RED DEVILS IN DEPTH: LEEDS V SALFORD

It must have seemed the ideal opening fixture to the Leeds Rhinos, when first announced – a home game against a Salford side which had had to overcome a somewhat more turbulent close-season than most, whilst the fact that two of its former stars, Andy Ackers and Brodie Croft, were now resplendent in the ranks of the new-look Rhinos side, added even more spice to the occasion.

Fast forward to the seventieth minutes of the game itself, however, and that assumed, initial exuberance must have soured considerably, with the Red Devils having put all of the above behind them, taken the game by the scruff of the neck, and enforced their domination onto it to the extent that they were, by this point, in the lead at 14-16, having held pole position on the scoreboard for around three-quarters of the encounter.

It had all been down to the sheer determination, commitment, self-belief both as a team and individually, and clear understanding, adherence to, and confidence in the game plan, which for much of the time appears to have worked like a dream. It started with an immaculate kicking game from scrum half, Marc Sneyd, which had the home side’s defence in all sorts of trouble, turning them around, scrambling to defuse them, and even causing handling errors in recovery.

He, it was, who put in the neatest of angled kicks, behind the defence, for fellow halfback, Cade Cust, out of all the debutants on view that evening, to be the one to open the scoring by grounding between the posts, with Sneyd converting for a six point lead.

Oli Partington, surprisingly, was Salford’s other try scorer; ‘surprisingly’ because in his role he gets little opportunity of doing so. On this occasion, however, Leeds’s defensive line opened up for him, seemingly convinced he was going to send out a pass to the left. His speedy reaction of exploiting same opening brought him his first score in Salford colours.

Not that there were not adversities to overcome. Two sinbinnings meant that the Reds were down to twelve men for ten minutes in each half, and indeed Leeds scored two of their three tries during those two spells. The first saw the Rhinos utilise the extra man in getting Handley in the clear close to his own line, whilst the other came from powerhouse, Lisone, who supported a half break close to the line and, from there, there was no chance of stopping him putting the Rhinos ahead at this crucial point of the game.

What none of this does, however, is reflect the incredible defensive effort the Salford players put in right throughout the game. Two periods, one in each half, had the home side camped on the Red Devils line for seemingly interminable lengths of time, without any possession to give them some little respite, as Leeds got repeat set after repeat set, yet ending it all with absolutely nothing to show for either.

In the end, it was down to an extremely high penalty count in favour of the Rhinos. Not only did this give Martin chance to add to his hundred percent goal kicking performance, on other occasions it added to the energy-sapping defending the Reds had to do. Undoubtedly, the coaching staff will have this in hand a will work to eliminate this particular snag. All the other signs are that the team could cause some real upsets as the season progresses.

ANDY ACKERS LEAVES SALFORD

We can confirm Andy Ackers has joined Leeds Rhinos. 

The 29-year-old signed for Salford Red Devils in June 2020 and has gone on to make 74 appearances, scoring 10 tries. 

Signing an initial two-year deal, Ackers was reunited with now-Head Coach, Paul Rowley, who he also worked with during his time at Toronto Wolfpack. 

During his four-year tenure, the natural hooker has shown clear signs of improvement, year on year – but 2022 was his real breakthrough campaign. 

Making 28 appearances across the season, Ackers was at the heart of some pivotal moments during our push for the playoffs. 

Most notably, supporters will fondly remember his late try in the 2022 Eliminator, against Huddersfield Giants.  

After an outstanding campaign, Ackers was deservedly named in Shaun Wane’s England World Cup squad. 

After making his debut against Fiji in a warm-up fixture, Ackers went on to score two tries in a 94-4 victory over Greece in the group stage. 

Continuing his flying form into 2023, he contributed to opening day success against Leigh Leopards with a trademark scurry from dummy-half, just before the half-time hooter. 

Despite a string of head knocks plaguing his season, Ackers continued to perform at a very high level when available.  

We would like to thank Andy for his efforts during his four-year stay and wish him – and his family – all the best for his future endeavours.  

BOUROUH: “HE’S A MASSIVE ROLE MODEL!”

Young hooker, Amir Bourouh has highlighted the importance of Andy Ackers in his development, upon penning a one-year contract extension.

