Not for nothing is it known as an arm wrestle – that locking of horns of two evenly matched sides, going head-to-head and set-for-set with each other, as they battle for ascendency over each other, with no quarter asked nor given. Winning an arm wrestle can be hugely advantageous, giving one of them a foothold in the opposition’s red zone, complete with a set of possession with which to launch an attack.
So evenly were the Red Devils and their visitors, Huddersfield, matched, last Sunday, that the whole game seemed like a series of arm wrestles with precious little respite for the participants as each side completed their sets error-free for what seemed like swathes of time, at any one go.
All of this became apparent as early as the first set, which, with only the slightest of interruptions on five minutes following the forming of a scrum after a Salford touch-in-flight, otherwise continued for a full ten minutes, until a wayward pass on the Red Devils line gifted the visitors the opening try.
The lack of handling errors was most pleasing to both coaches, with Salford coach, Paul Rowley, praising his side’s completion rate, and by the very nature of an arm-wrestle, one can feel confident that the Giants’ will have been somewhat similar.
As a result, the breaks in play inevitably came from lapses in defence, predominantly via penalties. Indeed, it was from a pair of back-to-back, Huddersfield, defensive indiscretions that the Red Devils opened their account on thirty minutes, not from a flamboyant, slick handling move, but from a direct, Brodie Croft carry, from which he fed the supporting Shane Wright, who shrugged off a couple of attempts to tackle him, to score to the right of the posts, from where Marc Sneyd the extra two points to reduce their arears at 6-8.
If only the Reds could have kept the half-time score differential to those two points, the eventual outcome might have been quite different, for they had had a period of domination following the introduction of fresh legs from the bench between the twenty to thirty minute mark, and this was followed up at the start of the second half with Matty Costello going over, on 48 mins in the corner for a try which would then have put them in front, after the ball had been moved along the line to the left through five pairs of hands, following a penalty which had given them an additional set.
As it was though, they had been caught out, three minutes before the interval, by Huddersfield’s change of tactic on the final tackle, when, instead of the expected end-of-set kick, they decided to run the ball, and created an overlap on their right flank to score between the posts for what could, arguably, be considered to be the match-determining try.
With the advantage of having been first to score, the Giants had the option of being able to turn kickable penalties directly into points, by going for goal as a means of increasing their lead, having already done so once, mid-way through the first half. Consequently, on 54 minutes, with a four-point advantage, at 10-14, they took the opportunity from their second, to extend their lead to six.
With an ever-increasing injury list, and the absence of a number of key players, it is unsurprising that the level of intensity began to take its toll on the Reds, in terms of both mental and physical tiredness, thus enabling the visitors to take advantage of one of Salford’s few handling errors on 65 mins, to double their lead to twelve points and then ten minutes later turn it into sixteen.
It is much to the credit of the Salford players, that despite there being only five minutes remaining, they continued to battle to the bitter end and were successful in narrowing the score to 16-26, with what was probably their most adventurous and clinical attacking move of the afternoon, which ended with skipper Kallum Watkins going over towards the right-hand corner, and Sneyd converting.