RED DEVILS’ PROGRESS EVIDENT IN PLAY OFF SEMI-FINAL

Leigh 28  Salford 10                         Match Report

In what was undoubtedly the most keenly contested of the four encounters between the ladies of the Salford Red Devils and their near neighbours, the Leigh Leopards, the home side were made to battle for every point before eventually progressing through to the final of Super League 2’s end of season play-offs.

Indeed, it was a considerable achievement for the Salford players to have been making an appearance in this stage of the competition in their very first season in Super League, when many a side would, in such circumstances, have more than likely been battling to avoid relegation.  Not so, the Red Devils, who had finished a most creditable fourth to travel to third place Leigh, in this, the semi-final.

Each of the three previous encounters had seen a noticeable narrowing in the differential between the two sides, and although the scoreline failed to reflect this, the outcome, this time, was in the balance right through to the final fifteen minutes, when the home side managed to find a couple of holes in what had been a magnificent defensive effort by the visitors.

Just how tight the game was going to be was evident from the outset, with both sides locked in an arm wrestle – in which neither side could gain dominance – the like of which had not existed in either the pre-season friendly or the two, home and away league fixtures.

It was, however, Leigh who opened the scoring in the 15th minute, as a result of their gaining a penalty near their own line, followed by a set-restart inside the Salford half, before working an overlap on the left flank with an unconverted try in the corner.

Unfazed by this setback, the Reds continued to muscle up in defence, repelling every Leigh onslaught and setting up line-testing attacks of their own.  One magnificent tackle by centre, Alex Simpson, prevented a near certain try, on 23 mins, and six minutes later she was most unfortunate to be denied a try of her own, when a prior tackle on her winger, Lauren Ellison, was adjudged to have been completed.

As so often seems to happen these days, a disallowed try at one end of the field led to a recognised try at the other, once again coming after another set-restart, with the successful goal-kick giving the Leopards a 10-0 lead, on 32mins.

Once again, the Salford defence was called into action with one of the biggest hits of the afternoon being affected jointly by Player of the Year, Brogan Evans, and fullback, Sage Bannister, on 36mins.  It was that both were able to combine timing and targeted body areas with such precision that made this so impressive.

Efforts such as this can certainly give a team an uplift, and this proved to be the case on this occasion.  A high, end-of-set kick by Demi Jones was dropped, thus gaining the visitors further possession with which they set up, second rower, Viki Kini to force her way over, on 39 mins, enabling Jones to narrow the half time margin to 10-6.

The inspiration that the score had brought the Red Devils was carried through into the second half, and a Leigh error in their own half, early in the tackle count, gave away possession, which Salford were able to use to set up captain, Louise Fellingham, for a try on 43 mins, not only to level the score, but to rattle the home side at the loss of their lead.

The arm wrestle, which had been so tightly fought in the opening period, reappeared as both teams sought once again to gain dominance, but this time the Salford players had developed a confidence which continued to force the Leopards into uncharacteristic errors, by their defensive efforts.  Left winger, Ellison, was prominent in this, in the way she made excellent decisions when faced on a number of occasions with an overlap, which, each time, she unerringly snuffed out.

The introduction from the bench of Becki Davies, who had had to spend the whole of the season recovering from surgery on a serious leg injury, added a new dimension to the side in both attack and defence, as she performed most promisingly, throughout the rest of the match.

A Leigh penalty, on 55 mins, however, was to prove the turning point in the game, as a change of direction from a strike player got her through the consequential space to score by the post to re-establish the Leopards’ six-point lead.

The Salford defence, nevertheless, continued to work overtime as their hosts rediscovered their composure.  Another try-saving tackle, this time from hooker, Taz Corcoran, on 61 mins, temporarily, saved the day, but the Red Devils were beginning to show signs of tiredness, and a handling error gave the home side the opportunity to secure the win with another try under the posts.

A well-earned, goal-line drop-out to Salford, on 70 mins, was unfortunately mis-fielded, and, direct from the resultant scrum, the ball was collected by one of the Leigh speedsters, who sprinted the seventy metres to the other end of the field to give the score-line a somewhat one-sided impression of what had been a tough, and most enthralling encounter.

SALFORD:

Sage Bannister, Katie Garry, Sam Evans, Alex Simpson, Lauren Ellison, Louise Fellingham, Demi Jones, Megan Condliffe, Tamzin Corcoran, Summer Harris, Helena Walker, Victoria Kini, Brogan Evans

Substitute:

Sarina Tamou, Abi Collins, Hannah Wicks, Becki Davies

RED DEVILS HANG ON IN TO THE END

Leigh 28  Salford 20               Match Report

In what was their third encounter since both teams were promoted into Super League 2, the Red Devils showed noticeable improvement upon both their pre-season friendly and their earlier home league fixture, against Leigh Leopards back in May, as a result of this being the strongest side they had managed to muster for any of the three matches.

Things certainly got off to a great start, when the opening kick-off completely fooled the receiving Leopards to bounce into dead, thus providing Salford with possession from the resultant goal-line drop-out.  From this, the visitors were able to mount an attack which saw the ball being moved to right giving winger, Liana Leota, with room to go over in the corner, to open the scoring.

