It was such a promising opening, with the Red Devils starting with a splendid display of wide, expansive, attacking rugby, which had become so familiar to the Salford fans in the later stages of last season, but which had been absent in the previous week’s visit to the Leigh Sports Village.
Yet here it was again in what was only Round 2 of the new season, in all its exciting, entertaining spectacle, from the very first set when swift hands put right winger, Ken Sio, in space, and the visiting Hull KR players were desperately having to scramble back to prevent an early setback.
When, at the end of their back-to-back sets, they forced the first of two goal-line drop-outs, it seemed only a matter of time before they went in front. It turned out to be just ten minutes, with their attack being restarted by the second of the drop-outs, and ended with a wide pass to Sio, who scored in the corner.
Although Marc Sneyd’s conversion attempt failed to find the mark, there was little doubt in anyone’s mind that there would be more on the way, and indeed for the next ten minutes the Red Devils continued to dominate possession and field position, though with no further points to add to the scoreboard.
The game started to change a little around the twentieth minute, with back-to-back penalties gaining good field position to enable the visitors to test the Salford defence, and although they did not get anything to show for it immediately, they seemed to grow in stature and confidence, as a result.
In truth, four points after such a protracted period of Salford dominance seemed scant reward for their efforts, as they had had sufficient possession and position to have added at least one, if not more, scores, which would probably have dispirited the visitors somewhat had they been able to do so. As it was. their self-belief that they could contain the threat their hosts posed grew, and inspired them to further effort.
Consequently, when Sio, as he is wont to do, intercepted a Hull pass to his wing, his progress was arrested before he could even get into his stride and the team then had the task of taking the ball up the field, tackle by tackle. They also seemed to make heavy weather of the increasing amount of defending they were required to do.
The Robins’ pack is quite an imposing group, all of whom are capable of making their mark on any game – a victory over the Wigan Warriors, as they had achieved in round 1, is no mean fete – and they started to gain the ascendency, not just on the attack where they drove forward relentlessly, but also on defence, where they harried and hassled the normally rampant Reds into an increasing number of hurried and wayward passes.
The writing was clearly on the wall, when, on 32 mins, the referee was forced to refer a Robins’ grounding to the video referee, and, although this was ruled out, it merely portended what was to come after the interval. It will surely have been the away dressing-room, which will have been the more satisfied, over the recess, and they continued where they left off, after the resumption.
Salford’s best moment of the second half came on 54 minutes, when they were stung into a response to Hull’s two-try opening to the half, by overcoming the less productive of some of their more recent attacking forays, with slick hands putting Deon Cross over for their second try, to put themselves to within two points of the visitors.
Twice within five minutes, Salford were denied possible further tries. A referral to the video referee ruled out Sio’s grounding in the corner, on 56 mins, with Brodie Croft being ruled offside prior to his involvement, and then on 70 mins. A ball steal by Tim Lafai led to another attack along the line to the right wing, where Cross, this time, just had a bit too much to do to get over the line for what would have been his own second score.
Hull, however, had no such problems in adding to their score with further tries on 57 and 72 mins, as Salford continued to fail to muscle up to the continued pressure on their defence. Deserved, Man of the Match, Ollie Partington had led the way in how to deal with this, and it is likely there will be work done upon this element for others, in the coming days.