As the visiting Wakefield swept into an early 0-6 lead after a mere three minutes of play, in last Sunday’s Super League encounter, the signs for a Salford victory seemed somewhat sparse, and no-one could possibly have predicted the amazing about turn, which was about to manifest itself.
This had been an eagerly awaited match ever since the Red Devils had been pipped at the post, back in April in their away fixture, at Belle Vue. More recently, however, the tightness of the two teams’ league status had turned the game into a ‘must win’ fixture for both sides.
Besides that opening try proving to be a complete red-herring, as far as the result was concerned, it also proved to be a wake-up call for the home side, who responded with what must have been their most outstanding performance, and subsequent victory, in the past two seasons. Once the momentum began to swing in their favour there was absolutely no stopping them, and the points started to accrue at the most remarkable speed.
Overwhelming victories often lead to the debate over whether it was good attack or poor defence which was the dominant reason for the outcome. Not on this occasion, however, because there could be no gainsaying the incredibly impressive attacking force into which the Salford attack turned. That all but two of their tries were scored by backs, and five of them by wingers is testament in itself to that. Wakefield’s defence just had no chance of coping with it.
Tries galore was the outcome, and the skill, grace, and clinicity, with which these were forged simply had to be marvelled at. They sprang from virtually every aspect of the game – in-goal kicks, directly from scrums, goal-line drop-outs, penalties, well-supported clean breaks – all of these proved to be the starting point for one or other of the thirteen tries.
The ones which were the most impressive and enjoyable, however, were those, predominantly in the first half, in which the absolutely fabulous, slick, handling saw the ball swept from one side of the field to the other, with a precision, and also variations, that were so beautiful in their execution, that they had to be seen to be believed. The position of each player in the line, on each occasion, was centimetre perfect, and the timings of each and every pass were impeccable. They had to be to foil the Wakefield defence as frequently as they did.
And what of the Wakefield defence? Well, they certainly will not have conceded willingly, when you consider just what was at stake. They simply had the misfortune of coming up against a team, which, on the day, was absolutely on fire, and totally dominated possession. We can all remember periods, in which they successfully contained the Reds in their own thirty metre area, until an end-of-set kick relieved the pressure.
There is a limit to the amount of defending anyone can do, though, and with the amount of possession Salford enjoyed, Trinity’s energy levels understandably fell as each half progressed, and particularly in the second half, there was a small number of clean breaks which came as a result of the visitors’ fatigue. They, nevertheless, still managed to score a second try, on 51 minutes.
A total of seventy-four points does not come predominantly from poor defence, however, it has to come primarily from the exceptionally high quality of the attack in order for it to mount up to such a massive scoreline, and this is undoubtedly what happened on this occasion
There even were a couple of occasions when it looked as though another try was on the way only for it to be chalked off by the referee. Harvey Livett failed to ground cleanly Marc Sneyd’s in-goal kick on 8 mins, while Sneyd himself was given exactly the same judgement in the second half, and was also called back, later, whilst on his way to the line, for a forward pass.
In addition, there was a considerable amount of off-the-ball work, which probably went unnoticed, but which was quite instrumental in the victory. An end-of-set kick towards the Wakefield try-line, for example, was recovered by the fullback, only to receive the full force of Jack Ormondroyd’s charging tackle, with the ball being knocked out of his grasp, thereby acquiring possession for Ryan Brierley 62nd minute try.
The challenge for the team now is to put this game behind them and focus on next Sunday’s match at Warrington. This scoreline, marvellous as it is, will have no relevance then, and the 0-0 score, from which both teams will start, will need all the hard work that any game needs, in order to bring back the points from the Halliwell Jones.