RED DEVILS RESERVES OVERCOME SETBACKS TO SECURE WIN

Salford 23  Wakefield 16                         Match Report

Two first half tries, one from fullback, Nathan Connell and the other by centre, Josh Wagstaffe, put the Salford Red Devils Reserves on their way to a home victory over Wakefield Trinity Reserves, last Saturday, after they had weathered early pressure from the visitors in the initial arm-wrestle.

The first of these came in the fifteenth minute when Wagstaffe scythed through the defence to put Connell, over, go round towards the posts, and give scrum-half, Kai Morgan, a straight forward kick at goal.

Seven minutes later, it was Wagstaffe’s individual skill which enabled him to spin round and wrong-foot the Trinity defence, after the ball had been moved to the left of the field, this time too far out for the conversion attempt to be successful.

The Red Devils dominance was by now so evident that they were able to force a Wakefield knock-on under their own posts, on thirty minutes, which resulted in the Reds gaining further possession from the resultant goal-line drop-out, and then as the clock was running down towards the final moments of the half, Morgan took advantage of having possession near Trinity’s line to drop a goal, and take the half-time score to 11-0.

It is almost inevitable, in by far and away the majority of games, that the momentum will suddenly swing away from one team to the other, and Saturday’s encounter was no different in this respect, upon the resumption.

Still taking the game to their opponents it was a well-intended pass, after only five minutes, which was intercepted by a Wakefield three-quarter, on his own twenty metre line, who sped down the left wing to open his team’s account with a converted try under the posts.

Dramatic turnaround as this was, things got a whole lot more unsettling as the visitors exploited this new-found scoring potential on their left flank, and, in their very next set, succeeded in launching yet another, almost identical, clean break down this wing.  This time, Connell was in position to stall the approach with a well-executed tackle, but a quick play-the-ball set the visitors off on a continuation of the attack to score by the posts and, with the added goal, take an 11-12 lead.

Now on the crest of a wave, Trinity revelled in a surfeit of possession, and on 51mins Connell was called upon again to snuff out another Wakefield break.  Four minutes later, however, there was no denying them as they crossed for a third try, this time in the right-hand corner, to stretch their lead to five points.

Things were beginning to look quite bleak for the Red Devils, especially when Jamie Pye, who alongside fellow prop, Jordan Brown, had been quite magnificent, had to retire with injury.  

Under such setbacks, many a team would have cracked, but step forward John Hutchings who had come off the bench to the second-row, and who now moved to prop to fill the gap.  Add, also the return to the fray of Ben Hellewell, and, credit to the Salford players they all stuck to their task of making the hard yardage up the field, completing their sets.

All of this consequently turned the game around in their favour, on 60 mins, when stand-off, Joe Purcell, fooled the Wakefield defence into thinking he was about to pass the ball to Brown, but instead shot through the gap that had opened up, to score under the posts.  Morgan made no mistake in putting Salford back in front, at 17-16.

Indeed, they came very close to scoring again, on 68 mins, only for the try in the corner to be disallowed for a forward pass, but the highly talented youngsters, Morgan and Connell, combined to put the game to bed, on 71 mins. 

On the last tackle of the set, Morgan showed great vision to notice that the Wakefield fullback had been sucked out of position, so he carried the ball forward to put in an overhead kick to just short of the try line, and Connell appeared from nowhere to dive onto the ball, and, despite the best efforts of a couple of Wakefield defenders, roll sideways over the try-line to ground it.  Just for good measure, Morgan added the goal-points from one of his more difficult kicks.

They then had just one more scare to overcome, when an end-of-set Wakefield kick to the left corner was taken by one of their chasers, close to the Salford line, but Ethan Fitzgerald, who had come onto the wing to counter the Trinity threat on their left wing, was equal to the task and forced the carrier into touch with a magnificent try-saving tackle.

SALFORD:

Connell, Egan, Hammond, Wagstaffe, Nofoaluma, Purcell, Morgan, Brown, Yates, Pye, Davies, McCurrie, Hellewell

Interchanges

Fitzgerald, Hutchings, Appleby, Wells

18th Man: Davidson

HELLEWELL: “IT WAS A NO-BRAINER FOR ME!”

Ben Hellewell says it was a ‘no-brainer’ to extend his Salford Red Devils contract.