Having been stung into action, Leigh sought to speed up the game, and, from quick play-the-balls, opened up the Reds’ defence with half-breaks the most serious of which saw loose forward, Brogan Evans, pull off a try-saving tackle after chasing back.

Nevertheless, the Leopards continued to mount an onslaught of attacks for a full five minutes, before crossing for a somewhat soft try under the posts, on 10 mins, which was doubly disappointing after all their prior, valiant defensive efforts, and surrendering the lead.

Not for long, though, as a grand end-of-set kick from Demi Jones was collected by the chasing Alex Simpson to go over in the same corner giving the two-point lead now back to the Reds.

The speed of the Leigh strike players was such, though that they were always a threat, and another break, through the visitors’ line, saw them race on to score under the posts to bring the score to 12-8, on 19 mins.

The fact that the Salford players were able to prevent any further tries up to half time, was, nevertheless, testament to their magnificent defence, thereafter, the highlight of which came in the 35th minute, when Yasmin Parton-Sotomayor, came from absolutely nowhere to crash-tackle a Leigh player in full flight, to deny them another score.

It was a dour start to the second half, for the Red Devils, however, for having, just like Leigh in the first half, scotched the kick-off, they had to face the full force of the Leigh attack on their line, for five full minutes, over four back-to-back sets, before eventually succumbing, out of sheer fatigue, to a converted try under the posts. 18-8

When, on 52 mins, Leigh added yet another try, this time in the right hand corner, they appeared to be moving out-of-sight, at 22-8, but, with full credit to them, Salford had other ideas, and with rather more possession got close enough to the Leopards’ line for dummy-half, Taz Corcoran to force her way over from a play-the-ball, close to the posts, thus giving Jones her first kickable conversion and reduce the deficit to eight points, at the mid-point of the half.

Seven minutes later, Corcoran went from hero to villain, when she was duly sin-binned for her part in a spear-tackle, and, with the extra player, Leigh were able to take the score to 28-14.  Her return, on 77mins, coincided with a couple of back-to-back Salford sets, courtesy, a goal-line drop-out, and having caught out the Leopards’ defence once from a play-the-ball, she proceeded to rebalance her contributions more positively, by the most blatant and daring scoot from dummy half to complete both her brace of tries, and the scoring.

So, with the team showing week on week improvement, and with two final away fixtures at Barrow and Featherstone, thoughts will soon be turning to the play-offs, which, with the tightest of contests between the three sides mentioned herein, could see the Red Devils returning quickly to whichever one of those sides they end up being paired against.

SALFORD

Sage Bannister, Liana Leota, Alex Simpson, Steph Gray, Lauren Ellison, Louise Fellingham, Demi Jones, Megan Condliffe, Tamzin Corcoran, Emerald Hickey, Victoria Kini, Helena Walker, Brogan Evans

Substitutes:

Abi Collins, Yasmin Parton-Sotomayor, Jessica Panayiotou, Hannah Wickes

18th Player – Darcey Price

SALFORD THREE-QUARTERS GRAB THE TRIES

Salford 30  Bradford 4                     Match Report

Following the Reserves’ Saturday afternoon victory over Newcastle, Salford Red Devils’ 150th Anniversary Celebration Weekend continued the following day with the first of the Double Headers continuing the vein of success for the Reds, with a comprehensive win over the visiting Bradford side.

It was the Reds’ three-quarter line which claimed all six of the tries, split evenly between left and right flanks, but with the two centres, Alex Simpson and Steph Gray both outscoring their respective colleagues on the wing, Holly Jones and Lauren Ellison, by an extra try each.

Although scoring tries is predominantly the sphere of the backs, it is not necessarily the way in which every game unfolds, but the fact that each of them, on this occasion, went to a three-quarter is a testament not only to them but the rest of the team.

The hard work, in the form of strong carries, was willingly undertaken by the forwards, who wore down their opposition via both their surging runs and unrelenting tackles, whilst the remaining members of the back division contributed with slick handling, which was so evident in the build up to each score.

In scrum half, Demi Jones’s case, however, she is every bit as dangerous with her boot as she is with her hands, and that was most evident in her contribution to the first try, on six minutes.  A good, well-controlled attack saw an overlap being forced on the right edge, on the last tackle of the set.  As the ball continued to be moved towards the right, Jones decided to take the quick route to securing the score by putting an overhead kick to the corner, where her namesake, Holly Jones, took the ball unopposed, and grounded in the corner, to give the Red Devils a 4-0 lead.

Ten minutes later, another attack saw the ball initially being sent from right to left, until this was suddenly reversed back inside to left centre Steph Gray to cut through for the first of her brace, giving Demi Jones her easiest kick of the half, of which she successfully took advantage.

The 23rd minute saw the ball travel the full width of the pitch to the left, where Gray again was able to find space to go over close to the corner, to establish a 14-0 half time lead.

In many respect the second half was almost a repetition of the first, though with the added ingredient of a Bradford try, on 55 mins, of which few would deny them, as they had gamely battled throughout to limit the number of points they conceded, whilst producing a number of assaults on the Salford line.

It had, however, been left winger, Lauren Ellison, who had opened the scoring of the half, ten minutes in, and indeed it was a mere four minutes after the visitors’ try before the Reds erased it courtesy of Alex Simpson, and Jones’s extending the lead by a further two points to 26-4.  Simpson then went one further with the final score of the match seven minutes from time.

