RED DEVILS IN DEPTH: LONDON V SALFORD

RED DEVILS IN DEPTH: LONDON V SALFORD

by | Apr 22, 2024

It might not have been an all-singing all-dancing performance from the Salford Red Devils, on their visit to London, last Saturday, but in terms of efficiency in getting the job done and securing the important two league points, there can be no complaints at all.

Following the disappointment in their last outing, at Castleford, the players were all too well-aware that teams at the foot of the table can present as great a danger, particularly when they are at home, as teams at or near the top, and had clearly determined to ensure that that did not happen again.

To this end, therefore, priority had clearly been given to defence, and keeping their try line intact, in which they not only proved to be sufficiently able, but also had made a most accurate pre-match assessment.

Fixtureless weekends, although helpful in the medium and long term, bringing respite from the weekly hurly-burly of Super League and an opportunity for recovery from minor injuries, can, however, in the short term bring its own problems, with a certain small degree of ring-rustiness creeping in.

This, to a certain extent, seemed to be the case for Salford on attack, particularly in the first half, with timings of supporting runs and passes slightly below their norm, so that a number of scoring chances went begging. 

Two breaks down the left flank, both came to nothing when a score seemed imminent.  The first by Deon Cross was well supported by Marc Sneyd, but, unfortunately, he overran his winger, whose pass would have had to have gone forward in order to have been taken, while Shane Wright’s break ended with his having to take the fullback’s tackle as he had no-one close enough to pass to.

In order to break down the eager, hard-working defence of London they needed especially to build prolonged pressure, but errors prevented this, with dropped passes and end-of-set kicks going over the dead-ball line, the latter of which had the double whammy of presenting the Broncos with seven-tackle sets from the twenty-metre restarts.

What was needed above all was a consecutive number of back-to-back sets to wear down the opposition, but in fact it was London who were first to benefit from this with the opening try of the game coming from four such sets as a result of a Salford touch-in-flight, a penalty, and a forward pass on the Reds’ one extremely brief possession of the ball.  The resultant scrum from that last, gave them numerical advantage on their left edge to go in at the corner, in the 19th minute.

Realising that trying to go wide around the Broncos defence was not paying dividends Salford turned to what had shown to be a simpler and more effective process – that of strong forward drives up-field.  One, in the 25th minute started with Ryan Brierley taking the ball five metres out from his posts.  His forward carry was then followed by five drives up-field, aided by a set-restart on the third, and finished by Brierley’s half break to the line with his offload to Kallum Watkins for his first try of the season.  The first of Sneyd’s two successful conversions gave Salford the small but extremely important two-point half-time lead.

Signs that the half-time interval had been well spent came as early as three minutes after the restart, when a second set of possession was gained from a forced goal-line drop-out and an excellent cut-out pass from Sneyd to Cross put him in at the corner, similar in some respects to the Broncos’ opener.

The crucial incident of the second half, however, was the dismissal of King Vuniyayawa for what was deemed by the video referee to have been a dangerous tackle.  One can only praise, thereafter, the tactics and game management of the Salford players.  Slender as an eight-point lead might be, it was all they had, and they were totally committed to retaining it.

From that point onwards, the Broncos had barely a sniff at the Salford line.  They were almost totally contained in their own half, often starting their sets in the tightest of corners and barely being able to get past the twenty-metre line before having to take their end-of-set kicks.

Adding further to their score, whilst highly desirable was not absolutely essential, and retaining possession for each full set took priority with any chance of a repeat set being taken.  Sneyd’s, now impeccable, high kicks to the exceptional Nene Macdonald, caused panic within the home ranks on numerous occasions, and the centre’s pats backwards invariably found a Salford player.

The overturning of the on-field decision by the video referee, on Tim Lafai’s try, five minutes from the end, came as a complete surprise to everyone on the field, all of whom had taken up positions for its subsequent conversion attempt .Had it been allowed, it would have been some reward for the Red Devils’ valiant efforts in retaining their lead in such a convincing manner, in such adversity as they had found themselves.

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