David Clegg Relives The Climax To The Million Pound Game In The Company Of The Key Players Involved
There were exactly fifty-three seconds left on the clock, which was coincidentally the same number in which extra time was played, when Hull Kingston Rovers restarted the match following Niall Evalds’s try, which had narrowed the score to 18-14 in the Rovers’ favour. When Michael Dobson caught that kick-off on his own try line, the Red Devils had a full one hundred metres, uphill, to make, within that very limited timescale.
There must have been many, who, at that time, will have regarded this as a lost cause, and probably expected the game to come to an end, somewhere midfield, with no further change to the scoreline.
Not so the Salford players. That try had provided the inspiration to go alongside the self-belief they had displayed throughout the season, which, alongside the high level of professionalism inherent in the team, ensured their decision-making, from then on, was absolutely first class.
It was on the fourth tackle of the set when the unforeseen, and, let’s admit it, the unbelievable started to happen. Three hit-ups had not only gained valuable metres, they had succeeded in sucking in the Rovers’ forwards. Consequently when Josh Jones took up the fourth forward drive and succeeded in getting out an offload to the handily placed Logan Tomkins, there were some exploitable gaps, out wide.
Just how crucial that offload was, cannot be overstated. Offloads, however, can be a risky business, but in Josh we have one of the most accomplished in the game. Indeed, there was a point part way through the season, when he was among the top off-loaders in the whole of Super League, before tactics were changed and he was required to concentrate on other things.
“Offloading is a big part of my game,” he confides. “This one was on one of the last plays of the game, and I was able to draw in one or two players, before getting it out to Logan. From there it ended up with Josh Griffin, who made the run upfield.”
Although he has now moved across country to join Hull, Josh Griffin still has quite vivid memories of those few moments.
“I really sensed that I had a chance, so I shouted for the ball,” he recollects. “I’d already beaten my opposite number, a few minutes earlier, to set up Niall’s try, and when I got the pass from Weller Hauraki, I just mirrored exactly what I’d done the time before.
“There was space between the centre and the winger, who had dropped back a bit. I used a fend on the centre, then some tricky footwork to get around him, and then dummied past the winger. It was the winger from the opposite side, Josh Mantellato, who eventually came flying across to try to stop me, so I then passed it on to Niall.”
Winger, Niall Evalds takes up the story:
“I knew when Josh set off upfield there wasn’t long to go and time was running out. I just set off alongside him to see whether anything came from it, but although he got the ball to me, in the end their winger got me.
“I wasn’t thinking too much at that point. I just knew I had to get up and play the ball as quickly as possible. We always practise various scenarios in training so that it comes naturally to you, when you find yourself in that position.
“I never really thought I was in with a chance of scoring because there were too many defenders around.”
He may not have scored this time, but two minutes earlier his try had put us back in the game.
“That, again, was all down to Josh, that time,” Niall acknowledges. “He slipped it to me one handed in the tackle. We’ve practised it a lot in training, and it paid off in the later stages of the season, and especially in this game.”
David Clegg’s Recount Continues Next With The Play Leading Up to Greg Johnson’s Equalising Try