Making 19 appearances during his first two seasons at the club, Bourouh has shown glimpses of what he can offer the team – often called upon in some big games during 2023.

He will now have the opportunity to play his trade in same environment for 12 months further, penning fresh terms to remain at Salford in 2024.

Speaking exclusively to our YouTube channel, Bourouh said: “Really good to get them (2024 plans) confirmed now.

“I was waiting around to see what I was doing next year – so I am really happy to be staying at Salford.”

One massive bonus for the 22-year-old is that two people already at the club are masters in the position where he is trying to pave his way.

England international, Andy Ackers is one of them and Bourouh says he is the perfect role model for him to work closely alongside.

“I think he’s been massive for me,” he continued.

“I’ve seen him come into the scene in probably a harder way than other hookers in the Super League – so he’s a massive role model and someone to look up to.

“I just need to do everything he’s doing and try to push him and get to the level he’s at now.”

The other – of course – is our Head Coach, Paul Rowley, who played at hooker to a very high standard in his playing days.

Bourouh believes it’s a lot more ‘personal’ for the pair when discussing how he can improve because of that very reason.

He finished: “It’s probably a lot more personal when it’s a position he’s played; so he might be harder on me, more honest and knows what he wants from me a lot more – so it makes my job easier when it comes to speaking to him.”

To hear more from Amir, head to our YouTube channel HERE for our full chat – make sure to hit subscribe!

RED DEVILS IN DEPTH: SALFORD V WAKEFIELD

Although there may have been recent games in which the Salford Red Devils have put in better performances than the one last Friday evening against Wakefield Trinity, the outcome in those was far less satisfactory than that of this one.  We would however all have given a great deal, on those occasions, to have been coming away with two more league points, as we were able to do, this time.

The acquisition of these two, on Friday, to go alongside the pair achieved the previous weekend at Huddersfield, could prove vital in building future momentum, and ultimately gaining a position in the top six play-offs.

And there were certain aspects of this game, which were quite noteworthy in themselves, not least the Salford defence.  The greatest ignominy one can inflict upon a team is to keep them totally scoreless, and this, the Red Devils achieved with some distinction.

There will be some discussion within the Wakefield ranks about the number of handling errors in their approach work, which spoiled their chances, but these were predominantly in the second half, as a consequence of the pressure the Reds had exerted upon them earlier, thereby unsettling their attacking rhythm and their nerves, as the game wore on.

The opening exchanges were, in stark contrast, most intensely fought with both sides going set for set in a quite fierce arm-wrestle for the first ten minutes, with the only break in play coming with Salford’s opening try.  Indeed, this apart, it had been proving to be the visitors who were getting the upper hand, pushing the Red Devils further and further to their own line, thanks to the power of their forward drives and long raking end-of-set kicks.

If there were one moment which typified the strength and resilience of the Salford defence, however, it came in the twenty-first minute, with a four-man, gang-tackle, by Sam Stone, Kallum Watkins Andy Ackers, and King Vuniyayawa on the mountain of a man which is David Fifita, driving him back. 

Of course, four men are always going to prove too much for any one person – including David Fifita – but it is the ability to get the four men in there, all together at the same time, which is the real achievement.  It was this and many other such defensive efforts which eventually led to the lacklustre Trinity attack, later in the game.

Scores, though, were at a premium to both sides.  Indeed, there seemed to be something of good fortune about each of the Reds’ trio of tries.  In tight games, it often proves to be the mis-pass which breaks a team’s defensive line as the players get sucked out of position so leaving gaps, and that is exactly what happened with Salford’s first. 

An intended pass went to ground but then stood up neatly into Kallum Watkins’s hands enabling him to go straight through the gap in front of him, and, with support on either side of him, he chose Ryan Brierley on his inside, who went the remaining distance to the posts.

How important taking every point was proving to be led to Marc Sneyd improving upon his three successful conversions to tries the last of which was from the touchline, with a penalty goal, on 28 mins.

Ackers probably felt most thankful to the Wakefield player who palmed the ball back to him, unmarked, from a short goal-line drop-out, for his 49th minute try.  The real credit for that, though, should go to the outstanding Vuniyayawa for his ferocious crash-tackle on a Wakefield ball-carrier, to force the drop-out, and even prior to that to the Salford kick-chasers for tying the Trinity onto their own line, for the start of their set.

