TRIBUTE TO DAVID WATKINS MBE

Everyone at Salford Red Devils is so greatly saddened at the news of the passing of one of its greatest icons in the history of the club, David Watkins MBE, aged 81.  Frequently as superlatives are often attributed, David fully warranted every single one ever used about him, rising to become a dual international in both rugby league and rugby union.

Heralding from South Wales, he quickly developed, to play 202 top-flight union matches with Newport, going on to gain his first representative honours with Wales, for whom he played on twenty-one occasions, together with a further six for the British Lions, all in his recognised position of fly-half.

His move to join Salford in 1967 absolutely transformed what, at the time, was an up-and-coming team into one of the top sides in the league, certainly in the entertainment stakes, if not in the winning of trophies.  Such was the esteem in which he was held throughout the country that, upon his signing, the attendance of 3,500 at The Willows, for the previous week’s game v Castleford, rose to an incredible 10,500 for his home debut against Oldham, the following Friday, as sports fans travelled from all around the north-west, to witness it, and he did not disappoint, turning in a try-scoring performance after only two training sessions with the team.

Within eighteen months of joining Salford, he was leading the team out at Wembley, as captain, in the 1969 Challenge Cup Final v Castleford, having defeated Batley, Workington Town, Widnes, and Warrington, along the way.  Although the trophy was eventually lifted by their Yorkshire opponents, Salford’s very presence on that great stage was evidence of the significant development, of which David had been a catalyst, within the team, in the interim.

Successes in other finals, such as the Lancashire Cup Final over Swinton in 1972 and the BBC2 Floodlit Trophy Final replay over Warrington, in 1975, eventually came as some tangible reward.  Sandwiched in between those two was the winning of the club’s first major post-war trophy, the First Division Championship for the 1973/4 season, under his captaincy, which they then repeated two seasons later in 1975/6, after he had relinquished the captaincy to Chris Hesketh, but with his then becoming the league’s leading points scorer for that season.

Such was his talent on a rugby field that it superseded anything required for any one position so that over his ten-year tenure, in 1971 he moved from his initial stand-off half berth to centre, and then in 1974 to fullback.  It was in the centre, however, where he made his greatest contribution, revelling in the greater spaces that the position afforded him, and he repaid the club by notching a total of 30 tries in his very first season, ‘71/2, in that position.

It was in a match against Barrow, in December 1972, that he came on at centre from the substitute’s bench, ten minutes from time, to score the fastest hat-trick of tries – within 5 minutes – in any game, to that time.  His first international representation came against England in November 1968 at The Willows, and he went on to be selected for international duty with Great Britain on 6 occasions, and Wales 16 times, both of whom he later coached.

Individual records needed to be rewritten for him, as one after another was broken.  In the 1972/3, he kicked a world record of 221 goals in a single season and during the period from 19th August 1972 to 25th April 1974, he established the longest running record of scoring in every one of 92 consecutive club matches with 41 tries and 403 goals bringing him 929 points.

In 1979, after making his final appearance for Salford, in an away match at Rochdale Hornets on 1st April, he transferred to Swinton, where he spent a further season, before retiring having amassed a total of 2907 points..  In 1986 he was awarded the MBE for services to rugby league, and more recently, in December 2022, he was inducted into the Rugby League Hall of Fame.

Our thoughts and condolences go out to his family and friends at this really sad time.

RUGBY LEAGUE’S QUALITY STREET GANG 12 – ELLIS DEVLIN PT 3

Part 3 He Remembers Some Of His Former Teammates

Among the players whom Ellis recalls with affection, is Johnny Ward who had signed for Salford from Castleford, having been in our opponents’ ranks in the 1969 Wembley Challenge Cup Final, between the two clubs.

“John was a really nice guy, whom it was a pleasure to be with.  He came to Salford as a prop, which was where he had played at Wembley, but he could also play at hooker, so we had something in common with that, and it helped our relationship.

“He was a really tough player on the field; he would never let anybody mess with him, and his ball handling skills were top rate.  He could always put someone through a gap he had created.”

Captain of the ‘A’ team was the ever popular, Jimmy Hardacre, who many years later became chairman of the Red Devils Association.

“Jimmy was another prop and a player who was happy playing in the ‘A’ team, having been made captain, which was just reward for his dedication to the club and the team.

“Mick Hennigan was another popular player, who was often called into the first team, and had been a regular first teamer before the arrivals of Mike Coulman and Colin Dixon.  He left soon after I came to The Willows to join Warrington, where he had a long and successful career.”

