RESERVES FAIL TO BUILD ON DREAM START

RESERVES FAIL TO BUILD ON DREAM START

by | Mar 25, 2024

Salford Red Devils 8  Leigh Leopards 18                      Match Report

They could not have made a better start to their home local derby encounter with the Leigh Leopards, just one week after the visitors’ outstanding home victory over the Leeds Rhinos, and for half an hour it looked as though the Red Devils Reserve side was going to take the spoils having been by far the better side to that point.

These, however, are early days in their development as a team, following its hefty restructuring over the close season, with a total of twenty new players, hastily but most shrewdly selected, having had to be brought in to replace that same number from last season, who had left for first team rugby at other clubs.

The quality of the recruits, however, was more than evident in their incredible opening fifteen minutes, in which they scored two fine tries and looked set to rattle up a few more.  Built on some tremendous carries through the Leopards’ defence by forwards of quite notable size, almost the whole of this opening period was spent in the visitors’ thirty metre area.

Following a fine first set, in which progress up field was substantial, the end-of-set kick and chase pinned Leigh down in their twenty, and the intensity and robustness of the Reds’ defence forced a handling error, from which hooker, Reece Bushell, opened the home account with an unconverted try towards the left edge.

The Salford forwards, with additional help from centre, Josh Wagstaffe, continued to put the Leopards’ defence to the sword, skittling would-be tacklers out of the way and putting their defensive line at sixes and sevens. 

One tremendous hit-up by captain, Jordan Brown – easily the best player on the field throughout the game – on twelve minutes, put the Red Devils within metres of the try line, and courtesy of a repeat set from a penalty the ball was moved from left to right and the sweetest of cut-out passes from fullback, Nathan Connell, to Dan Harrison, put the right winger in at the corner.

It just needed them to continue in similar vein and add to their eight-point tally, but, whether feeling that points were going to continue presenting themselves or just that they had not yet learned, as a team, how to manage such a situation, they found themselves being first thwarted, and then repulsed, by a Leigh defence gradually gaining some composure after their torrid start.

On the back of that, the confidence in the visitors’ ranks started to build, and their handling became much more assured, bringing them their first visit to the Salford line on 17 mins.  The Red Devils’ defence was, however, equal to the task, over two back-to-back sets, which, for the time being, kept their line intact.

Twelve minutes later, and benefitting this time from three set-restarts, a Leigh kick into their righthand corner brought them their first try, eroding their deficit to four points, before taking the lead on 32 mins with a try much nearer to the posts, giving them am 8-10 half time lead.

In almost similar fashion to the first half the Red Devils took the game to Leigh putting them under the same degree of pressure, which saw them benefit from set-restarts, three Leigh touches, and four penalties, but this time without the benefit of a score.

As so often happens, when a team has survived a lengthy period of time holding out in defence, they seize on their first opportunity to go to the other end and score, which is what happened on Salford’s loss of possession in front of the Leopard’s posts, to stretch their lead to 8-14.

Six minutes later, the game was put out of reach, with a further, concluding try, which in the wet conditions made a ten-point scoreline a far more comfortable one than would normally be the case.

Coach, Stuart Wilkinson, was quite philosophical about the outcome, however, realising that it was simply the point to which the players have come, as a team.

“We really could have done with a couple more pre-season friendlies to help us gel as a team, but there just wasn’t time to do so.  Consequently, we took our foot off the gas, when we were on top, and although we had lots of further opportunities to score throughout the game, we just were not ruthless enough.

“The power of our forwards was evident at the outset, but they did not retain it for long enough.  Having got that opening period of domination in this match, our task now is to extend it first from ten to twenty minutes, and then on to forty, sixty and the full eighty.”

SALFORD:

Nathan Connell, Dan Harrison, Ethan Fitzgerald, Josh Wagstaffe, Scott Egan, Kai Morgan, Jack Gatcliffe, Jordan Brown, Reece Bushell, Charlie Glover, Matty Foster, Andrew Dixon, Henry Davies

Substitutes:

Charlie, McCurrie, John Hutchings, Cole Appleby, Ben Tyrer

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