Following the blank weekend the team will return to action next Sunday in an away fixture at Leigh, with considerably more confidence than they have had when facing our near neighbours in previous encounters.

SALFORD

Sage Bannister, Holly Jones, Alex Simpson, Stephanie Gray, Lauren Ellison, Louise Fellingham, Demi Jones, Megan Condliffe, Tamsin Corcoran, Emerald Hickey, Victoria Kini, Brogan Evans

Substitute

Abi Collins, Summer Harris, Jessica Panayiotou, Aofie McKenna

18th Player:  Hannah Wicks

RED DEVILS SECURE THEIR FIRST SUPER LEAGUE DOUBLE

Salford 22  Castleford 10               Match Report

In the first of Sunday’s Double Headers, the Salford Red Devils’ Ladies Team celebrated their first fixture of the season on the main pitch by securing their first ever Super League double, beating the visiting Castleford Tigers.

The two teams had previously met at the Mend-a-Hose Jungle in the opening round, back in mid-April, with the Red Devils running out winners with a not dissimilar scoreline of 20-8, whilst on Sunday the Tigers were given no time to settle as the home side hit the straps in the opening exchanges with the first try coming in only the third minute.

A clever dummy by scrum half, Demi Jones, completely foxed the Castleford defence, with her pass to Sage Bannister putting her in the clear, and she romped over to open the team’s account.  Jones, unfortunately however, saw her attempted conversion strike the near upright and bounce out.

It was almost a quarter of an hour later before they were able to improve on that four-pointer, but when it came, it proved to be the try of the match, and once again it was Bannister who took the plaudits.  A Tigers’ end-of-set kick was well taken by hooker, Taz Corcoran, who fed it to the Salford speedster, who in turn raced seventy-five metres, outpacing every desperately pursuing defender to score between the posts.  This time, with the only straightforward, and successful, kick of the afternoon, Jones made no mistake in adding on the conversion to bring the score to 10-0.

Although the visitors had had a somewhat torrid opening period as they struggled to match Salford’s greater consistency of teamwork, they did, nevertheless, have a number of talented players, who, individually, posed a significant threat when given space in which to run.

As early as the eleventh minute, they had worked space onto their right flank and it was only down to excellent chasing back, by left centre, Steph Gray, that the threat was snuffed out by her over-hauling and bringing down the would-be scorer.

When, however, that self-same attacker was put, once again, into the clear, on 21 mins, she, this time, had too great a start on her opposing centre, and it was down to a last–ditch tackle by fullback, Bannister, here showing her sound defensive capabilities, which prevented a try.  Five minutes later, though, it proved to be third time lucky for the Tigers as they got onto the scoreboard tightening the score to 10-4.

It was, nevertheless, the Red Devils, who had the final say of the half, when recently introduced substitute, Yaz Parton-Sotomayor, who, in what is proving to be her best season so far, having laid on a try the week before via what has been described as a barnstorming run through the defence,  repeated that very act once again, only this time going over herself for an unconverted try in the left-hand corner to set up a 14-4 half-time score.

It was only a matter of a few minutes before the Reds improved further on that lead, thanks to their patience and unrelenting pressure to gain three back-to-back sets, including one from an enforced goal-line drop-out, and telling, well-timed passes, from Corcoran and Bannister, put Gray into space down the left flank to score in the corner.

An absolutely great break from another of the bench players, Abi Collins, on 55 mins set up the position for their final try, which came two minutes later, when right centre, Alex Simpson, who had earlier gone over the line but been prevented from grounding, had the satisfaction of going over successfully from Bannister’s pass.

Although, on 66 mins the Tigers pulled back another try, which they this time converted, the Red Devils were never in danger of losing their lead, which proved to be sufficiently comfortable to see out the remainder of the game..

The Reds now have a blank weekend, and opportunity to recharge batteries before making the return trip to Barrow in a fortnight’s time.

SALFORD

Sage Bannister, Hollie Jones, Alex Simpson, Steph Gray, Lauren Ellison, Louise Fellingham, Demi Jones, Megan Condliffe, Tamzin Corcoran, Emerald Hickey, Helena Walker, Phoebe Partington, Brogan Evans

Substitutes

Abi Collins, Yasmin Parton-Sotomayor, Hanna Wicks, Aoiefe McKenna

RED DEVILS REGROUP TO MATCH DOMINANT ROVERS

Salford 10  Featherstone 30                         Match Report

One of those purple patches, when a team gets on top and everything they attempt comes off almost spectacularly, came the way of Featherstone Rovers Ladies’ side, for a twenty minutes spell, around the middle of the first half of yesterday’s rearranged game at the Salford Stadium, enabling them to set their hosts a significant challenge for the remainder of the encounter.

But rise to that challenge they did, despite having fallen behind by twenty points, by 27 minutes, and the longer the game went on, the more they managed to get on a par, and at times beyond, their opponents.

There had been little to indicate any of this in the opening minutes, with both teams, settling into an arm wrestle, which seemed to favour neither side, but then suddenly, in the ninth minute three telling passes opened up an overlap on the Fev right wing, and inside support of the break   enabled them to cross for the first score of the afternoon.

It did not remain the only try for very long, with their pressing home their advantage to register back-to-back tries, with, this time, a converted try, on twelve minutes to take their advantage to ten points.

