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.