RED DEVILS IN DEPTH: CASTLEFORD V SALFORD (2)

It seemed like a cup-tie, it felt like a cup-tie, and it certainly was as important as any cup-tie, yet when watching Bank Holiday Monday’s final away fixture of the regular season, it was anything but that, for cup-ties are usually tight, closely fought encounters, with both sides overly wary of making mistakes.

There certainly was no evidence of that from the Red Devils as they took on Castleford at the Jungle, in what was effectively a preliminary round, play-off, of their own, with both sides needing to win to be certain of a place in the actual play-offs, which start next week.

Throwing the ball around with a seeming carefree abandon, the Salford players, for around fifty-five minutes, ripped into their hosts, in a manner which absolutely stunned them.  Looking back on the game, the thing that is imprinted on the mind, as it so often has been recently, is the avalanche of tries they scored, and the exceptionally high quality of them, yet there were many other aspects of the performance, without which the victory would have been far more difficult to achieve.

Not least of these were the heroic efforts of Marc Sneyd and Ryan Brierley in chasing back, shortly after the start of the second half to overhaul Olpherts, as he hared down the left wing, after having intercepted a Salford attacking pass.  Delicately balanced as the game was, at that point, how it might have unfolded thereafter, had they not brought his progress to an early finish, thankfully does not need to be considered.

The, at times, valiant defence of the whole team, particularly, but not solely, during the latter stages of the first half, was imperative in retaining their lead into the break.  Tries were thwarted, even on occasions when the would-be scorer had crossed the line, a double dose of which came on the 23rd minute, when first Jack Ormondroyd, Shane Wright and Ryan Brierley, and then from the resultant play-the-ball, with the help of King Vuniyayawa, and Shane Wright again, Andy Ackers managed to get his body under the ball to prevent it from being grounded between the posts.

It was not always a tackle which was required.  Sometimes, just the pressure being put on an opponent by a Salford player racing at him, as he was receiving a pass, was enough to force an error from him.  The inside backs have become most adept at this now, and there were a number of these in evidence yesterday, the most notable being the way Eden was rushed into sending out an over-zealous pass to his left wing, which again deprived Olpherts of this opportunity to open his account.

The immaculate kicking of Sneyd, whether it be from the tee or at the end of sets, is something we now take for granted, just as we do with the energy put into the chases by his teammates.  Life is so much easier for the Red Devils, who usually progress at six points at a time, whereas other teams have to be content with a larger proportion of four points only.

It was good to see his slotting over a couple of early penalties in each half, firstly to give the Reds an early lead, and then later to kick-start the acquisition of points, after a near thirty-minute drought before half time.  In all he was successful with seven attempts out of eight, the one miss coming from a sixty metre attempt post first-half hooter.

Alongside all this there remains the hard yardage made by the forwards.  Alex Gerrard has been most reliable and  unshirking in this throughout the season and was in evidence again yesterday, while Ormondroyd capped one of his forward charges with a try and was unfortunate to have a second disallowed for a forward pass.  Tyler Dupree has made great progress since joining us earlier in the season, and Ackers was irrepressible in sparking attack after attack with his scoots from dummy half, or the speed and accuracy of his distribution from the play-the-ball.

It is from the combination of these, therefore, that the platform is laid for those wonderful, slick attacking moves, with the magnificent Brodie Croft the architect of so many of them.  In the few months he has been with us he has cemented the team around him, and must now strike fear into the hearts of any other club which has to face him.

He is fortunate, it is true, to have a volley of strike players around him who can capitalise on so many of his insertions into the opposition’s half.  These are the players whom we so often name, week after week, for scoring the tries, and absolutely thrilling us in so doing.  They also contribute much that might not be as readily recognised, as might have been the case with Kallum Watkins’s wide right to left pass, which ensured that Ken Sio’s interception resulted in a try, despite his being stopped, short of the line.

Finally, there are our fabulous, fans, many of whom travel to the farthest flung outreaches of the league, and make their presence felt on each and every occasion.  Your contribution is so important to the players, and they respond so magnificently to your encouragement, and in recognition we celebrate this by means of our banner photograph, with a player’s eye view from Monday’s game.

