In The Company Of David Clegg, Head Coach, Ian Watson, Bridges Last Week’s Win Over Warrington And Sunday’s Visit To Wakefield
The delight of everyone in our winning last Saturday against our illustrious neighbours, Warrington, must surely have been equalled by the Red Devils’ performance in so doing. Not only did they look comfortable for much of the encounter, they also appeared to be in control throughout.
Indeed, even when the Wolves drew level, at 14-14, midway through the second half, the way the players rose to the occasion, and pulled away to win, was like a breath of fresh air, after a number of seasons in which we had become accustomed to seeing the team fade away in such similar circumstances. Among those whose satisfaction must have been supreme is Head Coach, Ian Watson, as all his hard work, behind the scenes, started to come to fruition.
“That is something we have spoken about as a group, ensuring that we become resilient in the face of setbacks,” he insists. “It was nip and tuck at one stage, but then Josh Jones came up with an interception, and that was something of a game changer, because we came down to the other end and capitalised on it.
“The win came on the back of an improved kicking game in the second half. That had been a bit erratic up to half time, but it was near perfect after the interval. The variety of kicks that we had, with Michael Dobson, Rob Lui and Gareth O’Brien, meant that we could dominate field position well.
“There were also periods where we had to defend our goal line, and we did that really well, so putting all that together, we had a good game management process.”
Certainly, as the season is progressing there appears to be a growing confidence among the players.
“That all comes from having had a year together already,” Ian maintains. “They have grown to respect and appreciate one another, and to know each person’s attributes and qualities. We have built on the work we did last season, and taken it forward as a group, which is helping us in our games.”
By the end of the match, so well in control were the Red Devils that Warrington were forced into some really uncharacteristic, basic errors.
“That comes from being behind, having to take risks, and forcing things,” is Ian’s assessment. “Warrington are a very good team, and they’ll be back quickly. After all, they beat the Brisbane Broncos, and despite their loss against Castleford, they felt that they could have got something out of that game too, so they came to us high on confidence.”
Now, sitting proudly just outside the top four, Salford’s away fixture at Wakefield suddenly takes on a new and compelling significance, especially with their hosts’ spectacular win at St Helens, last Thursday. In the past, this match would have been regarded with something approaching indifference throughout the rugby league fraternity, but with the current surge in form from both sides, there are a few sideways looks being cast in the direction of the pair of them.
It is also a game when, in the past, we have travelled across the Pennines full of optimism only to find that this had been totally misplaced, and the painful return journey has seemed endless, as a result.
“Wakefield are playing very well at the moment,” Ian agrees, “and showing that same kind of resilience, What we have to do is set about the match with the same attitude and approach we have had in our previous games. We can go there confident, now, that we can come through the other side.
“Apparently their ground is not in particularly great condition at the moment, with not only Wakefield, but Sheffield Eagles also playing there. It will, though, make it a more interesting game, and how each team manages it. They managed their game at St Helens well, last week, and we too have been managing our games really well, so far, this year, so it might become something of a battle between the halves, playing for field position.”
With good wins behind them, therefore, confidence will be abounding as the kick-off approaches.
“Wakefield gained a great deal of confidence from the fact that they made the top eight, last season, and they have built upon that, this year. They have got some big guys in there, and have started really well.
“It has always been a place that you go to and know you are going to be in for a tough game, often because other teams have underestimated them. It just shows, though, how competitive the competition really is.
“We know for ourselves, though, that it is going to be about us and what we can do, as a team. If we choose to be the right team, at the weekend, I am confident we can do the job well.”
Referee – Mr R Hicks
Touch Judges – R Thompson, P Graham
In Goal Judges – M Hawkes, C Worsley
Reserve Ref – B Darlinson