In the baking sunshine, Salford Red Devils registered a Betfred Super League Rivals Round victory against Leigh Leopards.
Easter is always a highlight of the rugby league calendar. Today’s encounter would normally be the first of two Super League fixtures this weekend, but a change of schedule means we’ve now got five days to reset and prepare for the visit of Castleford Tigers next Thursday.
It was clear quite early on that Salford were intent on playing quick and our first set gained massive metres via the ruck speed of Andy Ackers.
After both sides trading sets, a dropped ball on halfway allowed Leigh an opportunity to build their first meaningful attack.
Lachlan Lam received the ball around 30 metres out and flicked a neat, high pass to Josh Charnley, who managed to stay in the field of play and stretch over in the left corner.
Ben Reynolds dragged his conversion attempt wide, but made it 6-0 minutes later when King Vuniyayawa was penalised for obstruction.
It was important that Paul Rowley’s side did not let that blow impact their positive start and Brodie Croft’s late pass forced a knock-on – meaning the Red Devils had the ball back 30 metres out from the Leigh line.
Building from the scrum, a neat passing move allowed Ryan Brierley the time and space to send a deft grubber kick into the right corner for Ken Sio to collect and ground.
The pressure was unrelenting; Leigh were penalised for a high tackle and another drop-out later, Salford were in again.
From right to left, quick play through the hands created the numbers and Sam Stone’s neat step inside sold his marker to score his first try in Red and White.
From the restart, Chris Atkin – who was deservedly named Man of the Match – made an excellent break from halfway and sent Shane Wright through the line with an inch-perfect pass.
The second-rower had his Aussie teammate, Croft in support to tee him up for an easy stroll to the line.
HALF-TIME: Leigh Leopard 6-16 Salford Red Devils
The Leopards came out for the second forty with a fresh energy and Edwin Ipape was causing all sorts of problems from dummy-half.
His first break through the line was excellently stopped by Brierley, but his next just a few sets later saw our number one sent to the sin bin for a professional foul.
Adrian Lam’s side made the numbers count and some frantic play on the last ended with Tom Briscoe breaking his tackle and stretching over on the right.
Salford were under some immense pressure, but Kallum Watkins relieved a lot of that when he forced a knock-on just 10 metres from his own line.
A series of penalties gained valuable field possession and – who else – but Tyler Dupree was the man to bump off his marker and crash over to the left of the sticks – a player in fine form.
Brierley returned to the field, but Leigh were the next on the board via the video referee.
After pinball in the left corner, Leigh claimed Charnley grounded the ball on the dive; and – despite the on-field call of no try – the video ref overturned his decision to fire the hosts back into the game.
Rowley’s side were under real pressure, but the rest of the game was managed in a professional manner by the 13 very tired bodies on the field.
Reynolds went over with 20 seconds to play and converted to bring the score within two, but it was too late for the Leopards to stage a comeback.
FULL-TIME: Leigh Leopard 20-22 Salford Red Devils