One player whose experiences at Salford were somewhat similar to Ellis’s was centre-cum-winger, Iain McCorquodale.

“Corky was a most incredible goal-kicker.  The power he could put into his kicks, and with the accuracy to go with it, was quite incredible, and after he left Salford in the early seventies, he had a tremendous career with Workington Town, where he is still remembered with great fondness.

“We, in the team, often felt that he never got a proper chance because, of course, Salford had David Watkins in the team and he was the goalkicker, and also one of the main stars in the side, so when you also consider the amount of money the club had invested in him, it isn’t surprising that he retained his position throughout his lengthy time with us.”

TRIBUTE TO MIKE COULMAN

Everyone at Salford Red Devils is most deeply saddened to learn of the passing of our magnificent, former second row forward, and British Lions Rugby Union forward, Mike Coulman. Back in September 2018, Mike became the first of thus far eleven players of the flamboyant late sixties late seventies Salford team to share their memories of playing for the club, at that time, In tribute to his outstanding contribution to Salford, in a number of capacities, we reproduce here an extract from the finished article, first published 28th October 2018.

Mike takes up the story a few months after his return from a highly successful international rugby union tour of South Africa, with the British Lions:

“I was at home, washing my car on a lovely sunny day, when a Jenson Interceptor Coupe, containing a person who turned out to be the Salford Chairman, drew up at my home,” he relates.   “He didn’t immediately mention signing for Salford, but instead invited me down to watch a couple of games.”

So, a few days later, Mike could have been found at The Willows, gaining his first experience of a rugby league match.  One extremely important catalyst in his willingness to agree to doing so, and then consequently proceeding to sign for the Red Devils, was that he knew that the club’s captain was none other than Welsh Rugby Union International half back, David Watkins, who, it turns out, had been instrumental in shaping Brian Snape’s initial overture.

On his very first visit, Mike found that, not only was the game quite different from union, but so, too, was the whole environment in which he found himself.

“Stafford is a very rural area,” he points out, “and the club ground consists of a couple of acres of land which had been donated to the club, but it had little in the way of facilities, other than a small clubhouse and bar.  In contrast, The Willows was in a residential, urban area, with The Willows Variety Centre at the hub of everything that was happening.  It was all highly professional and impressive, and I quickly became keen to become a part of it.”

The only drawback was that, as a policeman, he was not able to have another job alongside that, so, having made his decision to make the move, it was also going to involve not only the end to his rugby union career, but also a complete change of lifestyle involving a move up north to live in Marple, and taking up a new career working in The Variety Centre.

His first match came immediately after making the change of code, away at the old Athletic Stadium, former home of Rochdale Hornets, in a Division 1 league fixture.

“Nowadays, you would have been required to have put in at least a week’s worth of training,” he considers, “but for me, back then, I was put straight into the team.   Although we were professional to a degree, we were not as professional as things are now.”

It was in this game that he donned, for the first time, the number eleven jersey which was to become his own, until making the move up front to open-side prop, in the mid-seventies.

“I was always number eleven, because that was the second-row position on the blindside of the scrum,” he explains.  “Obviously, it was a very steep learning curve for me.  I just went through the game being told to stand here, and then there, and when the ball did eventually come to me, I just had to go forward and make as much progress as a I possibly could.

“It took around a quarter of the season for me to begin to feel settled into the game and begin holding my own in the team.”

His arrival at the club coincided with that of a player, who, not only was to become a very close personal friend, but who also, as his fellow second rower in those early days, was to become Mike’s mentor and guiding light, died-in-the-wool rugby league international, Colin Dixon.

“He was my best pal throughout my whole time with Salford,” Mike confides, and, pointing to a small tree in the middle of his lawn, continues, “I planted that in memory of him.  That is his.”

So close did the two become that Mike attributes much of his later success directly to Colin.

“He was such a great help, not so much for anything he said, but in his actions.  I always kept my eye on him and noted the things he did, and then tried them out myself.  I just owe so much to him.”

Part of the arrangements under which Mike came to Salford was that during the week he would work for Chairman, Brian Snape, in his Stanneylands restaurant in Manchester city centre, where he started to learn, in considerable detail, everything connected with the catering industry.  This was to stand him in good stead ahead of a flourishing career throughout his life, in this area.

“I went on to work for Whitbreads, for whom I managed twenty sites, some with hotels.  That carried great responsibility as there was well over a million pounds tied up in them all.  The move from union to league totally transformed my life.”

