Salford Red Devils 28 Warrington Wolves Luna 14 Match Report
In front of what was by far the largest home crowd of the season, the Salford Red Devils ladies’ team, winners of the League Cup only ten days earlier, put on a display of skilled open rugby, which must have delighted the contingent of Salford supporters who had turned out to cheer them on.
It had been back in late March when these two sides had first clashed in what had been the Reds’ opening fixture of the season, and how rewarding it must have been, last night for everyone to reflect on their performance in that first encounter, compared with the slickness of their performance, this time around.
In fairness, both sides had made considerable progress over the season, and the visitors showed their quality in the opening stages, crossing for the first score, after only four minutes, and then regaining a 6-8 lead, on 18 mins, after centre, Sade Rihari had, together with Demi Jones’s conversion, given the home side a slight advantage, on seven minutes.
The game changed remarkably, and from the visitors’ perspective, most cruelly, on the restart, when the kick-off saw the ball put into space in the Warrington twenty where at least three unpredictable bounces, saw Salford fullback, Luci McKeown, first onto it, with a second kick to knock it over the try line, where she grounded it, for Salford’s second score.
Going up in sixes, whilst the opposition are doing so in fours, is most helpful, and Jones’s second conversion emphasised her superiority in this department. Relinquishing their briefly restored lead so promptly, must have been quite sickening for the Warrington players, and indeed the remainder of the first half saw Salford in total command, building on their now increased advantage on the score board.
By half time, that advantage had further increased by ten points, courtesy of right winger, Lauren Ellison, who crossed for two tries. The first came directly from a scrum, twenty metres from the Warrington line. The initial running was done by Taz Corcoran, who had packed down at the back of the scrum, from where she collected the ball taking it to the right, whilst also drawing defenders in, so that when Ellison received the ball she had a free run to the corner.
Five minutes from the interval, fine defensive work by Alex Simpson forced a knock on, thereby providing further possession for the Reds. The ball was moved slickly along the line, until it arrived in McKeown’s hands, and she momentarily held onto it thus attracting attention her way before sending it on to Ellison. A slightly easier kick at goal than the previous attempt was slotted over by Demi Jones, to bring the half-time score of 22-8 – a comfortable, though not commanding lead.
The visitors, as any reasonably good team would do, used the interval to regroup, determine what had gone wrong, and then address the issues on the field during the second half. The outcome of this was that the second half was a much more tightly fought battle, with both teams keeping each other scoreless, for over twenty minutes.
Salford did have a few opportunities to go further ahead, but were denied either by a well-organised defence, or by handling errors close to the line. The real heroes of the half were the forwards who took on the visiting pack with a ferocious determination to make every metre they could.
Player of the Match, Darcey Price set an excellent example, which was replicated by many others, including, Abi Collins, Casey Naylor, Sarina Tamou, Megan Condliffe, Yasmin Parton-Sotomayer, Vikki Kini, Kayleigh Bradshaw, and the unlikeliest of forward of all, Brogan Evans. These players just simply ate up the metres as they sought, each set, to put the Red Devils back in striking distance.
The finest piece of rugby in the whole match came on the sixtieth minute, and remarkably did not end in a try, but that in no way diminishes the quality of the rugby which was served up. It started thirty metres out, with McKeown, under considerable pressure from opponents, managing to slip out a pass to Rihari, who then surged through the line at a great angle, before sending out the classiest of passes to Ellison, who race for the corner, only to be tackled into touch by excellent scrambling defence from Warrington. No try, but attacking play right out of the top drawer.
Respite for the visitors was short-lived, for two minutes later McKeown broke through to score under the posts, giving Jones a fourth successful conversion. That the visitors later caught the Salford defence somewhat lacking in concentration, and went through to level up the scores for the second half was probably a fitting end to the game, because they had hey contributed much to the encounter, even though, on the day, the Red Devils showed their superiority thus rewarding their home fans, who had come to lend their support.
Luci McKeown, Lauren Ellison, Sade Rihari, Alex Simpson, Jena Monks , Louise Fellingham, Demi Jones, Megan Condliffe, Tamzin Corcoran, Abi Collins, Kayleigh Bradshaw, Vikki Kini, Sarina Tamou
Brogan Evans, Hannah Wicks, Helena Walker, Darcey Price, Yasmin Parton-Sotomayor, Casey Naylor, Eponine Fletcher
Steve McCormick – Photograph showing Lauren Ellison scorer of two tries