Cowley 12 Salford 10 Match Report – David Clegg
The significant progress that the Salford Red Devils’ Academy side has made over recent weeks was clear for all to see yesterday, when they travelled to St Helens, and the home of current league leaders Cowley College Academy.
When the two sides had met earlier in the season, the visitors had had no difficulty in disposing of the inexperienced Red Devils by a wide margin, and so the task facing the Salford lads, in this latest encounter, was quite considerable, to say the least. Incredibly, in the light of the final score, the situation was significantly compounded by the late arrival of a number of players, which led to the team taking the field with only eleven players for the first ten minutes.
Even more remarkable was the fact that they took the lead within this period, when fullback, Jack Ratcliffe followed up his own low kick to the left corner to ground the ball for a try too far out for a successful conversion.
In appalling conditions of driving rain, sleet, hail and snow this was always going to be a case of whichever side could gain good field position and then control the ball long enough to make it count with points, and the next to do so was Cowley, with a try under the posts, which was converted, to give the home side a 6-4 halftime lead.
In actual fact the game had been in considerable doubt, right up to the kick off, and, of course, the longer it went on the worse the conditions became, so, it was no surprise, that it was twenty minutes before the next score came. Once again, it was Jack Ratcliffe who went over, from first receiver by stepping off his left foot, through the gap, and in under the posts, enabling Dane Wakefield, who was deputising for the absent Tom Farr, to slot over the conversion, and restore Salfords’ four point lead.
Cowely, though, were not to be outdone, and, against an opposition now down to twelve men through injury, pulled the game out of the fire, minutes from the end with their second converted try, to round off the scoring.
With much justification, coach, Danny Barton, exuded pride in his team’s performance, when we spoke, later.
“To have limited them to only a couple of scores, then matched them ourselves, and lose by only two points was a massive improvement from our earlier game,” he maintains. “The lads showed real character in that weather. They ground it out, and I thought we really were just going to get there, until that last ditch try.
“Despite all the problems facing them from the start, they rolled their sleeves up, and got to grips with what was a simple game plan, and despite being caked in mud from top to toe after a few minutes, set about delivering it. Even with only eleven men we got in front with the first score.”
Understandably, it was with mixed feelings that the Salford players left the field knowing how close they had come to becoming the first side to beat their talented opponents, some of whom are well established within the St Helens Youth setup.
“Obviously they were disappointed to get so close, but I took it upon myself to ensure they recognised how well they had done, and what a marvellous effort it had been from them,” Danny explains. “They deserved great credit for it all.”