Not only that, he also found that once he had settled into the game, there were aspects of it which he much preferred to rugby union, particularly the high level of professionalism throughout the sport.

“I found rugby union far more sociable, but lacking professionalism in terms of the game, and, as a player, you want to be able to progress and develop to the best you can be.  I certainly have no regrets whatsoever about having made the move, although the three months British Lions Rugby Union tour still remains my lifetime’s highlight.”

Nevertheless, there were highlights still to be gained in his newly found affection for rugby league, starting in 1969 with what was destined to be Salford’s first post-war visit to Wembley, which remarkably he can remember in detail.

“The game went by in a flash but I didn’t play well at all.  Certainly not as well as I think I should have done.  I didn’t do enough tackling, probably because the big strength of my game was my physical prowess in carrying the ball, but even in this I felt I lacked aggression, on the day,” he ruefully reflects.  “I just would have liked to have played better than I did.”

Wembley is a hard place to go to and then to come away with nothing, as it is always going to be for fifty percent of the protagonists.

“I never liked losing any match, but you just have to be resilient, put it all in the past, and then turn your attention to the next season, which thankfully is what all the lads did,” he comments.

And indeed, with two First Division Championship successes in 1973/4 and again in 1975/6, to come, there were still successes, aplenty, awaiting him.

“The longevity of that Championship Trophy, coupled with the style with which we won it, on those two occasions, made it very special to us all.  To win it twice, and so close in time, was absolutely marvellous,” is his wholly justifiable assessment.

“We played with a great deal of skill and considerable guile in that period.  I scored a hundred and forty tries in my time with Salford, most of which came during that particular period of the early to mid-seventies, and which I consider was the peak of our time together as a team.”

In sharp contrast, he readily acknowledges that they failed to do themselves justice in the one-off rugby which is the Challenge Cup.  Every year, the atmosphere around The Willows was electric with the anticipation that, that year, they would be getting to Wembley, which was not only every player’s dream, but also every fan’s – only for these hopes to be dashed by ball number twenty-three, without any variation  from season to season, being drawn out for a second or third round journey to West Yorkshire, to face might of Leeds, at Headingly, or Castleford, at Wheldon Rd.

This, however, was the only blip in what was an exceptional period of the club’s history.  And so it should have been with the star studded side which they were able to raise, week in and week out, for, as so often happens with a team brimming with talent, injuries were few and far between.

Indeed, pace was the ingredient throughout the whole team, with Mike himself and Colin Dixon, in the second row possessing the pace of any back to score long distance tries during which they would draw further and further away from their chasing opponents before invariably grounding under the posts.

As the season’s passed, and the years started to catch up on them all, changes within the squad and around team selection understandably, took place.  For Mike, this led to a change of position, with his making the move up front to prop. In 1977.

“Throughout my rugby union career, I had always played at prop, and during my time in the second row, it had always been in the back of mind that I would one day return there, which I did for my final three seasons.”

Obviously, as certain players reached retirement age, and others moved on to join other clubs, a gradual dip in performance and results started to become apparent.  For Mike though, there were other problems with which to contend.

“It was about that time I started to develop injury problems with my knees.  I started to miss more and more games, and eventually had to undergo surgery.”

Nevertheless, what he achieved as a player was absolutely outstanding, with, most remarkably, his attaining an international cap, at every level from schoolboy, right through to full international level, in both codes.

He even attained a most unusual international experience, alongside the rest of the squad, playing in a friendly against the French, in a Salford jersey, down in the south of France.

“We travelled down by private jet, and the whole trip down there was a most enjoyable experience, even though we were on the receiving end of a hefty defeat.”

His proudest claim to fame of all, however, came in what was the third and deciding test match against the Australians, in The Sydney Cricket Ground, when he got the better with a perhaps questionable tackle on one of the opposing Australian forwards (thought to be the formidable Artie Beetson), who was left lying prostrate on the ground, for a number of minutes.

“The referee warned me that if he didn’t get up, I would be walking up the tunnel.”

Fortunately for Mike, the Australian medical staff were up to the challenge, and Mike duly remained on field to contribute further to the remainder of the game. IIt was, nevertheless, most out of character for the usually calm and compliant Coulman, who in this day and age, would have suffered a spell in the sinbin, at least, had things not been so different then.

“I was geed up purely by his stature.  Also, the fact that we were playing on an Australian cricket ground, which was rock hard, because unlike Headingley, where they are two separate pitches, this was all on the same area, and I was determined to make an impression.”