The culminating, final, ninety metre, try of the match came as a result of Ken Sio’s getting in the way of a Wakefield pass and setting off on the journey to the other try-line, before selecting Brierley, yet again, to go over, this time, in the corner, with less than three minutes left.

A twenty-point victory is, in itself, impressive, but what was somewhat frustrating was the number of other opportunities which could have counted, but on this occasion evaded them, not least the wet ball squeezing out of Brodie Croft’s grasp as he sought to take control of it, over the try line, from a short kick.  On another night, many of these chances would probably have combined to go some way towards doubling their final tally.

RED DEVILS IN DEPTH: HUDDERSFIELD V SALFORD

A magnificent second half performance proved to be decisive in the Red Devils registering their first win since their victory over Castleford, back in early June, when they proved far too strong and, equally so, able to adapt in defeating the Huddersfield Giants.

So often in recent weeks fans have left games feeling a little disappointed after slender half time leads have been eroded by opponents as the second forty minutes has passed.  Not so on this occasion, however, with the visitors going from strength to strength, as the game unfolded.

There will have been little surprise, one would suspect, in the Salford ranks at this, with the strongest starting seventeen they have been able to field since the early rounds of the season, and only long-term absentee, Shane Wright, who would undoubtedly have claimed a spot in the team if fit, missing out.

From the very outset there was a sheer determination evident throughout the visitors’ ranks and they totally dominated the opening exchanges, with Huddersfield being put on the back foot throughout this period.  Indeed, Salford did cross for a couple of would-be tries, both of which were chalked off by referee, Liam Moore, and much against the run of play, it was the Giants who opened the scoring on 17 minutes, with a converted try.

This merely served to stiffen the Reds’ resolve, and, within three minute, they had erased it by means of Ryan Brierley’s steaming onto Brodie Croft’s impeccably delayed/timed pass to go over to the right of the posts, and although Huddersfield restored their lead by two points, it was incredible footwork from Sam Stone, following a great break by Andy Ackers, that put the Red Devils in front for the first time, on 32 minutes.

No-one was getting overly optimistic at half time, with the score line being one of the slenderest of recent weeks.  But the mood of the Salford players was unmistakable as they resumed for the second half, and with good reason: that fifteen minutes in the dressing room had determined a total change of tactics, which was to prove to be the undoing of their hosts, who had clearly done their homework on how to defend against Salford’s wide expansive handling moves.

This had proved to be quite effective in the first half, limiting the Reds to only their two tries.  The second half was to be quite different, however, with the boot of Marc Sneyd taking over.  Not only did he succeed with converting all of their five try total together with a late penalty after the hooter had gone, his tactical kicking opened up the home defence again and again.

The first came as early as the 42nd minute when a high kick was allowed to bounce and resulted in Ackers adding a second kick overhead for Stone to completely rock the Giants by grounding the ball a split second before it would have gone dead.

Not every kick brought a try but invariably brought rewards of a different variety, such as goal-line drop-outs, knock ons, and good field position.  One further one, though, did, with Ken Sio grounding in the corner for his long-awaited hundredth Super League try, while Chris Atkin put the icing on the cake after Kallum Watkins and Deon Cross had reminded us of just how good the Reds can be with ball in hand.

What will probably have pleased the coaching staff particularly was the fact that they conceded not a single point after the interval and the Giants had to be content with their one solitary try and couple of goals from the first forty.  Not that they did not come close on a couple of occasions, but the Salford defence was equal to each, with last ditch tackles denying them when it looked for all the world that they would score.

So the drought of league points has been brought to an end, and this could be just the victory that will ultimately prove to be the one which turns the season around.  It was certainly one of their best all round performances and for the full eighty minutes.

RED DEVILS IN DEPTH: SALFORD V WIGAN

After a month’s absence from their home venue at the Salford Stadium, the Red Devils returned from their travels, on Sunday last, to entertain the Wigan Warriors, in what turned out to be, since their move there, a record attendance of spectators, for this Round 16 encounter.

