Salford Red Devils 6 Wakefield Trinity 12 Match Report
In a keenly contested, bruising and physical encounter, the Salford Red Devils’ College Academy succumbed to one late moment of magic, to the absolute stand out player on view on Wednesday afternoon, Wakefield’s fullback.
Until that moment, the game had looked for all the world as though it would end in a draw, with the sides most evenly matched. This was greatly to the Red Devils’ credit, for Wakefield have long since been the top side in the competition, and had been undefeated this season, going into this fixture.
Salford, on the other hand were looking a little thin on the ground, with some key players missing, owing to injury, and this was compounded by the loss of a number of substitutes to enable the first of this season’s dual fixtures to take place. That the club has sufficient young players of this age to facilitate two teams simultaneously is a considerable achievement, in itself.
When, however, as happened on this occasion, injuries start to accrue, the number of replacements available does become quite significant, and with no quarter being asked nor given, those injuries, on Wednesday, did start to mount. Most noteworthy was the loss, in the second half, of both props, Euan Haynes and Josh Higgin, through head injuries.
Euan’s, in particularly, was serious enough to prevent his appearance, next week, in any rearranged game, which might take place.
Despite all this, however, it was Salford who settled the sooner, and for the first quarter they totally dominated proceedings both in terms of possession and position, with their raising attack after attack on the Trinity line, until on fifteen minutes, some fine handling got the ball to left winger, Alec Walton, in space. He cut inside his opposite number to register the first score of the afternoon, which, with Jack Kenway’s excellent conversion from out wide, put the home side six points ahead.
Indeed, The Red Devils were unfortunate not to go further ahead, shortly afterwards, when centre Josh Wagstaffe, crossed, only for it to be ruled out for a forward pass.
A certain loss of focus, and possibly energy, towards the end of the half, however, allowed the visitors to build up some momentum and gain a foothold in the game, with certain individuals on their side starting to come to the fore. One strong run by one of their props took play to the Salford ten metre line, with fullback, Nathan Connell, managing, magnificently, to halt his progress, and prevent a try.
That try, though, was not long in coming, with their scrum-half running an extremely good line to cut through and score by the posts, bringing the sides level at the interval.
For by far the most part, the second-half was a grind, with the defences on both sides completely dominating the other’s attacks. Wakefield probably had overall the better field position which was great credit to Salford’s defence in general, and their goal-line defence, in particular.
Midway through the half, Kai Barker thought he had put the Reds back in front, when he grounded the ball on the line, but the referee was not convinced and ruled a knock-on. It was not their only chance of scoring, though, with overlaps being forced on the left wing a couple of times, only for the long, final passes to Walton failing to find their mark.
On seventy minutes, the game was decided by the Wakefield fullback who had been a constant threat throughout the half. With absolute sheer class, he linked into the line and then sold the most outrageous of dummies to open up space for him to ghost through. He had made a somewhat similar break earlier in the half, which Connell, as last line of defence, had managed to halt, but this time, he succeeded only in slowing him down, and then falling off the tackle as his opposite number completed an eighty-metre break with the winning score.
Coach, Danny Barton, whilst disappointed by the result, was, nevertheless, proud of his side’s performance.
“Wakefield have always been such a particularly strong side that to have matched them on defence was extremely pleasing. Not only that, we made more metres in possession than they did. Their fullback was absolute quality and was the difference between the two sides, something which was acknowledged by their coach, who also said that we had give them the toughest contest that they had encountered so far this season.”