RED DEVILS SPIRIT REMAINS UNDIMINISHED

Salford Red Devils 0  Barrow Raiders 46      Match Report

As if turning out to face their third consecutive Super League opposition in four weeks, when the Red Devils themselves are a team still in the infancy of their development, were not demanding enough in itself, the new-look ladies’ side had the added challenge of starting the match playing into the teeth of a raging gale accompanied by driving rain.

Even in a closely matched encounter those conditions would have held great sway in the probable outcome with the energy sapping difficulties they provide especially when facing them in the first forty when the opposition are still completely fresh.  This, however, was not an evenly matched encounter against a side which has clearly played together over a number of seasons at different levels and whose understanding of one another was evident from the outset.

Playing only their fourth match of the season there has been little opportunity for the Red Devils to jell together in such torrid circumstances as fixtures against Wigan Warriors and Cardiff Demons, the latter of which required a four-hour journey in each direction.

Two back-to-back penalties to Barrow at the very outset of this latest encounter, the first because the strength of the wind prevented Salford’s kick-off from crossing the ten-metre line, and the second caused by their incorrect play-the-ball after the Raiders’ opening attack had been repulsed, had the inevitable result of the visitors crossing for their opening, converted try in the second minute.

The wind was causing havoc for the Reds’ kicking game, but, after the Raiders had gone further ahead on 11mins, despite some resilient defensive efforts which had seen them held up over the line, amidst a posse of determined Salford players, kicker Demi Jones had most sensibly reverted to low kick-offs, the next three of which, quite remarkably were recovered by the Red Devils.

The first of these was an angled kick to the right, where winger, Emily Webb, did extremely well to get around a couple of Raiders to secure possession for the home side.  The second was an even more impressive effort from Jones herself when she put the ball through a gap between, and behind, two Barrow defenders, to chase through and collect the ball, and then on the third occasion placed her kick into space on the left and then into touch, thereby regaining them both possession and good field position.

And this was indicative of the Salford team, as a whole.  All the players within it are talented athletes who know their roles and, with ball in hand, can, as individuals, produce good elements of play.  Unfortunately, they have not yet gained sufficient understanding of one another’s ploys and skills to be able to put these together effectively enough to trouble opposition defenders, often losing possession early in the tackle count as a result of misunderstandings and poor execution.

Their best set of six, by far, came on 70 mins, when three great individual carries from Jadine McVernon who, not for the first time, relinquished her second-row berth to help out at centre, Lydia Egan who had been delivering such carries throughout the match, and Emily Bagguley who is proving to be a most reliable and dependable player in so many aspects of her game.

Having set up the position well inside the Barrow half, stand-off, Michelle Davis, then took over and made a fine break through the somewhat scattered defence, side-stepping and accelerating past various individuals before being brought down five metres from the line, by the fullback. 

Five or six games on, she should find that her teammates will have recognised her ability in this respect and will ensure they have someone alongside her to take what will be a well-executed pass to finish off the move.  It most certainly is a strong facet of her game, as she showed on 76 mins with another fine break, this time from close to her own try-line, to relieve some considerable pressure the team had been enduring.

Defending, on the other hand, was quite the opposite, with players always ready to get into the tackles to help each other out.  Consequently, a total of some ten points was saved by their forcing the Raiders to move the ball to the edges, where spaces were more easily found and one-on-one tackles more difficult to make effective, but which also made conversions from the touchline far more difficult for the visitors’ goal-kicker..

But what will ultimately prove to be the team’s greatest asset is the considerable team-spirit they have already built up despite all the problems they have encountered, so far.  This was most evident in the final five minutes of the game when sundry waves of Barrow attacks were repulsed by the Red Devils’ determined, and successful, efforts to keep their line intact and the score below fifty.

Hopefully, a return to Championship opposition in the form of Bradford Bulls, next Sunday, will enable the players some little time and space to start building up their partnerships with one another.

SALFORD:

Alex Simpson, Emily Webb, Sam Evans, Jadine McVernon, Marnie-Lee Kelly, Michelle Davis, Demi Jones, Emerald Hickey, Alice Connolly, Lydia Egan, Summer Harris, Abi Collins, Emily Bagguley

Interchanges:

Darcey Price, Hannah Wicks, Natasha Routh, Holly Grimes

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