Whilst the somewhat stunned Salford players were then able to stem the tide temporarily, they struggled to match the strength and physicality of the Yorkshire side, who really bossed the show, though the Reds did have the satisfaction, on one occasion, of pushing the much bigger Featherstone pack off the ball, at a set scrum close to the Rovers line, giving them a rare opportunity to test the visitors’ goal-line defence.

It was, nevertheless, they, who were next to score, once again, capitalising, on twenty minutes, from a Salford error in taking an end-of-set kick, and then stretched their lead even further, seven minutes later, to 0-20.

With the writing on the wall, and a long afternoon imminent, it needed something quite special to stem the flow and turn things around.  Step forward Sage Bannister, one of Salford’s close season recruits, who has settled extremely well into the club, despite having come from a rugby union background.  The change to league though has certainly suited her, and her name has been mentioned in other previous reports, primarily for her defensive feats, at fullback.

On this occasion, however, it was her capacity to attack from deep, in the thirty-sixth minute, which was to be so significant.  Receiving the ball from a scrum twenty-five metres from the Salford line, she spotted a gap in the Fev defence, through which she shot and then outpaced all attempts to halt her over seventy-five metres, including those coming from defenders cutting cross field at her, to round the try line and score between the posts, for what was undoubtedly the try of the game, easily converted by Demi Jones.

It was just what was needed to rally the Salford troops, and the second half was a much more evenly fought encounter as a result, with the whole team picking themselves and breaking the stranglehold the Rovers had had on the game.   From that point on they gave as good as they got, and although the rewards came predominantly through near misses, they did add to their tally with a further try.

A clever, low, end-of-set kick through the line, by Louise Fellingham, stood up nicely for centre Alex Simpson, invariably among the try scorers, to take the ball and cross, on 66 mins, to take the Reds into double figures.

It almost led to back-to-back tries, two minutes later, when a tremendous break by prop, Darcey Price, set up good position for Steph Gray to go over, only for her to prevented from grounding the ball correctly, which, unfortunately, was also what had happened in the right-hand corner to winger Liana Leota, nine minutes after the restart.

Although the visitors were rather more clinical in their grounding, they were limited to only two further scores, which was half the number from the first half, and they were made to work much harder for their points as the Salford forwards increasingly matched their domination.

 The outstanding performance of second rower, Helena Walker, with what must surely have been her best performance of the season so far, was the highlight of the home pack’s endeavours.  Despite not having the physical attributes of size and power of the Rovers, she stood up to the might of them from the very outset making really strong carries, and mustering up, relentlessly, on defence with determined tackling on any opponent.

As the players continue to develop in their adapting to the significantly increased demands of life in Super League, this game might well turn out to be a point in the season when they learned how to deal with, and overcome, bigger and stronger opponents.

SALFORD

Sage Bannister, Liana Leota, Alexandra Simpson, Stephanie Gray, Lauren Ellison, Louise Fellingham, Demi-Lea Jones, Abigail Collins, Brogan Evans, Emerald Hickey, Victoria Kini, Helena Walker, Megan Condliffe

Substitutes

Yasmin Parton Sotomayor, Aoife McKenna, Phoebe Partington, Tamzin Corcoran, Darcey Price

RED DEVILS START SUPER LEAGUE WITH A WIN

Salford Red Devils started their Super League career in style, in yesterday’s opening round visit to Castleford, with a reasonably comfortable victory over the Tigers, at the Mend-A-Hose Jungle.  Any visit into Yorkshire which results in a win is most commendable, and their near total dominance throughout the first half was most impressive.

It was in only the second minute of the game that they went in front, following a Castleford handling error in their own half, and on the back of good carries on the first four tackles they were able to send the ball along the line to the left where fullback, Luci McKeown, cut through to score and open the Reds’ account. 

Unfortunately, her attempted conversion hit the post.

Scoring tries, however, came rather more readily and it was only a matter of five minutes from the resumption that they went over again.  A quite noteworthy set, in which the Red Devils, thanks to their forwards in particular, went a full seventy metres down field to force a goal-line drop-out, set up further possession in an ideal part of the field to attack again. 

This time, it was second rower, Helena Walker who touched down in the right-hand corner to double the Salford lead, but sadly it was to turn out to be one of her last contributions to the match, as she was forced to leave the field a few minutes later after sustaining a leg injury in a tackle.

Completely against the run of play, in the 16th minute, Cas, on one of their first forays into their visitors’ twenty-metre area, caught out the right edge defence, working an overlap on the wing for a try in the corner, thereby narrowing the score to 4-8.

The truly decisive period of the game, let alone the half, came in a ten-minute period, in the run up to the half hour mark, in which the Salford players took the score to 4-16, with two further tries. The first of these came direct from a scrum on the Tigers’ twenty metre line, with the ball being moved to the right.  On arrival in right centre Alex Simpson’s hands, she cut back inside, wrongfooting the Castleford defence, and enabling her to score by the posts.

That dummy-half, Taz Corcoran, was able to score her try merely by picking up the ball and taking only a couple of steps forward to place it over the line, was almost unbelievable, but there had been a speedy play-the-ball, and she had spotted the opportunity well.   Thankfully, the 4-16 half-time lead it opened up gave the team some cushioning for the second half.