The back-rower has put pen to paper on a one-year extension, after an impressive debut campaign. Showing commitment and versatility, Hellewell became a valuable member of Paul Rowley’s squad across 2023.

Initially joining the club on a two-week loan in 2022, Hellewell made the switch permanent and has contributed with three tries in 19 appearances.

Speaking exclusively to our YouTube channel, the Scotland international said he was thrilled to finally agree an extension.

“I’m looking forward to next year. It was a no-brainer for me, I had to re-sign because I’ve loved it here,” he said.

“Like the year before – I came here for two weeks – and they made me feel settled. I signed last year and all the lads have been class – I’ve settled right in.”

No stranger to a try in front of the South Stand, Hellewell was slowly earning some well-deserved plaudits towards the back-end of 2023.

He believes his consistent run in the team helped him to achieve high levels of performance.

He said: “Yeah, it’s helped with my consistency by playing a lot in the team. I think I need to be consistently playing to improve on my game and the different positions.

“The coaching staff and the lads have helped me a lot this year.”

To see our full chat with Ben, head over to our YouTube channel HERE.

BEN HELLEWELL SIGNS NEW ONE-YEAR SALFORD RED DEVILS CONTRACT

We are delighted to reveal Scotland international, Ben Hellewell has signed a new one-year deal at Salford Red Devils.

After an initial two-week loan in 2022, the 31-year-old joined the club permanently from Featherstone Rovers in 2023 and has enjoyed a fruitful season in red and white.

Making 19 appearances, Hellewell scored four tries and seemed to find a consistent spot in the team as the season progressed.

Hellewell has also represented the Scottish national team on 22 occasions – including during last year’s Rugby League World Cup, in England.

In reaction to signing his new deal, Hellewell said: “I am thrilled to have signed for another season at this great club.

“I really enjoyed my time here last season so it was a no brainer for me to re-sign when the opportunity came.

“I’m looking forward for the start of pre-season with the lads, coaching staff and meeting the new arrivals – preparing for what I know is going to be a strong 2024 season.

“The goal is to win a bit of silverware for the fans – especially what they’ve done for the club!”

Head Coach, Paul Rowley has added: “It is great to have Ben remain with Salford for 2024.

“From the minute he stepped into our club he earned the respect of the group with his selfless, team-first attitude and so with that in mind, it was always important to keep him within our group.”

Director of Rugby and Operations, Ian Blease has added: “Ben is a very valued member of this group and I am delighted we have been able to extend his contract by a further season.

“After his two-week loan in 2022, we knew he had all the attributes to fit into this side. His progression this year has been fantastic and he has clearly been well received by the supporters.

“I would like to congratulate Ben on his new deal and look forward to working with him in 2024!”

Everyone at Salford Red Devils would like to congratulate Ben on his extension.

Join Ben at the Salford Stadium in 2024 by purchasing your season ticket HERE.

RED DEVILS IN DEPTH: SALFORD V WARRINGTON

It might have taken up to eighty-three minutes to get a result, but when it came the celebrations throughout the Salford stadium were comparable with having won a major trophy, as the Red Devils gained the two league points at the expense of the visiting Warrington Wolves, to go level with them on points, with only two games remaining.

Such was the importance of this particular fixture that the tension and intensity, prevalent throughout the match, led to rather more errors than might be expected at Super League level, yet on this occasion so closely matched were the two sides that these merely added to the excitement as to how the game would continue to unfold.  Twists and turns really do keep your concentration, and nerves, keyed up to the final whistle.

And when it eventually did come, what a tremendous way to secure the win – not with the anticipated drop-goal, but through a near length of the field, try of the match, which capped everything that had gone before, in terms of quality.  Slick hands moved the ball swiftly to the left wing, to put Joe Burgess in the clear.  That he was backed up the whole of the way by Sam Stone, a second row forward, was quite remarkable taking into account both the energy and pace needed to be in position to take the inside pass to score.

That it was the home side which had eventually taken the game was, in some respects, justice, for they had, on the whole, been the better of the two teams throughout, showing more ideas and organisation on attack, whilst defending their line, in particular, to greater effect.

This was evidenced in the three tries each team scored during the regular eighty minutes.  Warrington’s first two came from individual errors from our wingers, usually so reliable under the high ball, each dropping a keenly contested bomb giving the Wolves a dream start to each half.

