DEPLETED RED DEVILS IN TOUGH TEST

Salford Red Devils 4  Leigh Leopards 44                  Match Report

Just three weeks after ratchetting up a colossal 90-0 victory over Castleford at the Mend-a Hose Jungle, in last Sunday’s home fixture with Leigh Leopards, the Red Devils, though a considerably better team, found themselves in a not dissimilar position to that of the unfortunate Tigers, as the visiting Leopards cut loose in the first half.

To be fair, this Leigh team has been by far and away the stand-out side in the women’s Championship League, this season, putting considerable scorelines, well in excess of this one, against a number of other teams

Meanwhile, the Salford side, which had had a most impressive win, away at Hull KR, in their last outing, was, this time out, lacking several key players, who had been replaced by others, newly recruited, and making their debuts here.  This was compounded, as the game proceeded, by a number of injuries to the team, all of which made the task all the harder.

Nevertheless, despite a difficult first half, the group used the half time interval to galvanise themselves to put on a much more competitive second forty, which limited the opposition to less than half of the points they had scored before half time.

The Reds got their reward, fifteen minutes from time, when they succeeded in scoring their try.  Having acquired good field position, the players realised that this might prove to be a possibility, and put in some good hit ups towards the line.  The last of these, by Emily Bagguley, succeeded in sucking in defenders to stop her, as she powered towards the line.

Realising this, dummy half, Taz Corcoran, sent the ball towards the flank, to prop, Emerald Hickey, who carried it forward into a melee of defenders, and then succeeded in sending out the sweetest of passes to the supporting Jadine McVernon, who had timed her run to perfection to finish off the try.

The fact that they had scored against such a dominant opposition was most rewarding for the whole team, so that they had not been nilled, especially for those who had contributed over and above in terms of effort and impact, such as loose forward, Sophie Morris, who was absolutely outstanding, throughout the whole game despite everything.

This was a one-off encounter, which is unlikely to be repeated again, with the remaining six fixtures appearing quite winnable, and enabling the team to feature in the end of season playoffs.

As one absent member of the squad put it to me, afterwards

“Once we are all back fit and well, we will be able to match Leigh quite competently, when we eventually have to play them in the play offs”.

SALFORD

Alex Simpson, Marnie-Lee Kelly, Caitlin Washington, Kim Seddon, Megan Hoblin, Ellie Costello, Sam Evans, Olivia Hill, Tamzin Corcoran, Emily Bagguley, Summer Harris, Jadine McVernon, Sophie Morris

Interchanges:

Abi Collins, Emerald Hickey, Lily Gray, Yasmin Parton-Sotomayor

18th Player – Hannah Wicks

RED DEVILS IN DEPTH: SALFORD V HULL

Following upon those recent, telling victories over London, Warrington, and St Helens, the Salford Red Devils further cemented their position in the top six with this, their fourth consecutive win, over revitalised Hull FC.

It has been an unfortunate quirk of the fixture list that the two sides have been kept apart so far into the season, which has meant that, whilst the Yorkshire side was really struggling for form, every other side has had the benefit of rich pickings, which, with the recent upturn of events on Humberside, has been denied the Red Devils.

Consequently, it was a far more evenly contested encounter which unfolded through the eighty minutes, than might earlier have been the case, with the visitors competing tooth and nail through to the bitter end.

Notice of this was served at the very outset, with the opening arm-wrestle lasting over nine full minutes, with end-to-end forays being soaked up by dominant defences on both sides. 

Even though it was the Red Devils who probably had the better field-position outcomes of these exchanges, they failed to set up any real threat to the Hull line, and it was not until 26 minutes that they opened the scoring courtesy Deon Cross, in the left corner.

An increase in tempo from the home side, coinciding with the mid-half interchanges, built up the first real pressure on the visitors, and the successfully developing half back combination of Marc Sneyd and Chris Atkin, with fullback, Ryan Brierley, linking in as the ball was swiftly moved from right to left, to find the winger in sufficient space to increase his rapidly growing number of tries.

What happened next, however, was to portend a series of similar events later in the game, for having just got themselves ahead the Red Devils were unable to take the ball from the kick-off, and Hull promptly took advantage of the situation to go over between the posts, directly from a scrum, to take the lead with their conversion.

Having failed to convert the first try from a difficult position, Sneyd ensured that that was to be a solitary one-off, and went on to slot the remaining goal attempts over, three of which were from penalties, the timing of which was absolutely crucial, giving the Reds a points’ boost just when they were most in need of them.  The first came right on half time to level the scores, the second on 45 mins expanded their, by then, lead to an important three scores, and what was most crucial of all, the third one extending, what was, then, a mere four-point lead to that of a converted try.