With so many of his Salford teammates in the Great Britain side – indeed the Red Devils commanded almost the whole of the backline, with Mike and Colin Dixon pairing up in the back row – playing for his country seemed little different than any away game for Salford, particularly when they found themselves staying in the same hotels used by the Red Devils.

After having played under various coaches, 1982 saw Mike, by then in his fourteenth year, appointed to the position of player-coach, before eventually hanging up his boots to concentrate on coaching. Not that he looks back on his coaching career with any great satisfaction, as he did not really find himself best cut out for the position.

“I simply am not an aggressive person, and I do feel that that was the problem throughout my whole rugby career. I always felt that it was best just to play each other without ever having the desire to inflict physical harm on anyone. Consequently, in the role of coaching, that required degree os aggression was lacking.

The playing career of a professional sportsman is exceptionally short, with most rugby league players managing a maximum of ten years at the top, but Mike found that the reputation and aura he had built up in the local area, during his days in the red, number eleven, jersey have followed and stayed with him throughout his life, and, that he then has had more time to return to  the club for occasional games, where he has been overwhelmed by the respect and bonhomie he has received.

“The number of people who come up to me wanting to speak and shake hands is unbelievable, and it makes me feel so proud that I could almost cry.”

Those of us who know him, or have had the pleasure and privilege of seeing him play for the team, would undoubtedly respond by saying that this is merely fitting respect for a truly great man who throughout his playing days, and beyond, has been an absolute credit to rugby league, rugby union, Salford, and himself.

RED DEVILS CAN TAKE EXPERIENCE FROM FRIENDLIES INTO SUPER LEAGUE

Having gained the coveted promotion they so much desired to Super League 2, the Red Devils will get their much deserved opportunity to open their season at this new elevated level, with a trip across the Pennines to Castleford, this coming Sunday.

Not that this will be the first time that they will be facing Super League opponents, having already had a taster of this in two pre-season friendlies, against Wigan Warriors and Leigh Leopards.  The more relevant of these, probably, was the more recent, against the Leopards, since Wigan, as might be expected, occupy a place in Super League 1, while Leigh will be one of the teams our players will be facing during the course of the season.

For a variety of reasons, one should never read too much into the outcomes of friendly games, as the context to these are, by definition, completely different to league encounters, with coaches keen to suss out new combinations and introduce new additions to the squad, while the players have the opportunity to try executing new moves.

It was, however, a totally different context altogether for the Red Devils when they took on the Leopards, with the playing squad considerably reduced to the basic seventeen, by a combination of work, personal, and family commitments to several players alongside a number of injuries, unlike their opponents who had reserves in abundance.

This, therefore, gave head coach, Chris Bates, the opportunity to blood many of his new signings, alongside the remainder of his squad from 2022.  Ideally, this would have taken place with just one or two at a time, taking the field just to get the feel of things, with the experienced players providing the stiffening needed to overcome the opposition.

On this occasion, the majority of them were playing alongside one another, throughout, which set them a much greater challenge than would normally be the case.  The situation was further compounded by the fact that each of the newcomers was also new to rugby league, with their playing either their first or second, only, game of rugby league.

 They did, nevertheless, individually, acquit themselves very well, and every one of them showed considerable promise with talent and skills that will undoubtedly become invaluable to the squad, as they integrate themselves into the side over the coming weeks.

Sam Evans, coming in at such a pivotal position as half back on her rugby league debut, grew confidently throughout the game into the role.  Sage Bannister, at fullback, had already shown her considerable defensive abilities in the match with Wigan, and she, once again, showed these, when, on 25 mins, she combined with loose forward, Brogan Evans, to pull off yet another try saving tackle when the visitors were only six points ahead.

For sheer commitment to the Salford cause, however, prop, Summer Harris  deserves accolades for having been prepared to occupy a berth on the wing, of all places, while substitute Emerald Hickey was called into action as early as the second minute, as a result of the temporary loss of Sarina Tamou injured in one of the first tackles of the game.

An unsurprising 4-26 reversal was therefore the final result, with Salford’s try coming from left winger, Lauren Ellison, after 52 minutes to narrow Leigh’s 0-10, half time, lead.  Indeed, having had time to take stock of the situation during the interval, the first fifteen-minute spell of the second half proved to be the Red Devils’ strongest period during which they dominated possession and were able to keep play in the visitors’ thirty metre area and launch several attacks on their line, leading up to their try.

Sheer fatigue, owing to the shortage of bodies on the bench to enable further interchanges, however, eventually caught up with the Salford players, and the comparatively fresh-legged Leopards were able to take control in the later stages to run in three further tries.

