RED DEVILS IN DEPTH: SALFORD V LEIGH

RED DEVILS IN DEPTH: SALFORD V LEIGH

by | Apr 1, 2024

A final fifteen-minute fightback by the visiting Leigh Leopards, in last Saturday’s aptly titled Rivals’ Round, at the Salford Stadium, proved insufficient in overturning what had seemed a comfortable twenty-point margin, following a game which, apart from the occasional blip, the Red Devils had dominated from quite early in the proceedings.

With the added impetus, had it been needed, of its being Ryan Brierley’s three hundredth professional appearance, after a somewhat tame opening stanza, the home side took control upon the sinbinning of Leigh’s Lachlan Lam, on six minutes.

Indeed, it was Brierley, who, determined to make his mark on the match continually throughout the first half, was obstructed by the Leopard’s stand-off, whilst chasing Mark Sneyd’s end-of-set kick-in-goal, and the Reds made good use of the benefit of the extra man, over the following ten minutes.

Sneyd gratefully accepted the opportunity to kick his side into the lead with the first of his, once again, hundred percent success goal kicking rate, from the resultant penalty, and then six minutes later Brierley again came to the fore with the first of his brace of tries.

Three back-to-back sets – so indicative of the Red Devils’ domination – set up the position, and continued pressure, on the Leigh line, which he eventually broke, much to the delight of the two hospitality-box full of his friends and family, with the combination of a dummy and clever step inside as the ball was being moved towards the right wing.

Although he might have had some success in gaining the video referee’s judgement in his earlier collision with Lam, Joe Mellor, on his Salford debut, possibly felt rather hard done to, on eighteen minutes, when, not for the first time for Salford this season, his collision with Gareth O’Brien was not passed on for further scrutiny.

As a consequence, Leigh were inspired to more determined effort which paid off, on twenty-six minutes, with Hanley’s try, virtually out of nothing, in the corner, eroding the Salford lead to four points.

Not for long, though, for within minutes of the restart, the Red Devils had stretched it even further, as a result of a great passing move involving both half backs.  Starting with Sneyd’s pass to him, Cade Cust showed how far their partnership has developed by pirouetting round and slipping the ball to the oncoming, man of the moment, Brierley, to zig-zag his way to the line, for his second try of the evening.

Even then there was still time for another score, this time from Ethan Ryan to mark his first try in a Salford jersey, on 35 mins, which Sneyd improved to notch up a 20-4 lead further underlining Salford’s dominance.

Oh, that that had been the end of events for the half, but unfortunately that was not the case, as things turned rather more sour for Brierley as he was sinbinned twenty seconds from time for a late tackle on Hanley which prevented the winger scoring, but with Lam kicking the resultant penalty.

A man down for the first nine minutes of the second half made for a rather fraught opening spell for the Red Devils, especially in the first couple of back-to-back sets, when the visitors threw the ball around with much greater sense of purpose and forced gaps in the Salford defence which they exploited, though, thankfully, without a score.

In fact, credit to them, the Salford players grew in stature throughout the remainder of the sinbinning, controlling possession and territory with fine game management, which continued throughout most of the remaining time, and they gained the rewards for this on 55 mins.

A long Leopards’ pass to the right wing went clearly forward, and from the resultant possession Sneyd crossed close to the posts thanks to Oli Partington’s incredible slipped pass backwards, whilst in the act of being tackled.

The restoration of their twenty-point lead seems possibly to have produced a sense of comfort to the Reds performance, which Leigh were quick to exploit five minutes later, and though Ryan’s second, 71st minute try in the corner extended their score to 32 points, it was sandwiched between two further scores by Hanley to complete his hat-trick on the back of a first from Lam on 60 mins, as the Leopards threw caution to the wind with slick, fast, entertaining handling to cross on 67 and 76 minutes.

Although making no difference to the actual outcome, the visitors’ ascendency, over the final quarter, did make for a scoreline which bore little resemblance to the greatest portion of the game, but hopefully this will sound as a warning to the Salford players of the importance of finishing teams off completely, whilst still in a position to do so.

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