It must have felt like an extremely bold step for the Directors to target, publicly, the breaking of the previously existing record, but by so doing it pioneered the way for the newly publicly owned club to draw on its resources of bodies around the town to rally round and help drive up the numbers to ensure a successful outcome in this respect.

It was not only the attendance, however, which marked the occasion, as a whole-day event had been planned to celebrate both the first home fixture under the new ownership and also Armed Forces Day, which culminated with a triple shot from a cannon at the northwest corner of the ground, thereby rousing the assembled multitude to greater excitement than ever.

And so, even before a ball had been kicked, the day had proved to be a considerable success and significant occasion for all those present, for which every single person involved in its inception and organisation deserves the utmost praise and gratitude.

For a game against such a side as the mighty Warriors and on such a special occasion, however, the side would really have preferred not to have had two members of its spine missing through injury, as was the case with both Andy Ackers and Brodie Croft.  Not that that reflects in any way upon their replacements, Amir Bourouh and the versatile Chris Atkin, who both slotted in smoothly at hooker and half back, respectively.

To then lose a third member of that crucial spine, in Ryan Brierley from the fullback role, on 35 mins, however, was a blow which really took its toll alongside the others, and it was probably as a result of the reorganization necessitated by this that led to the visitors snatching a half time lead from the grasp of the reshuffled Salford side, three minutes from the interval.

Every minute of that first half, though, had been keenly contested, set-for-set, throughout the full forty-minutes, with the Red Devils standing up magnificently to the Wiganers throughout the first quarter of the game, with solid defence and strong carries forward.

It was, therefore, as late as the 21st minute, before the Warriors opened the scoring with an unconverted try, after a sustained period of pressure brought about by repeat sets on the back of goal-line drop-outs and occasional Salford touches of the ball.  It is testament to the Salford players that they were able to repel the attack for as long as they had done.

Despite having had some early pressure of their own, though, the Red Devils had not really had sufficient field position to ask many questions of the Wigan defence, but then produced their best attack of the half when fine interplay down the left between Joe Burgess, Brierley, and Tim Lafai, took them into their opponents twenty metre area. 

An obliging penalty helped them remain a little bit longer down there, and after Ken Sio had gone close to scoring, the ever-improving Ben Helliwell put himself in a great position to receive Marc Sneyd’s slick pass and go over for their one try of the game, which, with Sneyd’s conversion, put them in front.

Having had the half-time break in which to restructure and regalvanise the side after the loss of Brierley, the Reds went straight into the attack, and good handling forced a most promising-looking overlap, on 43 mins, only for a rather wild pass into touch to scupper the opportunity, when simple one-to-on passing might well have turned the game in their favour.

As it was, a Salford handling error, three minutes later saw Wigan draw further ahead with a try direct from the ensuing scrum, with two more scores coming at ten to twelve minute intervals, to stretch the score beyond the hopes of the Red Devils.

They nevertheless still continued to take the game to Wigan in the last ten minutes but so well-drilled is the Warriors’ defence that they were prepared to concede set-restarts, which would once have brought a penalty, right throughout the game, thus nullifying the Salford attack, until six minutes from the end, when another missed opportunity, this time on the left, was lost with a poor final pass to Burgess, who would have had a walk in.

Looking back on the second half, unlike the visitors who were clinical in their finishing, it was the Reds’ failure to capitalise on those two scoring opportunities which gave the final score such a significant difference.  Even had only one of them brought a try it would have put them into double figures, whilst scoring both and with conversions would have put them within a somewhat more creditable eight points.

Disappointing a result as it was, though, it could in no way detract from the impressive event the club had turned the day into being.  It is an occasion when everyone could feel proud to have been involved with the club and to have been in attendance to savour and enjoy it.

RED DEVILS IN DEPTH: ST HELENS V SALFORD

It had all looked so promising, and confidence was surely high among the Salford fans, as they travelled over to the Totally Wicked Stadium for their clash with the Saints, on the back of four successive Super League victories, including an extremely rare win over Leeds Rhinos, at Headingley.

The Saints, on the other hand, had had a rather less profitable couple of weeks, and were turning out after having undertaken the somewhat demanding sojourn to the south of France, for their away fixture with Catalans Dragons, all of which were most positive indications for everyone to be encouraged.