SALFORD

Sage Bannister, Lauren Ellison, Alex Simpson, Victoria Kini, Summer Harris, Louise Fellingham, Sam Evans, Megan Condliffe, Tamzin Corcoran, Sarina Tamou, Helena Walker, Abi Collins, Brogan Evans

REPLACEMENTS

Darcey Price, Laura Bent, Hannah Wicks, Emerald Hickey, Katie Garry

U19S COME CLOSE IN YET ANOTHER TIGHT ENCOUNTER

Castleford Tigers 20  Salford Red Devils 18             Match Report

For not the first time this season, Salford’s U19s College Academy side came within a whisker of victory in a contest so evenly matched that it became one long arm-wrestle from start to finish, with each sides having their periods of ascendency, and the hosts eventually taking the spoils by a mere two point advantage.

That appeared most unlikely in the early stages, with Castleford opening up a six-point advantage within the first three minutes, as a consequence of enjoying an abundance of possession within close proximity to the visitors’ line.  An end-of-set kick was allowed to bounce and ricocheted to the benefit of the advancing Cas attackers.

Indeed, the Red Devils were somewhat fortunate, a few minutes later, when another end-of-set kick was not regathered and Castleford regained possession to work an overlap on their left flank, only for the final pass to be ruled forward.

Gradually the Salford side forced themselves into the game, and with rather more possession were able to build some attacks of their own, gaining some reward with their first try, on 16 mins.  Second rower, Jimmy Shields, hit a good line, and although tackled just short of the line, was able to maintain his forward momentum, rolling over sideways to place the ball firmly over the line, while Charlie Glover brought the scores level with a successful conversion.

There was no gainsaying, however, that the home side had the better of the first half exchanges, with their then going over for two further, unconverted tries, to take the score to 14-6.

There seems to be no writing off of this U19s Salford side, however, and three minutes from half time, after a period of some prolonged pressure of their own, twice denying the Tigers further tries, with, first, a tremendous gang-tackle on the Cas right winger, who at one stage had looked a certain scorer, whilst sufficient numbers were available to prevent another potential scorer from grounding the ball, having crossed the line.

On the back of this, three minutes before half time, a prolonged period of possession brought further reward when prop, Lucas Isles, was unstoppable as he charged towards the line. giving Glover the easiest of conversions to bring the half-time score to 14-12.

The decisive score of the second half, came on 46 mins, from yet another Castleford attacking kick, which eluded the defending players and the resultant try and goal put the hosts two scores back in front.

If the first half had belonged to the home side, it was the Red Devils who dominated the remainder of the second half, as they sought to get back in touch with their hosts, and it was a sucker punch from half back, Sean Murray, who scooted over from a play-the-ball fifteen metres out.  Glover retained his hundred percent record with the hardest of his three attempts, to narrow the gap, once more.

With thirteen minutes left on the clock, there was still ample time for them to have scored again, and they did also have sufficient possession with which to do so, but the closest they came was when winger, Myles Paul was held up over the line in the left-hand corner.

After so many away games to start the season, the players can look forward to a home fixture, on Wednesday evening when they entertain Barrow, at Salford Roosters ground, KO 6.15pm

RED DEVILS IN DEPTH: CATALANS V SALFORD

Once again, the Salford Red Devils have come out on top in their latest Super League match, and once again they have done so with the flair and flamboyance, which is fast becoming their trademark, throughout the sport.

Trips to the south of France, so often so daunting, have just been taken in their stride these last few weeks, commencing with that impressive win over Toulouse Olympique at a time when they were enjoying a resurgence in their fortunes, to be followed up this weekend with a comprehensive victory over the Catalans Dragons.

A combination of lengthy travelling concluding with a two and a half hour coach journey, temperatures of thirty-two degrees, passionate and vociferously partisan crowd, together with uncompromisingly physical opponents, are some of the elements of the trip to Perpignan all teams have to face and overcome.

Judging by their performance on the night, our squad just took it all in their stride – evidence indeed of the high level of preparation which must have been undertaken to this end.  Certainly, the levels of focus and confidence were there in the abundance that had been evident in several of their recent games.

No matter that they fell behind after eight minutes to  Davies’s four-pointer.  That was just accepted and brushed off as a mere blip, and, once the opening-period arm-wrestle, during which the Frenchmen threw everything they possibly could at the visitors, was out of the way, the Reds just cut loose and ran in the tries, with increasing frequency as the game proceeded.

