RED DEVILS IN DEPTH: SALFORD V HULL

Following upon those recent, telling victories over London, Warrington, and St Helens, the Salford Red Devils further cemented their position in the top six with this, their fourth consecutive win, over revitalised Hull FC.

It has been an unfortunate quirk of the fixture list that the two sides have been kept apart so far into the season, which has meant that, whilst the Yorkshire side was really struggling for form, every other side has had the benefit of rich pickings, which, with the recent upturn of events on Humberside, has been denied the Red Devils.

Consequently, it was a far more evenly contested encounter which unfolded through the eighty minutes, than might earlier have been the case, with the visitors competing tooth and nail through to the bitter end.

Notice of this was served at the very outset, with the opening arm-wrestle lasting over nine full minutes, with end-to-end forays being soaked up by dominant defences on both sides. 

Even though it was the Red Devils who probably had the better field-position outcomes of these exchanges, they failed to set up any real threat to the Hull line, and it was not until 26 minutes that they opened the scoring courtesy Deon Cross, in the left corner.

An increase in tempo from the home side, coinciding with the mid-half interchanges, built up the first real pressure on the visitors, and the successfully developing half back combination of Marc Sneyd and Chris Atkin, with fullback, Ryan Brierley, linking in as the ball was swiftly moved from right to left, to find the winger in sufficient space to increase his rapidly growing number of tries.

What happened next, however, was to portend a series of similar events later in the game, for having just got themselves ahead the Red Devils were unable to take the ball from the kick-off, and Hull promptly took advantage of the situation to go over between the posts, directly from a scrum, to take the lead with their conversion.

Having failed to convert the first try from a difficult position, Sneyd ensured that that was to be a solitary one-off, and went on to slot the remaining goal attempts over, three of which were from penalties, the timing of which was absolutely crucial, giving the Reds a points’ boost just when they were most in need of them.  The first came right on half time to level the scores, the second on 45 mins expanded their, by then, lead to an important three scores, and what was most crucial of all, the third one extending, what was, then, a mere four-point lead to that of a converted try.

So often, since his return, we have all been grateful for his reliability in this facet of his game, but to a certain extent can start to take it for granted.  It is only when we witness opposing kickers missing such vital attempts at goal, as happened twice at the end of this game, that we realise just how much we owe to him on so many occasions.

It was his open-play kicking, at the start of the second half, however, which put the Reds in the dominant position for so much of the remainder of the game.  Just two minutes after the resumption, it was his chip above the defence which Brierley caught before falling over the line to take the lead for the first time, before his forty-twenty set up the position for their third score.

A subsequent penalty after the tap restart, saw the ball moved towards the right where the versatile Chris Hankinson, recently so reliable in the fullback role and this week deployed in the centre position he once occupied so regularly with our U20s back in 2012, celebrated by exploiting the space, out wide, for his third try of the season.

The remainder of the game, however, proved to be something of a frustration from a number of missed opportunities – Brierley’s mis-footing and Sneyd’s being thwarted from grounding the ball being the most significant –  which gave a fillip to the opposition, and led to a few handling and decision making errors, alongside a tiring, somewhat below par defence, that failed to prevent two Hull four-pointers, which, in themselves, failed to overturn what turned out to be the final winning scoreline in favour of the Red Devils.

It was, nevertheless, an important success, which has kept Salford not only in the top six, but also put them joint second with high-flyers such as Warrington, St Helens, and Hull KR – something we should be vaunting throughout the whole of the city. 

Next up comes another club, from which we have been kept well away, thus far, Catalans Dragons.   Tough as trips to the South of France invariably turn out to be, having recently completed the double over two of their co-habitants in second place, there is no gainsaying that the Reds will not be able to notch the first of yet another remarkable pair of victories.

RED DEVILS IN DEPTH: SALFORD V ST HELENS

A truly magnificent performance, saw the Salford Red Devils follow up their away win at the Totally Wicked Stadium, in early March, with yesterday’s home victory to complete their first double over St Helens since the 1979/80 season, forty-four years ago.

Not only that, they also made it two doubles in a row, and against teams higher in the league than they, themselves, following up the previous week’s away defeat of Warrington.  We had said this one would be tough, and it most certainly was with the Red Devils thrice having to come back from 6-0, 12-10, and 18-14 deficits.

We also said that a repeat of their performance in the victory over the Wolves, if they could manage it, might be sufficient to bring them the rewards, and, wow, did they manage to do just that, with the match-winning, try-of-the-game coming seven minutes from the final whistle, and their managing the remaining time superbly, keeping the Saints pinned down in their own half, for the majority of it.

Falling behind to Bell’s fifth minute converted try seemed to cause them little concern as they continued thereafter to repel the visitors’ early pressure, but it was not until twelfth minutes that they got within sight of the Saints’ line, forcing a goal-line drop-out as some reward.

They had to wait until a penalty, on 17mins, for a high tackle, gave them their best starting field-position, with Shane Wright reversing the initial direction of play and finding Deon Cross, unmarked, to go in at the corner.

Marc Sneyd’s failed attempt at obtaining a try by kicking the ball to his unmarked half-back colleague, Chris Atkin, did at least show the extent to which their partnership has developed, and indeed that was shown to greater effect in the way the pair linked to help set up the final try, with Sneyd’s pass enabling Atkin then to send out, what was assessed by some, as the most crucial pass in the line of the seven pairs of hands, involved in the move.