 In the end, however, it is all about what happens on the day, and that went contrary to these optimistic expectations, for the Saints had their own expectations and aspirations for the game – the expectations of the current World Club Champions to perform to that level – and took control in the second half to record a 26-12 home victory.

Not that anyone would have even thought that that would happen as the Red Devils turned on the style and swept into a twelve-point lead after only sixteen minutes, with two excellent tries.  The first came in the fifth minute when a totally unexpected, but magnificent, break by prop, King Vuniyayawa, left the Saints defence in his wake, and with the fleet-footed Brodie Croft in support, he fed the stand -off to go in, under the posts.

Andy Ackers it then was, who, eleven minutes later, put Kallum Watkins away down the right and his inside pass to Ryan Brierley saw, along with Marc Sneyd’s second successful conversion attempt, him double the Salford advantage to twelve, which was sufficient for the remaining twenty plus minutes to give them a 6-12 half time lead.

The second half turn around to the home team might lead anyone to regard this as a game of two halves but perhaps, on this occasion an over-simplification, because everything in a game leads on to what follows – more obviously to the more immediate, but also, to an extent, in the longer term.  The loss, for example, of Shane Wright, after a mere few minutes of his introduction denied the team all that he has brought to each game over recent weeks, and also meant that others had to play considerably more minutes, and therefore tired far more quickly as a result.

In fact the roots for this not inconsiderable half time turnaround had been planted during the first half.  There will have been few in attendance or watching tv, on the day, who would have thought, as Sneyd struck the ball to convert Brierley’s try that the Red Devils would fail to add to their score for the remainder of the match, but that was what happened and was something that fed into the St Helens game plan

The visitors had been put under spells of pressure from the outset right through to their first score, and then again between their two tries.  The Salford players had stood up well throughout each of these, as indeed they did throughout some rather more-lengthy spells thereafter, but the fact that these periods of Saints’ dominance became more protracted placed greater and greater demands on the players in terms of energy and concentration.

That these periods soaked up so much time was in part due to the St Helens players’ ability to complete their sets but aided by an increasing number of penalties and set restarts, which went the way of the home side.  Penalties are seldom awarded against teams in possession, the significant  majority are against defenders and, as these defenders start to tire, so their tackling technique suffers and the penalties continue to accrue all the more.

By the time the second half had got underway, the continued Saints’ pressure had started to tell on the Reds, and they immediately conceded yet another penalty, this time whilst in possession, for an incorrect play-the-ball, as early as the third tackle of the half, with a St Helens try coming directly off the back of it.

No-one could possibly question the Red Devils’ effort and commitment at any time during the encounter – without that there was no way they would have limited St Helens to only twenty-six points – but, in the second half, their execution was well below the standards we have become used to, with handling errors from some most wayward of passes seemingly prevalent, and each one presenting the home side with even more possession with which to challenge the Salford defence.

Forthcoming results may well show that in this match St Helens have turned a corner in their season, and that others will find themselves facing the same onslaught of pressure piled upon them, but for Salford players it is important to learn from the outing and fix the elements necessary for a Challenge Cup victory over visiting Huddersfield, next week.

RED DEVILS IN DEPTH: SALFORD V CATALANS

Two extremely protracted and gruelling goal-line defensive efforts, in the final twenty minutes, each lasting over four minutes and comprising of three and even four sets of six with little respite, eventually saw the Salford Red Devils gain the spoils over a strong and physical Catalans side in last Sunday’s home Super League fixture, and thereby stretch their winning run to three, though not without the incredible, good fortune of the Dragons’ missed, final conversion, from almost in front of the posts.

They say that fortune favours the brave, and t was most certainly true for the Salford players last Sunday, as they wore themselves to frazzles, roared on by the magnificent, highly vocal home fans, in dealing with wave after wave of Catalans’ attacks, based upon the physical prowess that they possess, particularly in the forwards.

‘Praiseworthy’ is too mild a word for the valiant home pack who had, despite giving away size and weight advantage to their visitors, stood up to them throughout the encounter, and alongside the remainder of the side thwarted onslaught after onslaught, relentlessly hurled at them, particularly in the final half-hour of the game.

The necessity in their having to give so much to the Salford cause was the consequence of just how evenly matched the two sides were, and also the fact that there were only six points separating them, by the time the game was entering its final quarter.