As a spectacle the game as a whole was of a somewhat stop-start nature, predominantly as a result of the home-side’s endeavours to disrupt the flowing Salford attack.  Later, in the second half, the full physicality of the Dragons’ defensive effort led to Langi’s sin-binning, whilst a tackle from McIllorum was placed on report, and several others were penalised, all of which aided the Red Devils’ cause.

Although clearly in the driving seat, by the interval, Salford’s lead was not a match winning one by any means, and indeed, the Dragons had reasserted their authority in the closing stages of the first half, leading to a second try in the corner from Davies.  The resumption, however, saw a complete reversal of that with Salford building on the foundations they had already laid, and adding scores far in excess of most fans’ expectations.

It was of no surprise to anyone, after the past few weeks, to find that once again they did it in style, with intricate passing moves that have prised open defences, almost at will.  One variation, on Saturday, however, was that most of the tries came through the middle, as opposed to the two flanks, where the wingers and centres have been having a feast of opportunities.

This time, though, it was Marc Sneyd’s angled run towards the posts, and Brodie Croft’s combining of a dummy with clever footwork to dart through the resultant gap, having already noted that the  fullback was not in position, to go over between the posts, which showed the way forward.  Ken Sio and Deon Cross still managed, nevertheless, to increase their tallies with a try apiece.

Perhaps the most thrilling sight of the afternoon, however, was that of Kallum Watkins surging through a gap and then (twice) thundering, unopposed to score between the posts.  How the years seemed to fall away as he replicated the scores he used to register so frequently, but doing so now, thankfully, in a Salford shirt.

As long as you are running in tries, Chris Atkin and Ryan Brierley adding their touchdowns to the growing number, the requirement to defend lies dormant, until, that is, the opposition manage to secure possession, again.  At that point the Salford players were more than eager to roll up their sleeves and undertake the necessary amount of tackling, which consequently limited Catalans to a mere three scores – something the Dragons’ coaching staff are said to have found embarrassing.

If that is the case, then, one has to wonder why.  Just a mere glance back at recent results and winning margins should have been enough to forewarn them as to what to expect.  If there has been any embarrassment at all it is because Salford embarrassed Catalans by how well they played, not because Catalans themselves were embarrassing.  They just were not quite up to the task of thwarting the Red Devils’ flow of attacks.

And this weekend? Why just two important league games, and four even more important league points at stake, against Hull and Castleford.  Having forced their way into the top six, it is now imperative that the Red Devils do everything they can to retain it.

RED DEVILS IN DEPTH: CATALANS V SALFORD

Once again, the Salford Red Devils have come out on top in their latest Super League match, and once again they have done so with the flair and flamboyance, which is fast becoming their trademark, throughout the sport.

Trips to the south of France, so often so daunting, have just been taken in their stride these last few weeks, commencing with that impressive win over Toulouse Olympique at a time when they were enjoying a resurgence in their fortunes, to be followed up this weekend with a comprehensive victory over the Catalans Dragons.

A combination of lengthy travelling concluding with a two and a half hour coach journey, temperatures of thirty-two degrees, passionate and vociferously partisan crowd, together with uncompromisingly physical opponents, are some of the elements of the trip to Perpignan all teams have to face and overcome.

Judging by their performance on the night, our squad just took it all in their stride – evidence indeed of the high level of preparation which must have been undertaken to this end.  Certainly, the levels of focus and confidence were there in the abundance that had been evident in several of their recent games.

No matter that they fell behind after eight minutes to  Davies’s four-pointer.  That was just accepted and brushed off as a mere blip, and, once the opening-period arm-wrestle, during which the Frenchmen threw everything they possibly could at the visitors, was out of the way, the Reds just cut loose and ran in the tries, with increasing frequency as the game proceeded.

As a spectacle the game as a whole was of a somewhat stop-start nature, predominantly as a result of the home-side’s endeavours to disrupt the flowing Salford attack.  Later, in the second half, the full physicality of the Dragons’ defensive effort led to Langi’s sin-binning, whilst a tackle from McIllorum was placed on report, and several others were penalised, all of which aided the Red Devils’ cause.

Although clearly in the driving seat, by the interval, Salford’s lead was not a match winning one by any means, and indeed, the Dragons had reasserted their authority in the closing stages of the first half, leading to a second try in the corner from Davies.  The resumption, however, saw a complete reversal of that with Salford building on the foundations they had already laid, and adding scores far in excess of most fans’ expectations.

It was of no surprise to anyone, after the past few weeks, to find that once again they did it in style, with intricate passing moves that have prised open defences, almost at will.  One variation, on Saturday, however, was that most of the tries came through the middle, as opposed to the two flanks, where the wingers and centres have been having a feast of opportunities.