So often, since his return, we have all been grateful for his reliability in this facet of his game, but to a certain extent can start to take it for granted.  It is only when we witness opposing kickers missing such vital attempts at goal, as happened twice at the end of this game, that we realise just how much we owe to him on so many occasions.

It was his open-play kicking, at the start of the second half, however, which put the Reds in the dominant position for so much of the remainder of the game.  Just two minutes after the resumption, it was his chip above the defence which Brierley caught before falling over the line to take the lead for the first time, before his forty-twenty set up the position for their third score.

A subsequent penalty after the tap restart, saw the ball moved towards the right where the versatile Chris Hankinson, recently so reliable in the fullback role and this week deployed in the centre position he once occupied so regularly with our U20s back in 2012, celebrated by exploiting the space, out wide, for his third try of the season.

The remainder of the game, however, proved to be something of a frustration from a number of missed opportunities – Brierley’s mis-footing and Sneyd’s being thwarted from grounding the ball being the most significant –  which gave a fillip to the opposition, and led to a few handling and decision making errors, alongside a tiring, somewhat below par defence, that failed to prevent two Hull four-pointers, which, in themselves, failed to overturn what turned out to be the final winning scoreline in favour of the Red Devils.

It was, nevertheless, an important success, which has kept Salford not only in the top six, but also put them joint second with high-flyers such as Warrington, St Helens, and Hull KR – something we should be vaunting throughout the whole of the city. 

Next up comes another club, from which we have been kept well away, thus far, Catalans Dragons.   Tough as trips to the South of France invariably turn out to be, having recently completed the double over two of their co-habitants in second place, there is no gainsaying that the Reds will not be able to notch the first of yet another remarkable pair of victories.

RED DEVILS IN DEPTH: SALFORD V ST HELENS

A truly magnificent performance, saw the Salford Red Devils follow up their away win at the Totally Wicked Stadium, in early March, with yesterday’s home victory to complete their first double over St Helens since the 1979/80 season, forty-four years ago.

Not only that, they also made it two doubles in a row, and against teams higher in the league than they, themselves, following up the previous week’s away defeat of Warrington.  We had said this one would be tough, and it most certainly was with the Red Devils thrice having to come back from 6-0, 12-10, and 18-14 deficits.

We also said that a repeat of their performance in the victory over the Wolves, if they could manage it, might be sufficient to bring them the rewards, and, wow, did they manage to do just that, with the match-winning, try-of-the-game coming seven minutes from the final whistle, and their managing the remaining time superbly, keeping the Saints pinned down in their own half, for the majority of it.

Falling behind to Bell’s fifth minute converted try seemed to cause them little concern as they continued thereafter to repel the visitors’ early pressure, but it was not until twelfth minutes that they got within sight of the Saints’ line, forcing a goal-line drop-out as some reward.

They had to wait until a penalty, on 17mins, for a high tackle, gave them their best starting field-position, with Shane Wright reversing the initial direction of play and finding Deon Cross, unmarked, to go in at the corner.

Marc Sneyd’s failed attempt at obtaining a try by kicking the ball to his unmarked half-back colleague, Chris Atkin, did at least show the extent to which their partnership has developed, and indeed that was shown to greater effect in the way the pair linked to help set up the final try, with Sneyd’s pass enabling Atkin then to send out, what was assessed by some, as the most crucial pass in the line of the seven pairs of hands, involved in the move.

For Sneyd, though, the over-ruling of his ploy seemed to affect his next couple of attempts at goal, with his most unusually missing both, and then everything relying on his final conversion attempt to secure the win.  His overall performance though was as effective as ever, as he organised and directed play around the field.

Salford’s wingers continued to impress with the next score seeing Deon Cross repeat not only his brace from the previous week but also the winning try itself from Sneyd’s pinpoint kick to the corner.  Indeed, Cross was later voted our sponsor’s Man of the Match, for his stirring all-round performance on both attack and defence, alongside skipper, Kallum Watkins who received the same acknowledgement from Sky TV.

For his part Ethan Ryan was also impressive with his most significant contribution coming with his thirty metre run down his right flank, before passing inside to Chris Hankinson to complete the move with his touchdown for the day’s final score.

Once again, Hankinson’s contribution was well in excess of what might reasonably be expected of someone with limited experience in the role, and it was most fitting that he should be rewarded for it with the final try.

For fans of both sides, the second half was something akin to a ride on the big dipper, with hopes soaring and sinking in equal amounts over the forty, none so quickly changing as when Nene Macdonald’s try was overturned by the referee, as a result of two infringements – one from each side – and Salford being awarded the put-in at the ensuing scrum for St Helens’s initial knock-on.

For three matches now, Macdonald has been used as the ‘go to’ target for some of Sneyd’s high end-of-set, attacking kicks, and for the first time this brought success, with his palm backwards of the ball, where Watkins, having vied with Hankinson to collect it, claimed the score.