Williams’s score between the posts, on 68 mins, was the one time they did successfully breech Salford’s goal-line defence, though, in fairness, there had been three occasions in the first half when their efforts were chalked off, the most noticeable being on the stroke of half time, when the video referee overturned the on-field decision to Thewlis’s grounding, in Salford’s favour.

In contrast, however, Ben Hellewell’s 22nd minute try came as a result of his beating his marker, in one of the quite few, man-on-man, line breeches in the whole game.  Then there was Brodie Croft, now coming back into the form he had shown to such dazzling effect last season.  His first, on 29 mins, followed two tremendous tackles, the first from Ryan Brierley on his opposite number Dufty, and then from the magnificent King Vuniyayawa and Chris Atkin which forced the ball out of the grasp of Ratchford.  Andy Ackers was on hand to collect it with next Atkin then sending out a wide pass to Croft in acres of space to score unopposed.

There was much more to his second, on 62 mins, than just a lucky ricochet.  Twice he put in short, low, end-of-set kicks to the Wolves’ line, the first of which forced a goal-line drop-out for a repeat set.  The second hit an opponent’s leg with Croft being easily the most alert person on the field to react by turning back on himself collecting the loose ball, and going over by the right-hand upright.

Salford too, had had a couple of disappointments, the first coming as early as the seventh minute, when a good attacking move to the right enabled Deon Cross to straighten up and go for the line, only for a first attempted tackle to be adjudged by the video referee as effective, owing to the fact that there was still contact between the defender’s hand and Cross’s foot as his ball carrying arm touched the ground.

All of which combined to make this a most riveting contest, of which both sides seemed to make heavy weather, in their endeavours to secure the points.  In the considerable heat of the day, however, it was the Salford players who always showed the greater desire and determination throughout and the fact that they had already had successful experience of Golden Point extra time, in their first home fixture with Wakefield, stood them in good stead for the final culmination.

Having to play extra time in the run up before another do-or-die encounter the following week, away at Hull KR, who had already had an extra two days’ recovery from their visit to Huddersfield, does not seem at all helpful, but such was the euphoria from, and the manner of, this win, that the boost it will have given the players, both jointly and individually, might just be enough to carry them through despite the adversities they face in the run-up to the game.  The fabulous support of our travelling fans will undoubtedly be a vital factor in keeping their spirits up throughout the encounter, so please all do get yourselves over there and make yourselves known, throughout.

SALFORD RED DEVILS SIGN BEN HELLEWELL

Salford Red Devils are delighted to announce the signing of Ben Hellewell from Featherstone Rovers on a one-year deal.

The 30-year-old was brought into the club on a two-week loan during the 2022 season and definitely impressed with his performances in the back-row.

He was part of the squad that defeated Catalan Dragons at home and Toulouse Olympique away – two results which proved crucial in our run to the play-offs. He was quickly recalled by Featherstone, but the Red Devils have now secured their man on a permanent basis.

Reacting to his move, Hellewell said: “I’m delighted to sign for Salford. I was lucky enough to play two games on loan last year and from the first day of training, I saw how close-knit the players were.

“Playing in them two games opened my eyes to how skilful and hardworking the players are at the club, and that’s been passed down from the coaching staff. It does help that I’m close friends with some of the players – having played with them at previous clubs – so them and the other lads were very welcoming.

“I was coached by Haggy at Leigh, so I knew how good he was, and his partnership with Rowls will always get the best out of players not only on the field, but off it too.

“Last season they were unlucky to fall short of the Grand Final, but hopefully this season we can go one better and get some silverware – and I can’t wait to be a part of that. I’m looking forward to getting back into training and ripping in with the lads.”Head Coach, Paul Rowley added: “I’m really pleased to welcome Ben to Salford. Having joined us for a month earlier this year, Ben’s durability and versatility proved invaluable.

“The staff, players and myself enjoyed the passion and commitment he showed to the group and look forward to him being back.”

Director of Rugby and Operations, Ian Blease also said: “I’m really happy we’ve been able to secure Ben’s services on a permanent basis.

“He’s a player who massively impressed us during his two-week loan spell in 2022 and will bring not just quality to the back-row, but an incredible work ethic – a vital attribute of any player in Paul Rowley’s squad. We are looking forward to welcoming Ben and getting to work ahead of 2023.”

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