Despite the ascendency, over the previous hour, swinging from one side to the other, with the Red Devils controlling the majority of the first half and Catalans picking up the gauntlet in the second, neither side was able to turn that dominance into sufficient points as to have much in the way of cushioning, even when in the lead.

The Dragons handling deteriorated rapidly, after having matched their hosts in the opening stanza, and it was their continual loss of possession that gave Salford opportunities to attack, the first coming from a penalty against the visitors, who then obliged by giving away an additional set-restart, ending with King Vuniyayawa’s surging over the line, close to the posts.

Clinical as this had been, the Reds were not able to reproduce anything similar for some considerable time, thereafter.  An excellent 40-20, from Andy Ackers, in the 16th minute, was squandered by possession being lost very early in the next tackle count, when the visitors might well have succumbed a second time, with this having come so quickly after the earlier try.

The Reds’ most clear-cut opportunity, though, came on 33 mins, with a break by Joe Burgess down the left, but his inside pass to the supporting Ellis Longstaff proved too difficult for the centre to take.  When they did eventually manage to cross the line again, it came from the most unlikely of positions.  A 20m restart saw a switch in direction to Burgess, who, having left his left-wing position, raced down the right side to use the utmost skill to ground the ball over the line despite having been overhauled by Johnstone, short of the line.

The sparsity of tries coming their way consequently twice prompted Marc Sneyd to take successful kicks at goal, one in each half, which were at the end to prove crucial in a two-point winning margin.  No-one could, however, have foreseen the unexpected outcomes from either, with Salford failing to take the ball from the kick-off, from the first, on 23 mins, and Johnstone then crossing in the corner, direct from the resultant scrum.

The second came on 46 mins, and yet again, on only the third play from the restart, Ackers lost his grip on the ball in a half break, and it was at this point that the change in moment came about.  The Frenchmen immediately went downfield to score close enough to the posts for the conversion to be successful, thereafter subjecting their hosts to that almost continual defensive effort, but significantly, without denying them the hearty end-of-match winning celebrations, they so richly deserved.

RED DEVILS IN DEPTH: SALFORD V CASTLEFORD

Despite another short turn around after their victory over Leigh, the previous Saturday, Salford Red Devils, yet again in front of the television cameras, on Thursday evening, cemented their place in the current top six, with a hard-fought victory over the improving Castleford Tigers.

It is a notable tribute to the team that on the back of their tremendous performances in the later stages of last season, the SKY Sports team have targeted showing the Red Devils’ matches with some quite considerable regularity over the start of this season, and although it was an evening with both defences on top, the team did not disappoint in terms of dedication, effort, and, above all, winning.

True, the scoreline was on the low side, but on a cold evening, in a biting wind, the players did extremely well to produce a performance full of attacking ideas and handling ploys, which on a summer’s day may well have brought about a rather higher return in terms of points.  No-one could deny the quality of their slick inter-passing, which tested the Castleford defence, time and again. They just needed to have retained possession in attack for longer than the solitary sets they produced in order to wear the Tigers’ defence down.

It was therefore down to their defensive effort of limiting the visitors to a solitary try in the third minute and thereafter holding them pointless for the remaining seventy-seven, which brought them the two league points.  It was not necessarily their midfield line-defence which was most noteworthy, more their scrambling defence which brought some absolutely valiant efforts from a number of individuals. 

As early as the 17th minute a magnificent triple effort, started by Sam Stone, and quickly supported by Andy Ackers and Ryan Brierley, prevented a Cas try being scored by Milner thanks to their holding him back, a whisker from the line.  Two minutes from the interval the timely arrival of Tyler Dupree, at full pace, was enough to force Eden onto the touchline, thereby making his considerable athleticism in the subsequent grounding, irrelevant.

Similar efforts continued into the second half, when first, Marc Sneyd’s last ditch tackle on Evalds caused the fullback to lose control of the ball has he sought to ground it between the posts on 49 mins, followed up some 14 mins later by another tackle on Milner just short of the line, this time by Wright, followed by the intervention again of Brierley to prevent his endeavours to roll over and ground the ball over the line.  