While Saints probably had slightly the better of the exchanges, in the second forty, with their scoring three tries to two, it was the four point advantage at half-time, as a result of Salford’s two tries to one in the first half, which stood them in such good stead to be able to go on and collect the two league points.

As for the rest of the side, they all covered themselves with glory for their sterling efforts throughout.  Joe Mellor’s scoots at the play-the-ball, for example, have now begun to cause so many problems in opposition defences that they have become a significant nuisance value to the side.

And when they were not engaged in wave after wave of attack, such as the ten-minute period at the start of the second half, they were all a part of the tremendous defensive wall they put up, which so successfully limited the Saints’ scoring machine to less points than they needed even to draw.

So, with an international giving the rest of Super League a blank weekend this week, the lads will have a most deserved rest, but when they return, it will be to a significantly different challenge of getting themselves fully motivate for seeing off one of the lower sides in the league, Hull, who, themselves, have made noticeable strides in recent weeks.  A large vociferous crowd would be a welcome addition to their motivation.

RESERVES FAIL TO CAPITALISE ON COMEBACK

Warrington 32  Salford 22                     Match Report

A most impressive first half comeback saw the Salford Red Devils’ Reserve side overturn a ten point deficit, to take a 10-16 half-time lead over the Warrington Wolves Reserves, at Victoria Park, last Saturday, but, disappointingly, were unable to sustain it as the home side took command in the second half to secure the victory.

The Red Devils are beginning to make a habit of getting off to a slow start, falling behind on the scoreboard, and then coming from behind to take the lead.  That, on this occasion, as much as their below par performance in the second half, was responsible for their defeat.  It would have been far more achievable for them had they been defending a 0-16 lead at the turnaround.

Two quick tries, in the 3rd and 5th mins, put the Wolves in the driving seat, but as has happened most recently, against Wigan and London, the Salford players pulled together to overcome this in the second quarter.

It was not until the fifteenth minute, though, that they were able to launch their first attack, but, most remarkably, completed it with a try by fullback, Nathan Connell, recently returned from duties with the first team, the week before, from a kick towards the posts, over the line by scrum-half, Kai Morgan, who also added the extra two points.

Apart from these two players, there was also another pair in the side both of whom have quite a wealth of first team experience.  Amir Bourouh sadly had the misfortune of having to sit out much of the first half out, awaiting a half time head injury assessment, after a knock, on 8 mins.  King Vuniyayawa, however, contributed much to the side’s mid-half fightback.  

Having already impressed with some really strong carries forward, he was instrumental in the next Salford score.  This started with an arcing run from the middle of the field fifteen metres out towards the left touchline, and as he was tackled just short of the line, he slipped the ball to centre, Brad Hammond, who crossed too far out for the conversion to be successful.

Not only this, he, it was, whose strength and power took him through the defence to score between the posts, for their one and only try of the second half, with Morgan adding the straight-forward conversion.

Before that, however, the Reds had enjoyed a grand ending to the first half, when they took the lead, five minutes from half time, with second rower, Charlie McCurrie, charging over, and although initially being prevented from grounding the ball by a cluster of defenders, most smartly rolled over sideways to place it down on the other side.  With the aid of a ricochet in off the post, Morgan was able to chalk up another two points to widen the Salford lead.

The second half, however, was to be all Warrington’s – certainly as far as the scoring was concerned – though it has to be said that a couple of those were attributable to the most extraordinary of circumstances.

Nevertheless, the Reds continued to endeavour to press their hosts on a number of occasions, but without success, and so, with frustration building up, errors started to set in, which merely sourced the Wolves’ opportunities to attack all the more.

Coach, Stuart Wilkinson, elaborated on this further:

“It was a disappointing afternoon, overall.  We had a poor start and then, in the second half, we went away from what the good things that we had been doing up to half time.  It is indicative of the point in our development at this time, where there has been plenty of spirit in evidence, but also a lack of awareness of the impact of errors and especially giving away penalties.  This is something that can only be eliminated by learning, over time

“Despite this, we have been competitive right to the end, in every one of our games, and this was most evident in the contribution of substitute, Leunbou Bardyel-Wells, whose commitment and endeavour was absolutely outstanding.  His impact caused so much anxiety in the home crowd, that they even cheered when he received a couple of hard hits, while carrying the ball, which is a significant compliment in itself.”