Indeed, the lead might well have been even greater, when, in the final minute of the half, centre, Steph Gray went over in the left-hand corner, only for the wide pass to her to be judged to be forward.

This cushioning they had given themselves was to be needed, however, during the second half, when forms and fortunes were, surprisingly, reversed, and the early warning of this came within ten minutes of the resumption, when Castleford put together their best move of the game, to score, once again, in the left corner.

That it took Salford almost twenty minutes to eradicate that score was something of a surprise, but, in fairness, their second-half performance was well below that of the first forty, with a number of wayward passes going to ground and each error returning possession to their opponents.  The longer this went on the more the Tigers grew in confidence, and the more frustrated Salford seemed to become.

One element of the performance which really helped their cause though, was Sam Evans’s penalty kicks to touch, which gained remarkable distance with the two opportunities she was given, putting the team on the attack, when they had been unable to gain the position by other means.  

A one-on-one ball-steal by Alex Simpson, early in a Cas set, regained the Reds possession, and this time the ball was moved accurately and effectively to the left, where, to recompense her for her earlier disappointment, Gray straightened up the line to go over towards the left-hand corner, on 67 minutes, to calm any mounting nerves.

It still, nevertheless, required some determined and impressive defensive work for much of the remaining time, not least in the minutes leading up to the 73rd, when they had to defend no less than five repeat sets, mainly caused by penalties against over-eager defenders running offside.

Survive it all they did, though, and with a twelve-point winning margin, and their first ever two Super League points to bring back over the Pennines, it was a result to be celebrated, and will hopefully set them up for next week’s Women’s Challenge Cup tie against Featherstone Rovers.  Please note that the kick off for this game as been changed 12.00.

SALFORD:

Luci McKeown, Katie Garry, Alex Simpson, Steph Gray, Lauren Ellison, Louise Fellingham, Sam Evans, Megan Condliffe, Tamzin Corcoran, Sarina Tamou, Helena Walker, Victoria Kini, Brogan Evans

REPLACEMENTS

Abi Collin, Hannah Wicks, Summer Harris, Emerald Hickey

RED DEVILS’ DREAM START NOT ENOUGH TO SEAL CHAMPIONSHIP

RED DEVILS’ DREAM START NOT ENOUGH TO SEAL CHAMPIONSHIP

Salford Red Devils 14  Oulton Raidettes 33                            Match Report

After the most wonderful inaugural season for Salford Red Devils ladies’ side, their hopes of finishing as champions were dashed, at the Provident Stadium Odsal, on Sunday last, when, despite getting off to a dream start, they lost their way in a disappointing second half, to go down to a more spirited and composed Oulton Raidettes team.

No-one would have remotely expected that in the early stages, however, with the Red Devils getting off to a dream, early start to proceedings, notching up ten points in as many minutes to send hopes of victory sky-high.

They gained early territorial advantage, having received the kick-off and then being awarded a penalty, and Steph Gray, returning to the team for the first time since breaking her wrist back in June, looked to have scored with her first touch of the ball, in the third minute.  The luxury of having attendant touch judges, however, worked contrary to her hopes, with the near side official ruling a forward pass in the build-up.

This was to matter little, however, with the Raidettes coughing up possession on the second tackle, and a swift move of the ball to the right put winger Lauren Ellison clear in acres of space, to score close in, to which Demi Jones added the conversion.

It was a mere six minutes before Ellison had doubled her account, following a beautiful, flowing passing move along the line giving her enough room to get in towards the corner, too far out for Jones to improve upon.

Comfortable as this all appeared – and there will have been many Salford fans sitting back and anticipating a Salford onslaught of tries – Oulton had hardly touched the ball, and this had been instrumental in the game to this point.

That all changed on the resumption with a Salford handling error in the own half of the field giving the Raidettes their first opportunity to test the Reds’ defence.  Well as this stood up to the challenge on this occasion, their opponents were able to maintain their field dominance, and on 21mins an end-of-set cross-field kick with a rather awkward bounce caught the Red Devils out and Oulton took advantage to open their account, 10-6.

The first sense that this was not going to be Salford’s day came ten minutes afterwards, when they twice were prevented from scoring tries which would have restored their lead and dominance.  For a second time, only three minutes after, Gray, playing on the left wing was denied by a melee of defenders forcing her over the touchline before she could ground the ball.

This misfortune was replicated five minutes later.  Demi Jones was first to the ball, following a loose pass from Oulton on the half-way line, and she twice kicked ahead only to be thwarted by the bounce of the ball in the in-goal area.

A score on either of these occasions would have regained momentum for the Reds, but sadly, this was not the case and it was Oulton who drew level with the first of four tries coming down their right edge, thanks to some extremely well-angled running by their strike players.

Just as it looked as though the teams would be retiring to the dressing rooms level at half-time, events took a most surprising turn in the Red Devils’ favour.  With only three seconds remaining on the clock the ball emerged from the back of a scrum just inside the Salford half to Demi Jones, who fed it to stand-off, Louise Fellingham, by which time the hooter had sounded.  Fellingham responded with a marvellous kick which was hotly pursued by fullback, Alex Simpson, and several Oulton defenders, but Simpson’s pace got her to the ball first, which stood up nicely for her, and she crossed to put her side back in front, 14-10, at the interval.

