In The Company Of David Clegg, Head Coach, Ian Watson, Assesses Tomorrow’s Visit From Hull
There can be little doubt that in tomorrow night’s visitors from Humberside, Hull FC, the Salford Red Devils will be facing one of the form teams of the last few seasons, having been Challenge Cup Finalist twice in the last four years. Meanwhile, over the same period, the Airlie Birds have been first, building, and then, consolidating their position in the upper echelons of each season’s Super League table, now currently lying fifth, all of which has been well-noted by Salford Head Coach, Ian Watson.
“They’re a good team,” he promptly acknowledges, “and the progress up the table they have made, over the last two or three seasons, has been impressive. Although they finished seventh, in 2015, which was too low to make any impression on the Super 8s that year, they sensibly used the time to develop their younger players, and this paid dividends last year, when they completed the double by winning the League Leaders Trophy, and then lifting the Challenge Cup at Wembley, following their 12-10 defeat of Warrington.
“They are a good club, well run, and particularly well organised in what they do. In many respects they are similar to Castleford, in the way they have progressed over the past couple of seasons. We, ourselves, are going through a similar process, at the moment, and hoping we can continue along that road.”
Another similarity between our two sides which he also might have drawn upon is the fact that both teams are coached by former players, who, consequently, have a significant passion for the club, and which appears to be shared by each set of players.
“That seems to have been a trend over recent seasons,” he considers, “because, besides Lee Radford and myself, there is also Sean Wane at Wigan, and until recently, Kieran Cunningham at St Helens. It does, nevertheless, all boil down to how you handle, lead, and work with your group of players.”
The greatest threat within the Hull side, as everyone knows, is Albert Kelly, who has a strike power which can cause problems to any team’s defence.
“If he is on his game, and you give him sufficient space, he is a very dangerous player,” concurs Ian. “We have to hold our own, and try and present problems to him, whilst structuring our defence in such a way as to counter the threat he poses.
“But Hull have a good squad right across the field, starting with the back field players who frequently succeed in getting the side on the front foot, with a strong pack then to take over. Their team is littered with people who have played at the top level, and have won things. They bring an element of know-how to the group, together with their experience of on-field situations, and high profile matches.”
So with such talented opponents, the onus is very much on the Red Devils to counter them.
“We’ve been good defensively all season, and our points’ ratio is a massive improvement on last year’s,” counters Ian. “We just need to keep our focus.
“Last Sunday, we were still showing effects from the Bank Holiday Double Header, and these after-effects can be delayed over a few weeks, so we have had a massive programme of recovery, led by our medical team. I have great faith in them.”
One player who managed to find energy from nowhere was Ben Murdoch-Masila, who tracked back some considerable distance in a valiant effort to try to prevent Reece Lyne from scoring Wakefield’s second breakaway try. Some debate around this has followed, with some wondering whether, in the light of depleted energy levels, he might have been better conserving his for later in the game, but Ian has nothing but praise for Ben’s attempt.
“That is just the ethic we pride ourselves on,” he insists, “and although he didn’t manage to prevent the try, he did force the grounding of it into the corner, with them then failing with the conversion attempt. Later on, when we got in front it was by those two points that he had saved, and by which we might well have won.
“He showed a great attitude by his attempt, and it was an incredible effort after the previous weekend’s two games.”
Referee – Mr B Thaler
Touch Judges – J Roberts, W Turley
Video Ref – P Bentham
Res Ref – S Race
Res TJ – P Brooke
19 MAN SQUAD