 SALFORD

Nathan Connell, Joe Coope-Franklin, Scott Egan, Brad Hammond, Ethan Fitzgerald, Joe Purcell, Kai Morgan, Jamie Pye, Amir Bourouh, King Vuniyayawa, Henry Davies, Charlie McCurrie, John Hutchings

Interchanges:

Finley Yates, Jack Gatcliffe, Leunbou Bardyel-Wells, Josh Wagstaffe

TRIBUTE TO BILL BURGESS

Salford Red Devils were greatly saddened to learn of the passing of their former, international winger, Bill Burgess, on Tuesday last, 11th June, following a long illness.

Born and brought up in Barrow, Bill followed his father, of the same name, in joining his home town rugby league club, from Fylde Rugby Union Club, in 1962, for the exceptionally large fee, at that time, of seven thousand pounds.

His rugby league career began with an away match at Doncaster, where he crossed for a hat-trick of tries, and he went on to play a total of two hundred and twenty-two appearances for Barrow, scoring one hundred and seventy-nine tries, which included an average of one per match over his first two seasons.

Representative honours were quick to follow, being selected by first, Lancashire for whom he scored ten tries in eleven matches, and then in 1963 for Great Britain, with whom he went on to tour Australia and New Zealand, in 1966.

In December 1968, he moved south to join Salford for a fee of six thousand pounds, at the very same time as the club signed forward, Colin Dixon, from Halifax, and the dual announcement made headlines in the news, on the day.

What had made him stand out to the club officials was his incredible running style, which was so graceful, and seemed almost effortless, even on the muddiest of pitches, but was accompanied by the ability to change direction, swerve around players, and also beat them by a change of pace.  Even when he appeared to be going full out he always seemed to be able to increase it even further when challenged by anyone.

His Salford debut came on 20 December, in a home game against Wakefield Trinity, and he went on to make a total of forty-four appearances, in which he scored thirty-three tries.  One of the most important of these was in the full-house, home quarter-final Challenge Cup tie, against Widnes. The ball was moved along the line to the right, which was the flank upon which he was always to be found, and thanks to a flip on to him, rather than a catch and pass, by loose forward Ron Hill, the extra time this provided, enabled Bill to round his opponent in the corner for the crucial score of the game.

Salford went on to reach Wembley for their first, post war appearance, whilst, for Bill, it was his second consecutive visit there, having been on the losing side to Featherstone Rovers, the previous year.

Sadly, this second final was not to be one that he would be able to relish, owing to a collision with a Castleford forward, as he chased through from the kick-off, and although he remained on the field for the remainder of the game, his contribution was significantly curtailed as a consequence, with the Yorkshire side going on to lift the trophy.

Over the two seasons he remained here he represented Great Britain once, England on two occasions, and once for Lancashire.

Unfortunately, his later months were impaired by a troublesome shoulder injury, and when, in what turned out to be his last match, a play-off game against Hull, at The Willows, on 19th April 1970, he dislocated shoulder for a second time, sadly he decided to retire from the game.

Nevertheless, throughout the rest of his life, he remained passionate about rugby league, whilst also remaining active, playing bowls, in his local community, where he continued to be an extremely popular figure, whilst being fondly remembered by all those throughout rugby, who knew him.

Our sympathy and condolences go out to his family, at this sad time.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

Graham Morris – Club Historian

RED DEVILS IN DEPTH: WARRINGTON V SALFORD

With a first half performance that must have been their best forty minutes of the season so far, the Salford Red Devils put the Warrington Wolves to the sword, to complete their second double of the season, at the Halliwell-Jones, last Friday evening.

Yet, it had been expected by many that it would be Warrington who would have had so much to prove, following their Wembley defeat, that the Red Devils might well have had to contend with a considerable backlash, and indeed there was sufficient evidence, in periods, to show that the Wolves’ determination to do this had been there from the outset.  It just happened to be stymied by the visitors’ ability to conjure up the most thrilling of tries, out of nothing.

The first five sets saw the home side exerting their physical prowess having started the game on their own line, but then ending each set further and further into Salford territory, so much so that the fifth – Warrington’s third – ended with fullback, Chris Hankinson, catching the kick, virtually on his own line, and having to contend with the charging maraud of players intent on forcing a goal-line drop-out.

Secure in the knowledge that there was support at his side, he, most daringly, released the ball backwards over his own line, which was to change the course of the whole game, from thereon.  In fact, Hankinson himself, went on to have a most impressive game throughout, returning kicks into the very faces of the opposition, linking up with play, and making two outstanding try-saving tackles.

Salford, with the possession he had provided, in three tackles then went the length of the field to take the lead.  Sam Stone ran at a gap between two players, thereby drawing them both in and then slipping the ball in the tackle to Nene Macdonald, who successfully turned fullback, Matt Dufty, inside out, before crossing between the posts.

The inspiration this brought was more than evident seven minutes later when their line speed, at one play-the-ball, pushed the Wolves further and further back with each pass so that a rushed final one found the unintended mark of Tim Lafai, who came close to doubling the scoreline.  Instead, it was the reliable boot of Marc Sneyd, who increased Warrington’s woes, with a penalty.

