The sheer importance of the Rivals Round was always going to be far greater to Leigh than to the Red Devils, for whom it was the first of four matches in a fortnight, with a mere four days between each, whereas for the winless Centurions, it represented the latest of only a handful of lingering games, from which they might be able to secure a victory.
Of course, when you are faced with the number of fixtures being crammed into the next fortnight, culminating with the Magic Weekend, you work on a one game at a time basis, and do all you can to start with a win, by being totally focused on the task in hand and clinical in your execution.
And that is just how the Red Devils started the game, running in the first try of the afternoon, in under two minutes, when Kevin Brown cleverly changed the direction of the attack back towards the left, which completely wrong footed the home side and presented the flawless, Rhys Williams, with a walk-in at the corner.
There is always a danger in scoring too early and too easily, because time and time again it seems to have a demotivating effect on the team which goes ahead without having even been tested, in any way. That certainly is how it appeared with Salford, with their work ethic being forgotten in their eagerness to secure further easy pickings, which led to a number of unforced errors manifesting themselves.
Leigh, meanwhile, had been caught cold and sought to rectify it with ball in hand, once some possession came their way, and those Salford errors certainly helped. Not only that, the errors gave them the encouragement to apply pressure on the Reds’ attack, and force even more.
From that point on, Leigh had lengthy periods of possession, which they put to good use, gaining in confidence as each repeat set came their way, and playing some extremely fluent rugby, while the visitors had to spend far too long and far too much energy defending their line, which they kept intact, until Joe Mellor’s quick thinking, on 18 mins, caught them out with a chip and chase to open the home account, to which they added another well-worked try from Keanan Brand.
To be fair, Salford players did what any team would do, when taken by surprise by another, which was to stick with them points-wise, until the game swung in their favour, and they got more plentiful possession, and the ascendency. Consequently, they turned round at the interval only four points adrift, following a further converted touch-down from Harvey Livett.
Hopes that, for the second half, they might have redressed the problems, with which they had presented themselves, soared, when they went ahead through the first of Ken Sio’s brace, but Leigh had a strategy which they stuck to with the utmost rigour. They had been in similar positions in the past, and had learned from those; this time no-one was going to be let off the hook.
In all Leigh slotted over five penalty goals, one in the first half, and the ten points accrued, proved, in the end, to be the difference between the sides.
Ryan Lannon was unfortunate not to ground the ball to the referee’s satisfaction. Former Salford players, Liam Hood and Adam Sidlow, went through to put the home side well ahead, although Salford had the final say with Sio’s second, after the hooter had sounded.
With the remaining games coming thick and fast, it is important that the players quickly consign this one to the bin, and take what they have learned from it into Thursday’s visit from Catalans.