Head Coach, Ian Watson, Assesses His Team’s Recent Performances Ahead Of Their Visit To Huddersfield
As we approach, in the next couple of weeks, the half way stages of what these days is a remarkably short regular season in rugby league, we find the Red Devils sitting just outside the top eight, but sufficiently well placed to be able to make a good push for a comfortable spot within the Super8s, which follow.
With a small squad, injuries, of which there have been an increasing number in recent weeks, have somewhat tested the flexibility of the players to double up in other positions, and last week’s fixture against Warrington, coming as it did after the rigours of the Easter Weekend, stretched resources even further – something with which Head Coach, Ian Watson had to deal.
“The additional one-off absences of Niall Evalds from concussion, and Logan Tomkins, who had been ill all week, did cause some readjustment, which was a little evident in our attack.”
“Had we had a bit more composure about us we would have won that game.”
In support of this statement, one only has to think back to the magnificent first-half break by prop Lama Tasi to realise that, had he been on the field, Niall possibly – maybe even probably – would have been in support, alongside Lama, to finish off with a try.
“He usually does pop up in those situations.”
“There were reasons though as to why we allowed the speed of the game to get away from us in the early stages, which we have addressed during the week, but overall our performances so far have been consistently good.
“We have competed with some of the top teams in the league without having been overrun by them, as some other teams have been doing, and we have been in with chances of winning them.
“The knock on by Kevin Brown, under his own posts, was a big turning point in last Saturday’s game, because it came after two back-to-back sets, and getting a third would have given us the possibility, and potential, of a score which would have turned the game.”
With only two exceptions, against Widnes and Warrington, the matches we have lost so far this season have been against teams against whom we lost last year, yet still we finished in the top four at the break before the Super 8s.
“They were also the teams which would traditionally be regarded as top four candidates and, apart from last season, Warrington too have always been a top team. Leeds, for example, finished in the Qualifiers, two years ago, and then won the Grand Final the following year.”
The members of the squad who are really benefiting from the present situation, and who consequently will benefit the club long term, are our younger players.
“Jake Bibby, Ryan Lannon, Derrell Olphert, Josh Wood,and Dan Murray are all doing a great job for us against teams like Leeds, the quality of the players you are up against can really wear you down, but these players stood up to them really well. It is just their lack of experience which occasionally catches them out.”
Taking those issues into account, it might appear to others that this Sunday’s visit to Huddersfield is taking on an importance all of its own. Ian, however, put it into perspective.
“They are all important particularly those against the teams around us. Huddersfield are one of these, so it was always going to be a big game for us and it’s one we are looking forward to.”
It will certainly be of benefit to have a couple of absentees from the Warrington fixture available once more.
“Niall has trained this week and is looking really good, so that will give us that bit of consistency within the spine of the team that we absolutely need while Logan will also be back to share workload and game time with Josh Wood.”
“We have a group of players who really want to compete, and the fact that it is an away match, in Yorkshire, holds no qualms for them. We know we are a good team and are capable of winning against most of the teams we come up against.
“I am really confident we can set ourselves on the front foot and win a couple of games now, which will kick-start us.”
Our pack has certainly stood up to every other they have encountered, which will once again be needed, this Sunday, as it is not for nothing that their opponents are known as the Giants.
“We will initially be looking for a response in the way they start the game.
“Last season, when we beat Warrington in the away match, their big pack tried to dominate us from the outset, but we stood up to them and turned the game in our favour, which is what we need to do on Sunday, against a team which drew with Leeds, and then went toe to toe with Castleford, recently.
“It’s really about us, and it all being down to us, though, rather than anything to do with our opponents.”