If the Wolves’ confidence were beginning to creak a little by this time, it was surely cracked wide open, in the very next set, when slick hands combined to put Deon Cross down the left wing, and he also added to the Wolves’ fullback’s woes by selling a most outrageous of dummies to leave him flat on the ground, for Salford’s second try.

Kallum Watkins’s recovery of possession from a Warrington touch-in-flight saw him show the utmost composure to slip the ball out from a tackle to Ethan Ryan, whose own performance was as eye-catching as any, with his constant carries to the opposition, runs along the wing, and later in the game, his reliability in sweeping up the ball from kicks into his corner which he returned with interest.

On this occasion, he proved to be the link which put Sneyd away, to ground their third try, under the posts.  With the conversion and a last minute drop-goal, the Red Devils were in quite a commanding lead, as much due to their overall performance as to the 0-19 scoreline, at half time.

It would have been quite incredible had they managed to carry this on into the second half, but with Warrington gaining and maintaining much greater possession, it was the Reds’ defence which was to be their greatest asset.

 As many as five Warrington sets-of-six over a four-minute period at the start of the half, were soaked up and eventually brought to an end by Lafai’s interception, and even when the Wolves went over for their first try, thanks to Cross’s valiant effort to prevent it, it then took the video referee eight minutes to come to a decision, which was based solely on the call of the referee.

It was a handling error and not their defence, three minutes later, that gave Ashton a clear run to the line to put the Wolves, temporarily back into the game, but it was a moment of pure magic, from Man of the Match, Sneyd, to send a guided missile from his boot into the hands of Cross.

Much has been said, with considerable justification, about the strike power of Salford’s centres, but there is now a growing respect for the accomplishments of their two wingers.  Cross’s skill in taking that ball so cleanly as he was diving over the line was quite incredible.

Not to be forgotten, however, great praise should be heaped on the Salford forwards who shirked absolutely nothing against a much bigger and stronger pack, undertaking all the ‘in-between’ hard work that forwards have to do.  It was also good to welcome Loghan Lewis and Harvey Wilson on their debuts.  Lewis certainly added some considerable go-forward to the team, on his introduction, while Wilson can only be admired for his willingness to mix-it with individuals of far greater size than he.

If next weekend’s fixture is to produce another double, it will have to be over St Helens, our next opponents, and that is going to be a considerable ask of them, when you consider how few and far between victories over the Saints have been, even at home, over the decades.  Another performance along these lines, however, would certainly put the possibility of such very much into the frame.

RUGBY LEAGUE’S QUALITY STREET GANG 14 – JOHN TAYLOR PT 4

Part 4  His Later Rugby Career And Subsequent Return To Salford

Hastily arranged as John’s move to Leigh had been, when he got there, he found he settled in really quickly, and he is seen below holding the pre-season friendly, charily trophy contested annually in those days between Widnes and Leigh, similar to Salford’s Red Rose Cup annual friendly with Swinton.

John Taylor holidng a trophy

“I absolutely loved it there.  Kevin Ashcroft was the coach, and we had a really good team.”

Over the whole of his five years with them, the game he most enjoyed was turning out for the first time against Salford, who had Kenny Gill and Stevie Nash in the half backs, in a home league game at Hilton Park.

“Cliff Sayer was my scrum half partner, and we really gelled extremely well that afternoon.  I was absolutely up for the game, as I felt that it was my one chance to show just what I could do and what Salford had missed out on.  Together, Cliff and I got completely on top, early on, and maintained it right through the game, so the Salford back line never really got going, and in the end we won quite comfortably.  My first thought after the game was that if we could play like that I should have stayed and earned my place at Salford.

“The worst thing that happened, though, was, in a game against Warrington, having my cheek bone broken, which also resulted in a concussion.  My immediate reaction was to pick myself up, run after the player concerned and hit him on the back of the head.  I always could lose my temper very easily, and this time it ended up with me being locked in the changing room, having got myself into such a blaze.

“I found out afterwards that I had been sent off whilst I was in there.”

All good things eventually come to an end, and for John, his time at Leigh came to a sudden abrupt end, with a change of coach.

“Kevin Ashcroft moved on and was replace by John Mantle.  Things did not work out so well, so I decided to move on, also.”

The club which came in for him was Widnes, which had been an up-and-coming team from the mid-seventies onward before starting to accrue silverware towards the end of the decade.

“Dougie Laughton was their coach, who came to my house and told me he wanted to sign me.  I was a bit reluctant, at the time, because I knew they had Andy Gregory in their ‘A’ team, scoring three tries a week.  When I queried this with Doug, I was told that Andy wasn’t yet ready for first team rugby.