The story of the second half was a quite different one, and one which was so completely foreign to the Salford Red Devils.  Careless handling coupled with a lack of concentration in defence crept in, and the Raidettes, who had quite clearly used their fortieth minute setback to motivate themselves further, took advantage of each Salford error, scoring a total of twenty-three points without reply, quite deservedly to take the spoils.

The seeds for this below par performance will probably have been sown in previous weeks, not least the one before, when they had suffered a number of injuries in the contest with an extremely physical Hull KR side.  Although there were not many who failed to make the squad this week, many will have been carrying considerable knocks, which inhibited them at times.

In addition, this encounter was the finale to a long and demanding season.  Indeed, our players had played more matches than any other side in the league, not just because of their winning run in the League Cup but also in being one of the very few sides to complete all their league fixtures.  Against a side high with the self-confidence in having been the only team in the league to have beaten Salford, it would seem that the Reds just had no more reserves of energy left to cope with the occasion.

Nevertheless, nothing, not even this disappointment, can take away the incredible success of the side, which has landed two of the three trophies – League Cup and League Leaders’ Shield – available and has provided such wonderful entertaining rugby, in the process.  They can, each and every one of them, hold their heads high and take pride in their totally unanticipated achievements, including participating in yesterday’s Final of this season’s play off competition.

SALFORD

Alex Simpson, Lauren Ellison, Sade Rihari, , Brogan Evans, Steph Gray, Louise Fellingham, Demi Jones, Sarina Tamou, Tamzin Corcoran, Yasmin Parton-Sotomayor, Helena Walker, Victoria Kini, Megan Condliffe

Substitutes:

Luci McKeown, Darcey Price, Hannah Wickes, Abi Collins, Casey Naylor, Gabrielle Chaplin, Eponine Fletcher

RED DEVILS LADIES MAKE IT TO GRAND FINAL

Salford Red Devils 24  Hull KR 4                  Match Report

In less than twelve months from their formation, the Salford Red Devils ladies side have, sensationally, secured a place in the Championship Grand Final, at Odsal Stadium, home of the Bradford Bulls, this coming Sunday afternoon, in what will be a Double Header with the League 1 Grand Final, and in so doing have put themselves in line for the opportunity to take the Championship Treble, consisting of League Cup, League Leaders’ Trophy (both already in the bag), and Grand Final Champions.

With it, of course, goes promotion to Super League 2, which has been their objective throughout the season, and they could not have wished for a tougher match to prepare themselves for Sunday’s contest with Oulton – the one and only team to have taken points from the Red Devils all season – than this home semi-final against Hull KR.

From a team languishing in the bottom pair of the Championship table, and the side against whom Salford had twice ratcheted up over forty points, the Humbersiders had come with a sudden late rush to take fourth spot and thus earned the right to travel to the A J Bell to contest the one place available for the winners.

The side which turned out on Sunday afternoon, however, bore little resemblance to that which had been so heavily beaten, back in mid-July, in the Double Header prior to the men’s fixture with Catalans, resulting from what must have been an really intensive and successful recruitment drive, for which they deserve great credit.

From their sheer size alone, it was obvious that this was going to be an extremely tight, and keenly fought, encounter, with no second chances for the vanquished, and so it proved to be, with the visitors fired up to extract revenge for their pummellings in the league fixtures, and physicality being the means by which they intended to accomplish this.

It certainly appeared to take the home side by surprise, and they were almost immediately put on the back foot through the loss of fullback, Luci McKeown, from injury in one of the first tackles of the game.  That was to set the tenor for the rest of the game, and in the weeks and months to come this game will be remembered more for the number of lengthy stoppages, owing to injuries to players from both sides, than for anything else.

It was the visitors though who sustained the majority of these, but those to the Salford players were possibly the more serious, with Kayleigh Bradshaw having to be taken to hospital by ambulance with a bad knee injury, which will undoubtedly rule her out of the final on Sunday, alongside a number of others, who were forced to retire and take no further part in the action.

It took the Yorkshire side only a few minutes to take control of the game, with an abundance of possession and good field position, which saw their hosts securely penned in their own quarter for well over twenty minutes, and it was in the tenth minute that they opened the scoring with a try in the right-hand corner, from an end-of-set, cross-field kick from the left.

At the time, it looked to be only a matter of time before their four-point lead would be increased, but that was the crucial thing; despite continuing to dominate as they did, they were prevented from making any additions to the scoreboard, close as they came to doing so.

It was the Red Devils’ last ditch, desperate, but thoroughly effective goal line defence, which so thwarted them, and, as each scoring opportunity came to naught, they began to lose a little confidence.  Moreover, the Reds stepped up their own performance in possession, and slowly, at first, a swing in momentum began to emerge, albeit merely redressing to some extent the imbalance of that lengthy first period.

When the swing in dominance eventually did come, however, it came quite suddenly.  A Salford penalty for a Robins’ off-side at a play-the-ball in the 31st minute, led to their first clean break from Sade Rihari, which gave them their first opportunity to attack the Hull line.  It was then an individual run by Alex Simpson, now reverted to fullback, which saw her weave cross-field around several defenders until she ran out of anyone else to beat, crossed the try line and then ran back towards the posts to score between them.  Demi Jones’s conversion put them in front for the first time on 33 mins.