There were also some significant pieces of individual skill, which might on occasions go unnoticed, or which we sometimes take for granted.  Joe Burgess’s 8th minute, high level take of the ball in the air, which, on landing, he followed up with a half break through the visitors’ defence to clear the danger, was one such of these, likewise, Kallum Watkins’s midfield sideways run and offload, under pressure, to free up Brierley to continue the build up to Brodie Croft’s try under the posts, on 36 minutes.

Probably most eye-catching of all however was Brierley’s feat of collecting the ball on 52 minutes, behind his own line, to then turn the speedy Eden inside out with some incredible footwork and then cap it all with an offload to Ken Sio, as another Castleford player bore down on him.   Everything about it had the hallmarks of absolute class.

Even Salford’s two-try total could well have been double that, had they been just a little more fortunate.  The referral of Sneyd’s 23rd minute grounding to the video-ref saw it disallowed as it became apparent that, after his short kick through, the ball had bounced up to touch his arm, thus being adjudged as a knock on.  Similarly, 44 minutes into the second half, Sam Stone was denied a try with, this time, Chris Atkin having fumbled a loose ball forward in his attempt to gather it up.

Nevertheless, there was to be no denying the Red Devils for the two tries which were to count.  In what had been their best period that far, spanning the second quarter, it culminated in Brierley racing down the right wing, from Watkins’s pass, to put in the best, and most rewarding, kick of the half, for Croft to take a grasp of it as it stood up beautifully for him to go over for his team’s opener.

Shane Wright has been growing in notoriety over recent weeks having already notched up three tries against Hull (2) and Leigh.  With 56 minutes on the clock, he latched onto Sneyd’s beautifully timed short pass to surge over the line, between the posts and with Sneyd then having converted both tries, he had the opportunity to open up a two score, eight-point, match-winning lead, when Milner was penalised for tackling Ollie Partington without the ball, ten minutes from the end.

MATCH PREVIEW – LEIGH LEOPARDS VS SALFORD RED DEVILS (BETFRED SUPER LEAGUE RIVALS ROUND)

Paul Rowley’s Salford Red Devils travel to face Leigh Leopards for the second time this season, in Rivals Round of the Betfred Super League.

It’s almost hard to believe that only a quarter into the regular season, we are already going back to a ground we visited in Round 1; but this meeting feels completely different.

On opening night, Salford spoiled the Leopards party with a 10-20 victory at Leigh Sports Village. The hosts took the lead, but excellent tries from Kallum Watkins, Andy Ackers and Ryan Brierley flipped the game completely on its head.

Since that day, Leigh have picked up three impressive wins – including the World Champions, St Helens – and sit just below Salford in ninth.

The two points for either side in this fixture could spring them into a top six spot, so tensions will be high and a highly-competitive game of rugby league is expected.

Here’s everything you need to know before this one:


SQUAD NEWS

A lack of bodies continues to hamper the Red Devils, but this week provided two huge boosts ahead of a tricky trip to Leigh Sports Village.

Joe Burgess – who was forced off on 38 minutes last Sunday with a rib injury – is part of the travelling squad after training during the week.

Star hooker, Andy Ackers, who has missed the last two games with a knee issue, also returns to the squad and Paul Rowley will be hoping to call-on his reliable number nine on Saturday afternoon.


BRIERLEY’S PREVIEW

Our number one was quizzed by the press this week before a crucial Rivals Round clash.

After back-to-back defeats, the team are determined to turn it around this afternoon, but Brierley understands why – despite some good performances – results have been slightly poor as of late.

“Yeah, pretty good – considering the adversity we’ve had to go through pretty early on,” the full-back responded when asked for his opinion on the season so far.

“It was quite evident actually after the Huddersfield game; actually when you’re going through training you don’t really notice who’s playing and who’s not, but after the game I looked to my right and there’s how many players in suits, not playing.

“So, I don’t think we stress about that sort of stuff, we understand it’s a tough period for us players health-wise, but hopefully going into this tough period, it will stand us in good stead.

“I think irrespective of results, I think performances have been quite positive. I think most teams will tell you that they don’t want to be playing their best rugby right now, it’s about building towards the back-end of the season when it really matters.”

Watch Brierley and Head Coach, Paul Rowley’s pre-match press conferences by clicking HERE.


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