“That was all I needed to know, and I accepted the offer, because it was still a really good team.

“It didn’t turn out to be the best move I could have made, however, because, having achieved so much, the team was starting to break up, and the inception of the new Fulham Rugby League Club, became quite an attraction to many of their talented players, such as Reggie Bowden, Roy Lester, and Keith Elwell among others, who made the move south.

“Despite this they were in no hurry to promote players from the reserves, when they still had players like Mick Adams, who was a tremendous player and Eric Prescott, who had moved there from Salford, and then, in addition, a young John Myler coming through.  Even Andy Gregory was still left playing week in week out in the ‘A’ team, and there still seemed no sign of him being moved up, so there didn’t really seem to be a place at all for me.”

So, enter Salford who seemed to have had a penchant for re-signing former players, and in 1983, John became another of these, when he returned to play for a further couple of seasons.

“It was a different Salford club, though, when I came back.  Nevertheless, I still enjoyed the two seasons I had, because Kevin Ashcroft was now the coach, with whom I had built up such a good working relationship, at Leigh, so the fact that he was now in charge at The Willows was the determining factor in my returning.

“An equally important factor was that I still wanted to prove myself, and I really believe that this time I did.  I was now thirty-two, but I still had enough left in me to acquit myself well and do the job at hand to my satisfaction. 

“I continued playing right through to the 1985/6 season, when my career was eventually brought to an end, after I cracked a bone in my neck and that finished it all for me.  I don’t remember how it happened, but I just remember being flat on my back on the field, thinking I had broken my back, whilst the medical staff even thought I had broken my neck.  The game was held up for around half an hour, and, to this day, I still have to take painkillers as a consequence.”

Damaging as the injury was, it did not herald the total end of John’s career in rugby league, merely a change of direction and emphasis.

“I had already started coaching one of the young sides at Rose Bridge amateurs, and, a couple of years after finishing playing, I returned to Salford as part of the scouting team, alongside John Blackburn and David Clegg, under the direction of head scout, Albert White. 

“We each had our own areas, and I had the Wigan area, where I had been successful in picking up quite a few talented youngsters for Rose Bridge, including fullback, David Halstead, who eventually went on to Warrington, and also former SKY Sports pundit, Phil Clarke.

“Phil was only small when he was a young lad, but his talent was more than evident.  His father, Colin, was a cracking bloke and had been a hooker at Salford in the late seventies.  Sometimes though, you find that the small guys turn out to be the best because they have to develop their rugby skills to a much greater extent to be able to cope against the big blokes.  Phil later benefited from this in his professional career, by which time he had also developed physically.”

His one coaching role with a professional club was in 1992, when he was selected to take the reins at Chorley Borough.

“The current speaker of the House of Commons, Lindsay Hoyle, was their Chairman, and he was a very good Chairman, too. If I wanted to buy a player, he would always be prepared to pay half of the fee, on the condition the other Directors would provide the other half.  They were not always as willing as he was, though.”

Settled as he was to become there, events can develop in ways you never expect, and the first of these for John, came at the end of his second season, with the chance of a better job at Leigh, where he had always been remembered with great fondness and respect.

“I had an interview with Leigh, and it really looked as if I had got the job, but then within a few days, I suffered a brain haemorrhage and was rushed to hospital.   From that point onwards rugby became a much lower priority to me, as all I wanted to get myself back to full health.”

This, thankfully, turned out to be the case, and he was able to celebrate by returning to coaching, a few years later, with Wigan St Patrick’s second team, until yet another unexpected event brought another turn for the worse.

“Believe it or not I most foolishly tried to make an on-field come-back, until part way into the game I found myself coming round in the changing room, wishing I had never bothered.  That brought everything to its conclusion, and since then I just have contented myself watching games.  I do still have an interest in the young lads coming through and enjoy watching their progress onward and upward.”

Looking back on what has been a lengthy career covering three decades, and which surely must have been one of the most wide-ranging, covering as it did, not only a fine playing career at three top clubs, but also a considerable number of off-field roles of those which were operational at that time, it is still nevertheless his spells at Salford, which stand out in his memory.

“Salford was undoubtedly the reason I grew to love rugby league and will always be extremely special to me.  They were the best team by far at the time of my first spell there, and it was a such a pleasure and brought me so much pride to have played in it among all those great players who donned the Reds’ jersey back in those days.”

RED DEVILS HOLD OFF DEWSBURY THREAT

Salford Red Devils 14  Dewsbury Moor 12                  Match Report

A magnificent, last minute, try saving tackle, by Salford fullback, Alex Simpson, put paid to the last gasp chance for visitors, Dewsbury, as their right winger, swept away and into the clear from within her own half then on to the home twenty metre line, in the ladies’ game, which was the first of last Sunday’s Double Header.

