After two of their most impressive wins of the season, over Wakefield and Warrington, Salford Red Devils travelled to Newcastle for this season’s Magic Weekend Supported by SKY O, to take on Huddersfield with the hope that they would not only be able to avenge their loss in the away game, earlier this season, but also extend their run of victories to three, for the first time this season.
The Red Devils have become well-practised in the art of backing up one win with a second, as has happened on three occasions, Castleford & Toulouse, Leeds & Castleford, and the aforementioned Wakefield & Warrington, but have not, so far, been able to put a run of three or more together.
Unfortunately, that proved to be the case once more, at St James’s Park, with the Giants being the ones to walk tall, at the final whistle. It was a lack of consistency throughout the encounter, which was to be the Reds’ downfall, with at least one period in which they were totally dominant the with opposition on the rack, but there were too many occasions where they lost concentration and fell away.
The roasting conditions, out on the pitch, were not helpful to any side, but, as always, were the same for both teams, and with a lighter, more mobile pack, one might have expected that they would have suited Salford rather more than the aptly named Giants. That, however, did not prove to be the case, and a somewhat hesitant start handed the initiative to the opposition.
The game was barely three minutes old, when a lost ball in a tackle, close to the Giants’ line, gifted them possession, and a towering end-of-set kick caused a little hesitancy in the mind of fullback, Ryan Brierley, with his being beaten to the catch by the oncoming Toby King, who took it on the full to race over between the posts.
In fairness to the Salford players, their response to this setback was admirable as they built up pressure on the Huddersfield line, and were most unfortunate not to score from Marc Sneyd’s kick into the in-goal area, with the ball just bouncing away from Rhys Williams’s hand as it came down to ground it.
A try at that point would have been most beneficial, but, as it was, things just deteriorated further with the Yorkshire side taking advantage of a seven-tackle set to proceed down-field and double their score with a try to the right of the posts.
With Huddersfield’s confidence sky-high by this point, it took some considerable endeavour in the heat, and some lengthy spells defending their line, on the part of the Salford players to prevent their going even further behind, but it was only a matter of time before the Giants got their third score of the afternoon, from McQueen, in the 26th minute.
At long last the Reds did get some possession in good field position and were able to apply some pressure of their own and show a response, which they did with some seemingly off-the-cuff inter-passing, and switches of direction, until Deon Cross was able to hand-off a wrong-footed defender and open the Reds’ account, on 33 minutes.
Had they been able to retain this twelve-point deficit to half time, the outcome might have been very different, but the last five minutes saw repeated assaults on the Salford line, culminating with the loss of the ball, after only one tackle, affording the opposition one extra chance, with less than a minute remaining, – a chance they did not scorn.
How different things proved to be at the start of the second half, with the Red Devils coming out of the blocks determined to put right things, which had gone awry, earlier. Secure in the belief that, particularly in those conditions, even an eighteen-point lead could be overturned, they started to build pressure of their own, but it was the individual contribution, and incredible footwork of Brodie Croft, which were to be the undoing of the Giants, in the first fifteen minutes.
Twice, on 47 and 51 minutes, he put himself in space to employ the most bewildering of tricky runs to bring the Reds back into the game. The first came from a speedy play-the-ball by Sam Luckley, which enabled dummy-half, Andy Ackers, to scoot towards the defensive line, before passing to Croft, who sped through a gap to round Lolohea and score by the posts.
Four minutes later, the same threesome of Ackers, Luckley and Croft combined again, with this time Croft once again breaking the defensive with a slight change of direction, drawing in Lolohea, and then passing inside to the rampaging Luckley who held off all challengers to go in under the posts. His celebration, on doing so, was such that it drew the attention of one, Alan Shearer, whose subsequent tweeting of the try, and afters, has, to date, brought just under two thousand, eight hundred ‘likes’.
One week earlier, a similar turnaround in momentum was sufficient to bring home the spoils to Salford. Sadly, on this occasion, there was no repetition of that, with the Giants’ regrouping, playing percentages, and managing the remaining time, well. Consequently, it was they, and not Salford, who went on to add one final try to make the game safe.
On that previous occasion, the Red Devils had built up an early eight-point lead, which was, subsequently, the winning margin. This week, they did not have any early points to draw upon, and in that, thereby, lies a lesson which, hopefully, the whole squad will be quick to learn, even more hopefully, in time for next Sunday’s home fixture with Catalans Dragons.