For sheer entertainment value, this Round Seven game had everything anyone could have wished for, with classy, expansive, skilful handling, rampaging hit-ups, tricky defence-splitting running, end-to-end movement, and tries aplenty, all in one afternoon’s worth of Super League.
At first glance, it might appear to have been a game of two halves, with first Trinity, and then the visiting Salford side having total ascendency, in each of the forty-minute periods. That assumption is certainly supported by the scoreboard, with Wakefield rattling up a 24-4 interval lead, and the Reds winning the second stanza by twenty points to six.
There was more to it than that, however, with Salford, in particular, making some notable impact when Wakefield held the whip hand. For example, after the home side had taken an eighth-minute, six-point lead, it took the Red Devils a matter of only two minutes’ play, before they eroded into it, with the first of Rhys Willams’s tries, after deft hands from the ever-impressive, Tim Lafae, and it was only thanks to their successful conversion that Wakefield continued to hold onto the lead.
Indeed, when you look at the number of tries rather than points accrued, it was completely even, with five each, four of which, for both teams, came in just one half. Unfortunately, with both Salford wingers scoring a brace each, the majority of their scores were out wide, making it far more difficult for kicker, Marc Sneyd, to acquit himself as accurately as he probably would have liked, and, in the end, it was the three missed attempts from the most difficult, which were responsible for the final six-point difference between the sides.
Even after Trinity had opened up a 12-4 lead after fifteen minutes, Salford ripped through their defence, on twenty-six minutes, when Elijah Taylor made a clean break down the left, but was unable to take advantage of his teammates’ support as a Wakefield defender cleverly put himself between them, and the difficult inside pass went adrift.
If there were a period in which Trinity were totally dominant, it was in the final ten minutes of the half, when they doubled their number of points on the board. It started with a poor Salford chase after a kick into their opponents’ in-goal area, which enabled Wakefield to build up a head of steam, and they promptly went a hundred metres down the field, in only five tackles, to score by the posts. Winger, Tom Johnstone, then rounded off the half with one of his typical individual tries.
Much as they contributed to the game on attack, unusually, there must have been questions about the visitors’ defence, at times during the half, to be facing a twenty-point deficit. There had been, nevertheless, a period mid-half, when they had withstood two back-to-back goal-line drop-outs, followed by two back-to-back penalties, all within close proximity to their own line.
Whatever the nature of the discussion during half time, Salford were a team transformed, from the start of the second half. The immediate pressure they applied led to the initial rewards of two back-to-back goal-line drop-outs, of their own capped with a penalty, and they all added to the Red Devils’ total dominance, which culminated in Deon Cross’s converted try, on forty-seven minutes.
Momentum had swung in Salford’s favour, and they were now in the ascendency, so much so that it took merely seven minutes for the next score, from Ken Sio, such was the new-found confidence they were exuding. They even went close to adding two further tries, only to be held up, over the line, on both occasions.
Wakefield, on the other hand. were now confined to almost constant goal-line defence, and it was close to mid-point in the half before they launched an attack on the Salford line.
One aspect of play which the home side did command, however, was the ability to win most of the contested high kicks, though Rhys Williams will have gained considerable satisfaction from plucking the ball from one, short, goal-line drop-out, out of the air, and away from the waiting hands of an opponent to cross, unchallenged, for his second try.
Ken Sio, on the other flank, mirrored his colleague’s scoring rate, though, by the time he had the chance to complete his tally, thirty seconds from time, the Wakefield lead had increased to twelve points, and the victory was theirs.
There was much of which the Red Devils should be proud, however. The notable improvement in their attacking play was most encouraging, as well as entertaining, and they certainly showed that they do have the clinical skills to turn their chances into points. With a blank weekend coming up, there is the opportunity to hone these skills further, but also to rediscover their defensive strategy which has done so much to help them, in previous games.