She had reckoned without the determination, however, of the Salford skipper, who had produced a real captain’s performance throughout the encounter, with her leadership skills clearly evident, alongside  her ability to deal with end-of-set kicks and high bombs, returning each with far greater yardage than anyone could ever have expected, whilst picking appropriate moments to join the attacking line, and invariably to be found in the midst of any defending which needed to be done.

How fitting, therefore, that it should be she, who was to deliver that bone crunching crash tackle which saw the pair of them taken completely over the touch line, fifty seconds before the final whistle.

That the result was to hinge on that, however, would have seemed most surprising to anyone at the start of the game, with the Red Devils taking control from the outset, and it was as early as the third minute that prop Emily Bagguley powered over the Dewsbury line, only to lose the ball in the midst of defenders, in her attempt to ground it.  Indeed, she was to prove to be a tower of strength in the Salford pack right through both her stints. with some tremendous hit-ups, not to mention her contribution to the defence.

She was more than ably supported by second rower, Jadine McVernon, who has always made notable contributions to games, even when helping out the team by moving to play centre.  Last Sunday, she really did herself proud, particularly in the opening stages, when, on numerous occasions, the angles and lines, she chose to run, saw her then surging through gaps that had been hardly noticeable before, and then making fine progress up-field.

As for scoring potency, this was provided by the Salford right edge, comprising of Michelle Davis, Grace Wray, and Marnie-Lee Kelly, with all three Salford tries coming from various combinations of those players.

The opening score came in the eleventh minute, when, with the Reds in possession twenty metres out, Davis got the ball at first receiver, fed Simpson who had joined the line to provide the extra player, and she then put Wray through, with the centre having the composure to go round to score between the posts ensuring a straight forward conversion for Sam Evans who completed the acquisition of the full six points.

Even though the home side continued to dominate, they could not find their way to extending their lead further, and surprisingly enough it turned out to be the visitors, on 18 mins, who ended up drawing level as a result of gaining three repeat sets, and finally working an overlap on their right, to which they added the conversion.

Five minutes from half time, however, slick handling from a scrum, via Evans, Davis, and Wray, effectively put winger Kelly in at the corner, to restore the Salford lead, and produce a10-6 half-time score.

If there were one aspect of Red Devils performance which had really let them down throughout the first forty mins, it had been their propensity to concede penalties in abundance, and this continued at the start of the second half with Yorkshire side being awarded no less than four back-to-back penalties giving them five consecutive sets-of-six.

Nevertheless, it was Salford who were next to score.  That prolific, individual try scoring machine, which is Michelle Davis, had hitherto had, for her, a relatively quiet game, contenting herself with organising and controlling events, alongside instigating, or involving herself, in the two moves which had brought the tries. 

All that changed on 55 mins, when she positioned herself behind the line at the final play-the-ball of a set to shoot through a small gap she had espied, catching the defence out cold, and fending off the one sole attempt to tackle her, with a force that floored the defender, before she romped over in the corner to extend the score to 14-6.

This proved to be an absolutely vital four points, with Dewsbury’s narrowing of the gap to a mere two points, fifteen minutes from the end, motivating the whole Salford team, which had worked together so effectively on defence for the previous 65 minutes, to continue to stand shoulder to shoulder with one another, thereby keeping their line intact, right through to Alex Simpson’s final, telling intervention.

SALFORD

Alex Simpson, Marnie-Lee Kelly, Grace Wray, Becki Davies, Lily Gray, Michelle Davis, Sam Evans, Summer Harris, Alice Connolly, Emily Bagguley, Tina Millan, Jadine McVernon, Sophie Morris

Interchanges

Abi Collins, Emerald Hickey, Darcy Price, Lydia Egan

RESERVES GET RED DEVILS OFF TO A WINNING START

Salford 24  London 18                              Match Report

Salford Reserves got the club’s weekend of rugby off to a winning start, twice having to overturn leads of 12 and 6 points, against the visiting London Broncos, whilst also registering the first of a trio of victories, which were to mark what, for their Super League counterparts, was Round 13 of their season.

The intensity of the opening exchanges might very well have brought significant doubts to all those watching from the sidelines, with the size, might, and power of the Broncos’ pack gaining territory comprehensively, whilst the valiant efforts of their hosts were rather more restricted.

It was, therefore, no surprise when, in the eleventh minute, good progress down their right wing, followed by some extremely optimistic and daring offloads and passes, everyone of which stuck with its target recipient, brought the visitors their opening, converted try.

Things were beginning to look quite ominous for the Red Devils, eight minutes later, when a period of London pressure wore down the defence and enabled them to double their score.

