It was back in early April – Easter Monday to be precise – when the Catalans Dragons paid their first visit of the season, to the A J Bell Stadium. It would be fair to say that their performance, and the result, were far from flattering to the Red Devils with the visitors from the south of France returning home with a comfortable 10-36 victory.
How quickly fortunes can change, with Sunday’s latest encounter providing an almost complete reversal of that first occasion, with the Frenchmen, this time, managing to cross only once, for the first score of the afternoon. From that point onwards, the Salford players set about avenging that earlier defeat, by turning in one of their most valiant defensive performances of recent seasons, rendering the Dragons completely pointless for the remaining seventy-two minutes.
It was not as though they did not have ample opportunity to rack up points, by the dozen, with the opening stages of each half being completely overshadowed by their dominance of both possession and field position.
It is invariably any team’s attack which provide spectators with their main source of entertainment and enjoyment. Tries, tries, and more tries is what fans of every club want on behalf of their club, but on Sunday the roars of encouragement, appreciation, and approval, for the Red Devils, when they finally secured the ball, eight minutes into the second half, together with delighted and relieved applause, was equal to that afforded to their favourites on any of the scores, they eventually produced.
And deservedly so, for had they not Just tackled themselves to a standstill, standing resolute in the face of all the odds, by withstanding no less than seven back-to-back sets, a number of these coming on the final tackle of the set. That a couple of minutes later they had to repeat this brave endeavour for a further couple of sets, only served to underline the extremely high quality of their defensive line as they stood shoulder to shoulder against the seemingly relentless onslaught of Catalans’ attacks.
Yet the longer the visitors held possession, the more confident both Salford players and supporters became that they would not manage to score. There were some remarkably close shaves, however. Who, for example, can forget that incredible try saving tackle of Joe Burgess, on 28 mins, which was worth at least four points to his side, in its denial of that amount to the Dragons?
The supporters themselves also made their contribution to the win, with their vocal support, particularly through the most tortuous phases. Their persistent, and constant, encouragement to the team, with their singing and shouting, giving the players the determination to see out the adversity with which, at that time, they were beset.
There was no mistaking the Dragons’ presumption that they could wear down the Reds by the sheer size, and aggression, of their much revered pack, but the Salford forwards stood up to them with a courage and a passion that cemented them together as a unit, so that, when they ultimately did gain possession, their far greater mobility enabled them to serve their halves and threequarters with a quality of possession that they had denied their opponents.
Of course, there were tries. You do not accrue thirty-two points without scoring some, and the Reds went over, on five occasions. Ken Sio led the way, with a hat-trick, after a few weeks’ drought, owing to a paucity of opportunities. Andy Ackers’s scoot, followed by the most scintillating of passes to Brodie Croft, put the Dragons’ tormentor-in-chief, in the clear, before the defenders had even realised what was happening.
Then there was Jack Ormondroyd. His back-to-back tries, at Warrington, were extended by yet another on 78 mins, when Marc Sneyd’s kick was recovered by Ryan Brierley for the big prop to rampage through, for his third of the season.
On top of that there were further near misses. Brodie Croft’s overhead kick, on 37 mins, unfortunately bounced away from him, thereby denying him a clear opportunity. A final pass to Sio, from Deon Cross, on 49 mins, after a mercurial break upfield, was ruled forward, which otherwise would have saved his side from their second salver of second half defending duties, that so inspired their fans.
Nevertheless, the Red Devils still had enough in their armoury to see off one of the most feared teams in Super League, with Championship ambitions for the end of the season, and in conditions, which should have suited the visitors far more than they did the home side. The Salford players now need to take this weekend’s experience with them, as they travel, for their very first Super League visit to Toulouse, next weekend.