Four tackles on from the restart, and an incredible fifty metre break by dummy-half, Brogan Evans saw her dart through the line and then outpace every pursuing defender to score between the posts, and Jones’s conversion had then doubled the score, all within a mere three minutes.

One can only imagine how demoralising the visitors must have found this turn of events, while for the Salford players, they visibly rose to the opportunity, especially at the resumption for the second half, when they literally camped out in the Robins’ twenty metre area, adding their second sucker punch by means of Lauren Ellison’s 51st minute interception try, which took everyone, possibly even herself,  by surprise, but grounding as she did between the uprights, brought the score, with Jones’s conversion, to 18-4.

Things were looking considerably more comfortable from then on, and Louise Fellingham took the game completely beyond the opposition, seven minutes later, when the ball was moved along the line to the right and she cut through the line to score.  Jones, with her most challenging kick of the afternoon was equal to the task, and incredibly, successfully kicked her fourteenth, consecutive, kick-at-goal, over recent weeks.

It was not in the goalkicking duties alone that she was outstanding, for both she and halfback partner Fellingham had contributed so much to the victory throughout.  The latter had been involved in several crucial try-saving tackles, and had taken the ball up to the line on numerous occasions, before feeding it to her supporting teammates.

Jones had shown some quite remarkable touches, not least trapping an awkwardly bouncing ball from a kick-off, soccer-style, to secure possession for the Reds.  As always, she showed a canny eye for the right person in the line to pass to, and her end-of-set kicks had the opposition constantly rattled in having to deal with them.  Little wonder, therefore, that the pair were named jointly as Players of the Match.  Helena Walker, in the second row, meanwhile, had clearly had her best game of the season, and she too, along with so many others had contributed much to the victory..

So, it is onward to Bradford, this weekend, but with the job thus far, only half done.  Much depends not only on their performances, on Sunday afternoon, but also the efforts of the backroom staff to enable as many of the injured as possible to take the field on the day.  Good Luck to them all.  The deserve efery success, so let us just hope they get it!

SALFORD

Luci McKeown, Lauren Ellison, Sade Rihari, Alex Simpson, Katie Garry, Louise Fellingham, Demi Jones, Abi Collins, Brogan Evans, Megan Condliffe, Helena Walker, Victoria Kini, Sarina Tamou

Substitutes:

Hannah Wicks, Laura Bent, Casey Naylor, Gabrielle Chaplin, Eponine Fletcher, Kayleigh Bradshaw

Acknowledgement

Sean Monks Omaga Photography, for above photograph showing Victoria Kini making a hit-up, supported, from left to right, by Brogan Evans, Louise Fellingham, and Sade Rihari

RED DEVILS RETAKE TOP SPOT

Salford Red Devils 20 Oulton 10                       Match Report

The eagerly awaited second versus first encounter, between Salford Red Devils’,  and Oulton’s, ladies’ teams, lived up to every expectation when the two met in last Saturday’s Double Header, providing the considerable number of spectators with an enthralling contest, which kept everyone rivetted, right through to the final whistle.

It was the visitors who were currently occupying top spot, as a consequence of their victory over the Red Devils back in April, when a number of Salford players had been unavailable, and the side had been further depleted by a number of injuries sustained during the course of the game.  Both teams had then gone undefeated, with Oulton’s solitary point having been dropped in an away fixture with Warrington.

Just as in that first match, the Yorkshire side got off to an exceptionally good start, opening the scoring on 45 seconds, which was not dissimilar to that earlier game. Their try came as a result of the Reds’ failure to take the ball from the kick-off, which, as a result, gave Oulton possession close to the Salford line, and they found a gap in the defence to go through, between the posts, for a converted score on only the second tackle of the game.

Even though they had gone on to win the previous match, they had, to a certain extent, been unable to sustain the surprising speed and dominance of the first five minutes, and so it proved to be the case once more with the Red Devils gradually forcing their way into the arm-wrestle, thanks to the stirring efforts of their forwards.

Throughout the match, this was certainly no place for the faint-hearted, with no quarter being asked nor given, and, on the bone-hard pitch, injuries were plentiful, with interchanges then being required at frequent intervals.

It took Salford just six minutes to open their account but when the try came it was well executed.  A rare Oulton error, with their fumbling the ball from a Salford end-of-set kick, gave the Red Devils possession forty metres out.  The ball was moved to the left, and a strong run from centre, Victoria Kini, sucked defenders towards her leaving space out wide for the rapidly improving, Katie Garry, who struck down the touchline in stylish manner to score in the corner.

The visitors, nevertheless, were able to hold on to their two-point lead right up to the 25th minute mark, when yet more slick handling sent the ball along, this time, to the right wing, where Lauren Ellison, took advantage of the space, which the cleverly timed passes had afforded her, to score out wide.

The tightness and toughness of the contest was unrelenting, and it was ten minutes into the second half before further points were accrued, once again by Salford.  On the back of a penalty, first Sade Rihari, and then Alex Simpson, made the running before the ball was passed to the left, and Kayleigh Bradshaw straightened up to score, with Demi Jones’s conversion taking the score to 14-6

There was no way that the Oulton outfit were not going to fight to the final whistle, and the set-by-set arm-wrestle continued, with the visitors briefly gaining superiority as a result of the Red Devils’ failing to complete several of their sets. So, when the visitors found a gap on their right-hand edge, on 65 mins, they were able to cut through and score, reducing their arears to four points only

Thankfully, the Red Devils were equal to the task.  They completely eradicated their handling errors, thereafter,  leaving their magnificent forwards to impose their dominance, keeping possession secure, and making hard yardage up field, thereby running down the clock.