Putting this altogether, one can only rejoice at the outcome of having it all, so far, and that is in  an assured place in this season’s top six play-offs.  Who, back in March and early April would have predicted that – yet it is there to be looked forward to –  and, once they take the field in the first actual play-off, the team might well find, rather as they did recently against Hull, that, whoever it is against, they will have to rely more and more on all of the elements above, because the encounter might well be much more of a cup tie than this one was.

RED DEVILS IN DEPTH:  HULL KR V SALFORD

Not for the first time, a team in a rich vein of form paid the price for a fixture-free weekend, with a loss of momentum and subsequently, a loss of quality in their performance.  That certainly appeared to be the case with Salford, in their outing to East Hull to take on the Robins, following two fine home victories over Leeds and Castleford.

The lapse of seventeen days between the last of those, and yesterday, was enough to take a little of the shine off their performances, as was exemplified by their failure to capitalise on the most clear-cut of try-scoring opportunities, six minutes into the game.

Fine handling from Amir Bourouh, Tim Lafae, Alex Gerrard, and Brodie Croft, virtually on their own try-line, successfully sent Deon Croft, supported by Ken Sio on his inside, sprinting down the right wing.  With only the covering Ethan Ryan to beat, a simple two on one was all that was required, but the pair, who normally have such a great understanding with each other on attack, had too much time to think about it and consequently over-complicated it with two, almost unnecessary, passes.

In fairness, Ryan did extremely well in the situation by not committing himself, totally to any tackle, and the chance petered out as the attacking pair ran out of room along the touch line.  The contrasting effects on the two sides, however, was the most significant outcome, with the home-side growing in confidence, and, soon after, taking a ten-point lead, with back-to-back tries.

Their tally continued to grow throughout the half to nineteen, through two goals, a try, and a drop-goal, but the Red Devils did manage to pull back six points with a converted try of their own, on 27 mins.  Hull had great difficulty in dealing with Harvey Livett’s kick into the in-goal area, with two players fumbling it for Tim Lafae to pounce upon.  Marc Sneyd added the goal-kick.

Singular as that score was, it was sufficient to put the visitors back in contention, and with only thirteen points separating the two sides at half time, confidence still remained that Salford could come back in the second half, just as they had done against much greater odds, at Wakefield.

Unfortunately, that was not to be.  A no-look flip-pass, close to the Robins’ try line, which might have initiated a try for Salford, was intercepted, and quickly led to their hosts extending their lead by a further six points, and, from that point, events turned significantly in their favour.

Most crucial of all were the two, virtually back-to-back, sin-binnings of Tyler Dupree and Livett, which meant that the rest of the team were left facing the buoyant KR with only twelve men for twenty minutes, during which time the home side exploited their numerical advantage, and continued to build up a quite commanding lead.

The Red Devils did however round off the match with a further couple of tries, sandwiching a final six-pointer for Hull, which gave the Salford fans something to cheer about, before their long journey home, Deon Cross latching onto the end of another kick into the in-goal area, and then Joe Burgess benefitting from Lafae’s interception to put him away,

Six weeks ago, the Red Devils most impressively improved their performances in the league game at Wigan.  This Friday will be the ideal opportunity for them to repeat that feat when the Cup holders visit the A J Bell for the return encounter.

Alex Gerrard signs two-year contract extension

Salford Red Devils are delighted to announce that prop Alex Gerrard has signed a two-year contract extension.

Gerrard arrived from Leigh Centurions in January and has gone on to be a quite a regular name on Paul Rowley’s team sheet, featuring eight times in the league and in Salford’s only Betfred Challenge Cup outing of 2022 against Wigan Warriors.

Speaking on his contract extension, Gerrard said: “I’m really pleased to be a part of what we’re building here. The environment at Salford is great, they’re a good group of lads.

“I want to continue to contribute to the team positively and improve on my performances week in, week out.”

Head coach Paul Rowley commented: “Alex has been fantastic on and off the pitch. He’s an experienced and clever player and is well respected and valued by all the coaches and the playing group.

