The travelling Salford Faithful who had made the trip to support their favourites at the Halliwell-Jones Stadium, in the Rivals Round against Warrington Wolves, must have left the ground wondering what has gone wrong with the Reds’ defence over the past couple of games, for it was only three weeks ago that they had limited Wigan to three tries only, despite the Warriors having a significant proportion of possession and field position. One week earlier, Leeds had been kept try-less in the second half allowing the Red Devils to capitalise with a 26-12 home victory.
Since then, however, a total of eleven tries has been leaked, with some tackling being of quite questionable quality. Both Wakefield and Warrington exploited Salford’s right edge defensive frailty, with the Wolves scoring four of their five tries on their left wing through King (3) and Ashton (2).
It had been the Red Devils’ attack which had been a matter of concern until recently, but, having equalled Wakefield’s scoring tally last week, they notched another three against this week’s hosts, on Thursday evening, from Ken Sio who latched onto Brierley’s kick into his corner on the stroke of half-time, Andy Ackers who scooted over from a play-the-ball close to the Wolves’ line, and Ryan Brierley who brought the curtain down on the game with a last gasp score.
Good as those tries were, there were a number of other occasions when the Reds came close to additional scores, particularly in the second half, during which the visitors built several periods of pressure. There were a number of occasions when potential tries failed to satisfy the referee sufficiently for him to award them.
Infuriatingly, the first of these led to a twelve-point whammy, with the home side utilising the subsequent seven-tackle restart, by scoring from that final, extra play-the-ball. Sneyd’s kick into the in-goal area, had been initially adjudged to have been grounded by a Warrington defender which would have then led to a goal-line drop-out, but the verdict of the in-goal judge was that Brierley had first fumbled the ball over the line, and so a twenty-metre restart was determined.
Shortly afterwards, Burgess was tackled into touch before he could ground the ball, then Sio was tackled with the ball almost in touching distance of the line, and finally a Warrington defender managed to get himself between the ball and the ground, as he tackled Taylor over the line. All were evidence of the Reds’ vastly improved attacking play, but thwarted, on the night, by extremely determined Warrington defending, the like of which Salford would have benefited from copying.
A significant total of five goal-line drop-outs was further evidence of the extent to which the Red Devils tested their hosts’ goal-line defence, with the majority of these coming as a result of a home defender having to make the ball dead, either by grounding it in-goal, or being tackled over the dead-ball line.
It is widely regarded that the acquisition of eighteen points should be a match-winning score. That this proved to be far from the case, on Thursday, was purely down to the six tries scored by Warrington, who were allowed to play the game at whatever pace suited them at the time. One particular set-of-six, towards the end of the first half, saw them up and playing the ball at exceptional speeds and consequently making remarkable progress up the field, in hardly any time at all.
It is up to the defending side to control this, by various options which do not incur the wrath of the referee. That, with a mere thirty seconds left on the clock, the penalty count was an incredible eight to two, in favour of the Wolves, would seem to indicate a lack of success in this area. Salford’s tally was actually doubled, in the dying moments, by some gamesmanship from the home side which led to their reduction to twelve players, and Brierley’s last-ditch score.
There have been a number of games now which have produced a mixed bag of performances, but it is producing balanced consistency throughout the full eighty minutes, which will return them to return to winning ways. An Easter Monday home game against the Catalans Dragons would be the ideal place to start.