This time, though, it was Marc Sneyd’s angled run towards the posts, and Brodie Croft’s combining of a dummy with clever footwork to dart through the resultant gap, having already noted that the  fullback was not in position, to go over between the posts, which showed the way forward.  Ken Sio and Deon Cross still managed, nevertheless, to increase their tallies with a try apiece.

Perhaps the most thrilling sight of the afternoon, however, was that of Kallum Watkins surging through a gap and then (twice) thundering, unopposed to score between the posts.  How the years seemed to fall away as he replicated the scores he used to register so frequently, but doing so now, thankfully, in a Salford shirt.

As long as you are running in tries, Chris Atkin and Ryan Brierley adding their touchdowns to the growing number, the requirement to defend lies dormant, until, that is, the opposition manage to secure possession, again.  At that point the Salford players were more than eager to roll up their sleeves and undertake the necessary amount of tackling, which consequently limited Catalans to a mere three scores – something the Dragons’ coaching staff are said to have found embarrassing.

If that is the case, then, one has to wonder why.  Just a mere glance back at recent results and winning margins should have been enough to forewarn them as to what to expect.  If there has been any embarrassment at all it is because Salford embarrassed Catalans by how well they played, not because Catalans themselves were embarrassing.  They just were not quite up to the task of thwarting the Red Devils’ flow of attacks.

And this weekend? Why just two important league games, and four even more important league points at stake, against Hull and Castleford.  Having forced their way into the top six, it is now imperative that the Red Devils do everything they can to retain it.

SALFORD WOMEN SPRING SURPRISES IN NINES TOURNAMENT

For those of us who remember the highly popular Sevens Tournaments of the 1970s, a version of rugby at which Salford used to excel, our over-riding memory was one of sheer speed, and rather less in terms of rugby skills, as pacey individuals simply ran amok in the acres of space at their disposal.  The modern version of nine-aside is an attempt to redress the balance, so with a total of eight players (four from each side) missing, there is now much more rugby evident, while still ample opportunity for potential match-winners to have their field day.

For Salford women’s side, with only one competitive game under their belt, the change to a completely different and novel style of play was always going to require an extremely steep learning curve to be able to cope, let alone come close to winning a match.  Even the scoring was unfamiliar, with a try between the posts, only, earning five points plus the conversions. Restarts after a score were by the scoring team dropping out to the team which had conceded.

So, probably, in light of all that, the other three fully experienced teams in Group D will all, undoubtedly, have been relishing an easy ride against the newcomers to the comp.  If that were the case, they will have had one almighty shock, when they came up against the Red Devils

OULTON

Salford v Oulton was, in fact, the opening match of the afternoon, so there was to be no opportunity to observe another fixture in order to acquaint themselves with what to expect ahead of their game, only the opening onslaught from the Yorkshire players who quickly rattled up an eight-point lead.

Desperate times require desperate measures, so, step forward, Salford fullback, Luci McKeown, who received the ball just inside the Red Devils’ half of the field, on the third tackle of the set.  Far from ensuring the completion of the set as the main priority, she happened to notice that Oulton’s fullback was out of position, so put in a lengthy kick down field chased after it, and, having won the race, she then showed the skills of a soccer player before touching down over the line and adding the conversion.

Oulton replied almost immediately with a converted try, but shortly before half time, winger, Alex Simpson was put clear down the left flank to score under the posts, which with the extra point this earned, plus McKeown’s conversion brought the score at the turnaround, to 13-14.

Oulton, it was again, who opened the scoring to the second half, taking the score to 13-21, but from that point the Red Devils took total command.  First, they set up a try for right winger, Lauren Ellison, whose try brought Salford to within four points, at 17-21, and they got in front for the first time 24-21, following an interception by Simpson, and the final score coming from Abbi Collins, 31-21

CASTLEFORD

Despite their Super League status, Castleford turned out to be wooden spoonists at the end of the afternoon, and Salford’s 26-4 victory contributed to this.  A quite remarkable pass from McKeown, whilst being tackled, to Kayleigh Bradshaw got Simpson away and under the posts, for their first seven points of the match.  Then, lo and behold, McKeown replicated her try from the previous match, with the only variation being that she caught the kick on the bounce, to score under the posts to bring the score to 14-0

Castleford’s solitary score came just before half time, when the effort from all three, nine-minute periods, compiled to catch up on the Red Devils, but the second half was one way traffic, starting with a right to left passing move along the line to Simpson, once again, who crossed in the corner. 18-4

Hooker, Taz Corcoran, then caught out the defence, with a dart to the blind side for Ellison to score in the right corner to move the score on to 22-4.  Finally, prop, Demi Jones, got in on the act, with a most incredible ball steal to gain possession, for the last try of the game.