“I’m really pleased that he’s extended and look forward to him contributing positively to the group.”

Director of rugby and operations Ian Blease added: “Alex has been a brilliant addition to the squad since arriving in January and it’s great to see him thriving at Salford.

“He is an important part of our pack and we’re delighted to have him with us for another two years.”

Salford travel to Sewell Group Craven Park on Sunday for Round 14 against Hull KR. Purchase your match tickets HERE.

RED DEVILS IN DEPTH: WIGAN V SALFORD

In what was arguably their best and most consistent performance of the season, yesterday, the Salford Red Devils came within two minutes of taking the Wigan Warriors into Golden Point extra time, on their home ground of the DW Stadium.

By increasing the speed of many aspects of their play, but most noticeably their handling, Salford were able to play the game at the pace so regularly produced by the Warriors, and consequently set up some quite impressive, and on four occasions at least, most effective periods of attack.

On defence, they had to endure some lengthy periods of goal-line defence, particularly in the second half, which they did with valour and commitment, as Wigan threw everything they could in their direction, in an increasingly desperate attempt to resecure the lead, which Salford had eradicated midway through the forty.

From the early stages of the game, it quickly became apparent that both teams seemed quite capable of breaking down their opponents’ defence, on the back of more protracted periods of pressure, which consequently highlighted the importance of avoiding conceding penalties and set-restarts, and of limiting opportunities for offloads.

Indeed, Salford’s first try came as the result of Chris Atkin’s interception, which set them up in Wigan’s half, and was further aided by Wigan’s fumbling of a kick on their own line, and then conceding a penalty, both of which led to renewed sets, which ended with King Vuniyayawa crossing between the posts.

Similarly, Wigan’s response, five minutes later, came as the result of a penalty for a careless high tackle on the last of a set, followed by a further set-restart.  Two of Salford’s other tries, their second from Matt Costello and their third from Alex Gerrard, came from the benefit of a seven-tackle set, following overly powered Wigan kicks into the in-goal area which ran into dead.

Ken Sio’s fifty-third minute interception try over seventy-metres, not only brought Salford the inspiration of drawing level, after resuming after the half-time interval facing a twelve point deficit, it was also some compensation for other assaults on the Warriors’ line, which could have brought further scores for the visitors.

Twice the irrepressible Brodie Croft was involved, once in the first half after a fine break from in his own half, and then linking up in the second half in some excellent inter-passing in front of the Wigan posts, in final passes which unfortunately failed to find their mark.  Meanwhile the influential Kallum Watkins also had the misfortune of his slick pass, delivered as he was falling to the ground in a tackle, adjudged to be forward, with the Wigan line at Ryan Brierley’s mercy.

The last fifteen minutes, however, were spent in almost total goal-line defence, the like of which has often been missing on other previous occasions.  Twice the home side successfully worked overlaps which threatened to end in tries, only for their passes to the unmarked wingers being so rushed, as a result of Salford’s defensive pressure, that the ball ended up in touch.

In the end, the game was settled by the speed of two-try Jai Field, who found sufficient space down the Salford left flank, to seal the game as only he can, with a ninety metre, six-pointer, under the Salford posts.

It is a credit to the whole team from one to seventeen, that the disappointment, for players, fans, and club officials, at the end was so great, because to come so close to winning, only to be thwarted in the dying minutes, is extremely painful.  With further performances like this, however, it will only be a matter of time, before victories start accruing, as the season progresses.

RED DEVILS IN DEPTH: WIGAN V SALFORD

In what was arguably their best and most consistent performance of the season, yesterday, the Salford Red Devils came within two minutes of taking the Wigan Warriors into Golden Point extra time, on their home ground of the DW Stadium.

By increasing the speed of many aspects of their play, but most noticeably their handling, Salford were able to play the game at the pace so regularly produced by the Warriors, and consequently set up some quite impressive, and on four occasions at least, most effective periods of attack.

On defence, they had to endure some lengthy periods of goal-line defence, particularly in the second half, which they did with valour and commitment, as Wigan threw everything they could in their direction, in an increasingly desperate attempt to resecure the lead, which Salford had eradicated midway through the forty.

