fixture, against Leigh Leopards back in May, as a result of this being the strongest side they had managed to muster for any of the three matches.

Things certainly got off to a great start, when the opening kick-off completely fooled the receiving Leopards to bounce into dead, thus providing Salford with possession from the resultant goal-line drop-out.  From this, the visitors were able to mount an attack which saw the ball being moved to right giving winger, Liana Leota, with room to go over in the corner, to open the scoring.

Having been stung into action, Leigh sought to speed up the game, and, from quick play-the-balls, opened up the Reds’ defence with half-breaks the most serious of which saw loose forward, Brogan Evans, pull off a try-saving tackle after chasing back.

Nevertheless, the Leopards continued to mount an onslaught of attacks for a full five minutes, before crossing for a somewhat soft try under the posts, on 10 mins, which was doubly disappointing after all their prior, valiant defensive efforts, and surrendering the lead.

Not for long, though, as a grand end-of-set kick from Demi Jones was collected by the chasing Alex Simpson to go over in the same corner giving the two-point lead now back to the Reds.

The speed of the Leigh strike players was such, though that they were always a threat, and another break, through the visitors’ line, saw them race on to score under the posts to bring the score to 12-8, on 19 mins.

The fact that the Salford players were able to prevent any further tries up to half time, was, nevertheless, testament to their magnificent defence, thereafter, the highlight of which came in the 35th minute, when Yasmin Parton-Sotomayor, came from absolutely nowhere to crash-tackle a Leigh player in full flight, to deny them another score.

It was a dour start to the second half, for the Red Devils, however, for having, just like Leigh in the first half, scotched the kick-off, they had to face the full force of the Leigh attack on their line, for five full minutes, over four back-to-back sets, before eventually succumbing, out of sheer fatigue, to a converted try under the posts. 18-8

When, on 52 mins, Leigh added yet another try, this time in the right hand corner, they appeared to be moving out-of-sight, at 22-8, but, with full credit to them, Salford had other ideas, and with rather more possession got close enough to the Leopards’ line for dummy-half, Taz Corcoran to force her way over from a play-the-ball, close to the posts, thus giving Jones her first kickable conversion and reduce the deficit to eight points, at the mid-point of the half.

Seven minutes later, Corcoran went from hero to villain, when she was duly sin-binned for her part in a spear-tackle, and, with the extra player, Leigh were able to take the score to 28-14.  Her return, on 77mins, coincided with a couple of back-to-back Salford sets, courtesy, a goal-line drop-out, and having caught out the Leopards’ defence once from a play-the-ball, she proceeded to rebalance her contributions more positively, by the most blatant and daring scoot from dummy half to complete both her brace of tries, and the scoring.

So, with the team showing week on week improvement, and with two final away fixtures at Barrow and Featherstone, thoughts will soon be turning to the play-offs, which, with the tightest of contests between the three sides mentioned herein, could see the Red Devils returning quickly to whichever one of those sides they end up being paired against.

SALFORD

Sage Bannister, Liana Leota, Alex Simpson, Steph Gray, Lauren Ellison, Louise Fellingham, Demi Jones, Megan Condliffe, Tamzin Corcoran, Emerald Hickey, Victoria Kini, Helena Walker, Brogan Evans

Substitutes:

Abi Collins, Yasmin Parton-Sotomayor, Jessica Panayiotou, Hannah Wickes

18th Player – Darcey Price

RESERVES MAKE IT BACK-TO-BACK WINS

Huddersfield 28  Salford 30        Match Report

Salford Red Devils Reserves took over, on Saturday afternoon, where their senior counterparts had left off the night before, by doubling the number of wins over the Huddersfield Giants this weekend, and also running up back-to-back wins of their own – but only just.

There had been so much to admire in their performance, throughout the majority of the fixture, with the Salford forwards taking control from the outset, and the Reds opening the scoring with ease, from two early converted tries in the first twelve minutes.  This was in some respects unsurprising as they were able to field a much bigger and physically stronger side than in recent weeks, owing to the return from injury of a couple of senior players and the inclusion of two or three loan players from Swinton.

They even had a purple patch at the start of the second half, when they took the game completely away from the opposition to open up a twenty-point lead, which enabled their travelling fans to relax briefly before the game was turned on its head. 

Due, most likely, to inexperience of game-managing a winning lead, with ten minutes to go that lead had been halved, and shortly afterwards reduced to a mere six points.  Almost unbelievably, the final kick of the game was to become the deciding factor in the result.

It was as the result of a Giants’ error in the seventh minute that right winger, Dan Harrison, suddenly found himself in possession on his own twenty metre line with no-one in front of him.  He therefore did what all good wingers do, he pinned back his ears and sped the remaining length of the field down the touchline, holding off all pursuers to score wide out, but not too far out for Matty Rudd to commence his one hundred percent goal-scoring feat, which was to prove so crucial, at the final whistle.

If that had not shocked the home team to the core, conceding back-to-back tries so early on must surely have done so, when at the end of the very next set, the resultant end kick led to Scott Parnaby adding the second.

Just as it might have been thought that the visitors could score at will, their hosts galvanised themselves and, aided by their kick off being dropped close to the Salford try line and a rather foolish set-restart being given away, they had enough tackles in the bag to force an overlap on the right for a converted try to open their account.

Such was the Red Devils’ dominance, however, they were able to wipe out this setback with another try of their own.  An end-of-set chip and chase led to a penalty, which in turn led to Jordan Brown forcing his way over, between the posts.

Had they been able to carry this 6-18 lead into half time, it would have given them a three-score cushioning, but a dropped ball in their own half gave possession to the Giants, and they forced another overlap, this time on the left flank to bring the score to10-18, at the interval.

No-one could have hoped for a better start to the second half than the Red Devils got, with two tries in the first five minutes.  The first came as a result of pressure on the Giants, whilst in possession close to their own line.  The ball was lost backwards, and Amir Bourouh was first to get to it, followed by Owen Blackwood making it another pair of back-to-back score when he crossed between the posts to bring the score to 10-30.

It was on the 58th minute that the game changed so remarkably.  A Salford mix up on attack, in the Giants’ left hand corner, led to two back-to-back penalties, and the resultant sets of possession saw Huddersfield narrow the gap by four points. 

From then on, the game became more and more frustrating for the Reds as a total of five penalties in twenty minutes gave the home side a new lease of life, with further tries on the 70th, 72nd, and 79th minutes.  Fortunately, only the first of these was converted, and their final kick, which every Huddersfield fan on the ground was willing to go over, missed, and the relieved Salford players ran out winners.

Coach, Stuart Wilkinson, was pleased with the way his team had performed for the bulk of the game, and in particular the ferocity of their physicality both in attack and defence, but equally pleased with the win.  He felt that Amir Bourouh had been outstanding throughout, showing creativity, providing inspiration, and standing head and shoulders above everyone else on either side, whilst Joe Coop was continuing to show improvement week in week out.

Their last fixture of the regular season will come next week when they make the long journey to Humberside to take on Hull KR, where they could make it a hat-trick of wins with which to round off.

SALFORD

Billy Walkley, Daniel Harrison, Owen Blackwood, Joseph Coope- Franklin, Scott Egan, Matthew Rudd, Joseph Lowe, Leunbou Bardyel Wells, Amir Bourouh, Matthew Unsworth, John Hutchings, Scott Parnaby, Rhys Davies

Subsitutes

Jordan Brown, Jacob Lee, Charlie Glover, Kellen Wood

18th PLAYER – Mikey Gilligan

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