HUDDERSFIELD

It was only fitting that the final match was between the two best, and thus far undefeated, sides in this Group.  And how did this culminating match open?  Why, with a kick down the field by McKeown, and yet again a try under the posts.  Self-converted, of course.  Huddersfield were behind for the first time all afternoon.

Sadly, that was as good as it got for Salford, in this encounter.  Huddersfield had been clearly the team of the Group throughout the afternoon, winning both their previous matches, at a canter, and when, in the heat of the occasion, the Salford players lost some of their composure and started making handling errors, the Yorkshire side took advantage of each one.

The half time score of 7-10, quickly rose to 7-20, upon the resumption, until Ellison picked up a loose ball and showed a clean pair of heels over seventy metres, hotly pursued, to the posts.  There was still sufficient time, though, for Huddersfield to underline their superiority to bring up a final score of 14-24.

So, Huddersfield will progress as Group D’s representatives in the Final stage of the competition, at the A J Bell in a few weeks’ time, and congratulations to them in so doing.  A special concluding word, however, for all the Salford players who, so magnificently, represented the club, over the course of the afternoon.

There would have been no shame in their having lost all their matches, being so new to rugby league, let alone the nine-aside variation of it, against such experienced opponents.  To have won two of them, and to have kept to within ten points of the overall winners was incredible, and they all deserve every accolade of praise they receive.

They can only learn from today’s venture, and will get even better as a result.  They fully deserve the utmost of support, and would undoubtedly welcome your attendance at some of their home games, starting, this weekend against Dewsbury, on Sunday afternoon, at the home of Salford Roosters.

SALFORD SQUAD:

Luci McKeown, Lauren Ellison, Eponine Fletcher, Alex Simpson, Louise Fellingham, Taz Corcoran, Kayleigh Bradshaw, Yasmin Parton-Sotomayor, Gabby Chaplin, Abbi Collins, Demi Jones

FINAL POSITIONS GROUP D:

  1. Huddersfield
  2. Salford
  3. Oulton
  4. Castleford

David Watkins MBE wins special award at Wales Sports Awards

Last night Salford Red Devils legend and all-time top points scorer David Watkins MBE received the Special Recognition Award at the Wales Sports Awards 2017.
Phil Bennett, when presenting the award, said: “This gentleman is up there at the very top.” 
Watkins featured for the Red Devils between 1967 and 1979 making over 400 appearances for the Club and racking up a staggering 2907 points while at The Willows.
The Welshman captained Salford in their last Challenge Cup final appearance against Castleford at Wembley in 1969 and also earned caps for both Wales and Great Britain. Watkins went on to finish his career with Swinton.
The Club legend was a star in both codes playing for Wales and the British and Irish Lions in Rugby Union after spells with several Welsh Rugby Union sides.
In the 1986 New Year Honours, Watkins was appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) for his services to Rugby League.
Everyone at the Salford Red Devils would like to congratulate David Watkins on a most deserved award.

Coach to offer unique insight at hospitality

Our Super 8s opener against Castleford Tigers on Friday 11th August will see the Red Devils launch a brand-new interactive format for our hospitality guests which will include a post-match interview with Ian Watson.
Ian Watson has guided the Red Devils from the brink of relegation to the club’s highest ever Super League final and their first Ladbrokes Challenge Cup semi-final in almost twenty years.
Listening to head coach Ian Watson after the opening Super 8s fixture offers a unique and unmissable insight into what goes into a game of this magnitude, the tactics and how the coach reacts in the immediate aftermath to the game.
The event will be hosted by Rugby League legends Garreth Carvell and Robbie Hunter-Paul. Our new hospitality deal will also feature a delightful three-course meal alongside a VIP seat to watch the game.
Come down and get your chance to listen to the head coach immediately after the Red Devils opening Super 8s fixture against Castleford.
With the prize of an Old Trafford Grand Final appearance looming, hospitality at this huge game can be yours for the price of just £80+VAT.
To take advantage of this offer and occasion, just email fiona.woods@salfordreddevils.net, who will be happy to reserve your seat.
Don’t forget, if you can’t make it this week there are still three further Red Devils home games before the end of September so everybody can take part in our most amazing season in decades.

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