From the early stages of the game, it quickly became apparent that both teams seemed quite capable of breaking down their opponents’ defence, on the back of more protracted periods of pressure, which consequently highlighted the importance of avoiding conceding penalties and set-restarts, and of limiting opportunities for offloads.

Indeed, Salford’s first try came as the result of Chris Atkin’s interception, which set them up in Wigan’s half, and was further aided by Wigan’s fumbling of a kick on their own line, and then conceding a penalty, both of which led to renewed sets, which ended with King Vuniyayawa crossing between the posts.

Similarly, Wigan’s response, five minutes later, came as the result of a penalty for a careless high tackle on the last of a set, followed by a further set-restart.  Two of Salford’s other tries, their second from Matt Costello and their third from Alex Gerrard, came from the benefit of a seven-tackle set, following overly powered Wigan kicks into the in-goal area which ran into dead.

Ken Sio’s fifty-third minute interception try over seventy-metres, not only brought Salford the inspiration of drawing level, after resuming after the half-time interval facing a twelve point deficit, it was also some compensation for other assaults on the Warriors’ line, which could have brought further scores for the visitors.

Twice the irrepressible Brodie Croft was involved, once in the first half after a fine break from in his own half, and then linking up in the second half in some excellent inter-passing in front of the Wigan posts, in final passes which unfortunately failed to find their mark.  Meanwhile the influential Kallum Watkins also had the misfortune of his slick pass, delivered as he was falling to the ground in a tackle, adjudged to be forward, with the Wigan line at Ryan Brierley’s mercy.

The last fifteen minutes, however, were spent in almost total goal-line defence, the like of which has often been missing on other previous occasions.  Twice the home side successfully worked overlaps which threatened to end in tries, only for their passes to the unmarked wingers being so rushed, as a result of Salford’s defensive pressure, that the ball ended up in touch.

In the end, the game was settled by the speed of two-try Jai Field, who found sufficient space down the Salford left flank, to seal the game as only he can, with a ninety metre, six-pointer, under the Salford posts.

It is a credit to the whole team from one to seventeen, that the disappointment, for players, fans, and club officials, at the end was so great, because to come so close to winning, only to be thwarted in the dying minutes, is extremely painful.  With further performances like this, however, it will only be a matter of time, before victories start accruing, as the season progresses.

SALFORD SIGN PROP ALEX GERRARD

Salford Red Devils are pleased to announce the signing of Alex Gerrard on a one-year deal.

The experienced prop began his career at Widnes Vikings, where he spent eight years between 2010 and 2018, before moving to Australia to play for Queensland outfit, Mackay Cutters. Gerrard then returned to the UK in 2020 to sign for Leigh Centurions.

Speaking on signing for Salford, Gerrard said: “There’s a good squad here at Salford, I’m looking forward to working hard to get into the 17.

“I want to be consistent in my performances and contribute positively to the group.”

Gerrard knows assistant coach Kurt Haggerty well through his time at Widnes, where Kurt was a player for two seasons. Haggerty was also assistant coach and then head coach at Leigh Centurions, whilst Gerrard was a Leyther.

“I know Kurt (Haggerty) from when I started out at Widnes. It’s always nice to see familiar faces and I’m looking forward to working with Kurt again.”

Salford Red Devils assistant coach, Kurt Haggerty, said: “It’s great to be working with Alex again. His ability as a front rower and his work rate will be really beneficial to the team moving forward. It’s great to have him on board for 2022.”

Head coach Paul Rowley commented: “I’m really pleased to add Alex to the squad, he’s got lots of experience at the top level and will add much needed depth and competition to the team, which we all understand will be paramount during this season.

“One of our strengths at Salford is the team spirit and Alex will fit in very well.”

Director of rugby and operations, Ian Blease, added: “It’s great to bring Alex in with his wealth of 1st team experience and he will now add some more depth and strength to our pack for the forthcoming season.”

Join Gerrard in 2022, by purchasing a season ticket HERE.

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