It was less than five minutes from time when one such pack member, Casey Naylor, in similar vein to the visitors’ opener, forced her way over, despite the attention of at least three opponents, and grounded the ball to the right of the posts.  Another Salford kick had been fumbled by a tiring defender, and Rihari made the necessary progress up field to lay the platform.

The euphoria, with which this was greeted was a joy to behold, and evidence to all and sundry of how much the victory meant to the players, and just how hard the physical battle to achieve it had been.

There now remains just one last fixture, away at Stanningley, which the Reds will have to win in order to remain safely where they find themselves at the moment – at the top of the league.  Doing so will ensure pole position in the forthcoming top four play-offs, which commence on the weekend, 24/5th September.  Home advantage, in at least the first of these, will be most beneficial, with the likelihood of yet one further contest against the robust formation that is Oulton, being their opponents in the Final.

SALFORD

Alex Simpson, Lauren Ellison, Sade Rihari, Victoria Kini, Katie Garry, Louise Fellingham, Demi Jones, Abi Collins, Tamzin Corcoran, Yasmin Parton-Sotomayor, Sarina Tamou, Helena Walker, Megan Condliffe

Substitutes:

Darcey Price, Laura Bent, Casey Naylor, Gabrielle Chaplin, Kayleigh Bradshaw

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT:

Photograph: Steve McCormick

RED DEVILS COMPLETE THEIR SECOND DOUBLE OVER SIDES FROM HULL

Salford Red Devils 36  Hull FC 4                   Match Report

Salford Red Devils kept up their pressure for the number one place at the top of the Championship League table, with their completing their second ‘double’ of the season over Humberside opposition, with this rather harder fought return encounter with the side from West Hull.

A recruiting drive of some significance was responsible for the considerable strengthening of the Hull team for Thursday’s Double Header opener, compared with the one which had turned out against the Reds, back in mid-June.  Among those who had been acquired were two French players, who paired up on the left wing to form a strong attacking force, whenever the ball found its way into their hands.

Nevertheless, it was less than five minutes into the game when the home side opened their account as a result of a break from centre, Sade Rihari, supported by fullback, Alex Simpson, who went over between the posts with Demi Jones slotting over the goal.

Those who might have thought that this would herald an ever-increasing number of such scores were to be somewhat surprised to find that it took almost twenty minutes of hard graft in the ensuing arm-wrestle, before the Reds were able to improve on this.  Twenty-two minutes in, however, an extremely strong run by substitute forward, Casy Naylor, set them up for the ball to be swung from left towards the right until Simpson cut through the defensive line, leaving Jones again to complete the doubling of their score.

Four minutes later the Red Devils backed this up with what was undoubtedly the try of the match.  Support play of the highest order saw the ball go through several pairs of hands before being sent out to left winger, Kate Garry, who had already caught the eye with some creditable attacking touches, taking her first scoring opportunity well, to go got over in the corner, thereby celebrating what coincidentally happened to be her birthday.

The resultant score line of 16-0, was then defended by the Reds right through to the half time interval, the resumption from which saw Abi Collins show a remarkable turn of speed for a prop, from Jones’s pass, to extend their lead, on 45 mins, to 22-0, with the addition of Jones’s conversion.

The tightness of the contest was underlined, once more, with a further ten-minute period with the two sides battling for supremacy, but this time it was the visitors who broke the deadlock.  A set-restart was awarded to them, and they used the extra tackles to notch their try, too far out for it to be converted.

It was to be all Salford from this point on, however, with Taz Corcoran crossing twice in the left corner, in almost identical spots, on 65th and 80th minutes, and although neither was converted, the fact that Jones’s first attempt hit the crossbar from so far out, served to underline the considerable progress she has made with her kicking during the season.

Sandwiched in between those two scores came the remaining Jones-converted try, on 69 mins.  The ball was again moved along the line towards the right, and when it came to Rihari she cleverly stepped inside her opposite number to ground the ball close to the right upright.

So the Salford players gained a further couple of points to sustain their battle of attrition with Oulton for prime league position.  The two sides will face each other at the A J Bell, next weekend for what would probably be regarded as a ‘four-pointer’, even though, of course, the winner will only come away with two.  Certainly, this latest, tougher than expected, encounter should stand them in good stead for that, and with only one further league game thereafter (for Salford away at Stanningley) the league placings might even have been decided before then.

SALFORD

Alex Simpson, Lauren Ellison, Sade Riahari, Brogan Evans, Kate Garry, Louise Fellingham, Demi Jones, Megan Condliffe, Tamzin Corcoran, Abi Collins Helena Walker, Victoria Kini, Sarina Tamou

Substitutes:

Darcey Price, Kayleigh Bradshaw, Hannah Wicks, Yasmin Parton-Sotomayor, Casey Naylor, Laura Bent, Gabrielle Chaplin

ACKNOWLDGEMENT

Steve McCormick, for above photograph showing Demi Jones’s fine kicking style

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