With a number of absentees through injury, the Reds had been forced to look further afield to complete their squad for the match, and consequently former Red Devils, Joe Coop-Franklin and Jack Stevens, had been brought in on loan from Rochdale and Swinton, respectively.

This proved to be extremely fortuitous because both revelled in their return to their first home, and their contributions were most influential to the team and the outcome of the game, with left winger Coop-Franklin taking advantage of the visitors’ error from the restart after their second try and the subsequent possession gained, to zig-zag his way through their defence and score under the posts.  Kai Morgan’s easy conversion then halved the deficit to 6-12.

Not to be outdone, scrum half, Stevens, on 33 mins, set off on a similarly weaving run midfield, and, on straightening up, found fellow halfback, Morgan, alongside him to finish off the try.  His kick from in front of the posts drew the home side level for a 12-12 halftime scoreline.

Upon the restart the visitors immediately stepped up their intensity, once more, forcing a goal-line drop-out, from which they were able to restore their lead via a converted try, on 43 mins.

It was a mere four minutes, however, before Salford had eradicated this with possession in the visitors’ twenty-metre area providing Stevens with the opportunity to pick out second rower, Henry Davies, who promptly charged over, and Morgan slotting over the equalising goal.

Morgan’s kicking game reached its pinnacle, on 58 mins, when he put in a pinpoint end-of-set kick to right winger, Dan Harrison, who climbed above all contenders to put the Reds ahead for the first time, by four points.

What had become the tightest of arm-wrestles was eventually broken, three minutes from time, with a penalty goal from Morgan, but the game was far from over with the short restart being taken by the Broncos to set up a determined all-out attack on the Salford line.  The Red Devils stood firm, however, with debutant half-back, Sean Murray pulling off a Goliath act by not only stopping a rampaging London forward in full flight but hitting him so hard that the ball was spilled, and their last opportunity lost.

Coach, Stuart Wilkinson, was understandably most delighted with his charges and the way in which they overcame all the odds to claim the victory.

“The most pleasing thing about the game was the attitude of the players in twice overcoming deficits to earn the win.  Not only that, they also were astute enough to realise that they needed to change their own game, which clearly had not been working, and find another way to get the win.  They also had to find considerable resilience in their defence, throughout, to keep London from scoring, on many occasions.”

The performances, on their debut, of two academy players, Murray and James Shields, also brought him some great satisfaction, as did the debut of recent signing, Harvey Wilson.

“It was really quite a sticky game for them to make their debuts in but they all took their chance really well.  Jimmy Shields showed some really good signs and will remain in the squad now for the rest of the season, whilst Sean Murray won the game for us with that outstanding tackle, at the end.

“Harvey Wilson was undoubtedly the best of our middles.  He made some excellent tackles and backed that up with really hard tackles in defence.”

SALFORD

Ethan Fitzgerald, Scott Egan, Joshua Wagstaffe, Joseph Coop-Franklin, Kai Morgan, Jack Stevens, Jordan Brown, Finley Yates, Liam Cooper, Henry Davies, Charlie McCurry, Harvey Wilson

Interchanges

Sean Murray, James Shields, Alex Davidson, Daniel Harrison

18th Player: Leunbou Bardyel Wells

RESERVES TO KICK OFF WEEKEND OF RUGBY

As a prelude to Sunday’s double header featuring our women’s and men’s first, teams, Saturday afternoon will see our reserve side, in the opener of the three home fixtures, taking on the London Broncos, with a 2pm kick off.

This fixture comes off the back of two extremely good results for the Salford lads, having defeated Wakefield Trinity 23-16, in their last home match, and then having travelled to Robin Park to give the Wigan Warriors a tremendous fight before succumbing to two late, converted tries which brought the Warriors a somewhat flattering 34-20 win.

That performance was most commendable to the extent that coach, Stuart Wilkinson, was really disappointed at the outcome, as he explains:

“With only five minutes to go, we were really in with a chance of winning with the score at 22-20, but unfortunately the lads got over excited and started drifting away from everything that, to that point, they had done so well.  As a result, Wigan sensed their opportunity and took advantage of it.”

Nevertheless, the closeness of all but the final score, coupled with the victory over Wakefield, will have given the team a great uplift in confidence on which to build for this weekend’s encounter, though he warns

“Despite that, however, we cannot afford to be over-confident, because this London side actually beat Wigan in a previous match between the two.  We must concentrate on our own performance and ensure that everything we do is up to scratch.”

Teamwise, Salford fans can look forward to seeing the debuts of two of our promoted academy players.  Jim Shields is a Salford-born player who plays in the second-row, while Sean Murray is a scrum-half from Wigan.

Why not, therefore, get along to the Salford Community Stadium both days this weekend to enjoy what could prove to be a festival of rugby league.

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