For Sneyd, though, the over-ruling of his ploy seemed to affect his next couple of attempts at goal, with his most unusually missing both, and then everything relying on his final conversion attempt to secure the win.  His overall performance though was as effective as ever, as he organised and directed play around the field.

Salford’s wingers continued to impress with the next score seeing Deon Cross repeat not only his brace from the previous week but also the winning try itself from Sneyd’s pinpoint kick to the corner.  Indeed, Cross was later voted our sponsor’s Man of the Match, for his stirring all-round performance on both attack and defence, alongside skipper, Kallum Watkins who received the same acknowledgement from Sky TV.

For his part Ethan Ryan was also impressive with his most significant contribution coming with his thirty metre run down his right flank, before passing inside to Chris Hankinson to complete the move with his touchdown for the day’s final score.

Once again, Hankinson’s contribution was well in excess of what might reasonably be expected of someone with limited experience in the role, and it was most fitting that he should be rewarded for it with the final try.

For fans of both sides, the second half was something akin to a ride on the big dipper, with hopes soaring and sinking in equal amounts over the forty, none so quickly changing as when Nene Macdonald’s try was overturned by the referee, as a result of two infringements – one from each side – and Salford being awarded the put-in at the ensuing scrum for St Helens’s initial knock-on.

For three matches now, Macdonald has been used as the ‘go to’ target for some of Sneyd’s high end-of-set, attacking kicks, and for the first time this brought success, with his palm backwards of the ball, where Watkins, having vied with Hankinson to collect it, claimed the score.

While Saints probably had slightly the better of the exchanges, in the second forty, with their scoring three tries to two, it was the four point advantage at half-time, as a result of Salford’s two tries to one in the first half, which stood them in such good stead to be able to go on and collect the two league points.

As for the rest of the side, they all covered themselves with glory for their sterling efforts throughout.  Joe Mellor’s scoots at the play-the-ball, for example, have now begun to cause so many problems in opposition defences that they have become a significant nuisance value to the side.

And when they were not engaged in wave after wave of attack, such as the ten-minute period at the start of the second half, they were all a part of the tremendous defensive wall they put up, which so successfully limited the Saints’ scoring machine to less points than they needed even to draw.

So, with an international giving the rest of Super League a blank weekend this week, the lads will have a most deserved rest, but when they return, it will be to a significantly different challenge of getting themselves fully motivate for seeing off one of the lower sides in the league, Hull, who, themselves, have made noticeable strides in recent weeks.  A large vociferous crowd would be a welcome addition to their motivation.

RED DEVILS IN DEPTH: SALFORD V WIGAN

It was always going to be a considerable challenge backing up that historic victory over St Helens, last week, after a forty-four year wait, against the current league leaders and World Club Champions, Wigan Warriors, because playing against teams of that calibre, with their extra size, power, speed and flair, really takes it out of opposing players.  It is not unusual for other sides to suffer a drop in their own performance, the week following an encounter with one or other of these two teams.

Salford, though, have been a real eye-opener so far this season, and it would be fair to say that Thursday evening’s fixture was between the two most in-form sides in Super League, and any doubters to that view must surely have had their opinions corrected by the Red Devils’ contribution to what proved to be a most high-class contest between the two sides.

One might say that this was almost unexpected because the Red Devils had suffered considerably from injuries and illnesses, prior to kick off.  Despite this it was Salford who settled the more quickly, taking advantage of a Wigan error in their first set.

From there, the first half ebbed and flowed, with first one side well-placed with both possession and field position, and then the other.  Two aspects of their attacks which both shared were their ability to transition smoothly from defence into attack, and then to follow this up with back-to-back sets from opposition’s touches, set-restarts, penalties and enforced goal-line drop-outs.

Consequently, the Warriors’ first set error, was followed by Chris Atkin making great progress upfield, followed by an excellent, Marc Sneyd end-of-set kick-in-goal, which brought them not only a goal-line drop-out, but a set-restart, too.

Little wonder, therefore, that after twelve minutes play it was Salford who had had by far the greater ascendency with Wigan being limited to occasional sets of possession, which gained them only temporary relief. 

That all changed, a minute later, when the Warriors were awarded a couple of penalties and then had two seven-tackle sets which, starting on their 20m line, enabled them to get much closer to the Red Devils’ line, and they, too, forced a goal-line drop-out for good measure.

The Reds’ defence, however, just as Wigan’s had been earlier, was equal to the task, but it was mid-half before the game settled into a cut and thrust arm wrestle, and the half hour before Salford were able to regain the ascendency and challenge sustainedly the Warriors’ goal-line defence, once again. 

It was, however, the lack of scoring opportunities, for both side, which, was the significant aspect of the half, with Salford’s most hopeful opportunity resulting, for the second game in succession, with Ryan Brierley in collision with Smith, whilst attempting to get to the ball to ground it between the post.

Just as it looked as though the teams would be leaving the field at half-time with a 0-0 draw on the cards, Wigan conjured up a well-placed grubber kick into the corner for left winger Marshall to ground the ball, which stood up beautifully into his arms for him, in the last minute, and put them four points ahead.

The second half, in total contrast to the first, whilst still retaining those protracted periods of ascendency, saw a total of four end in tries, all of which were converted.  First, it was the Warriors, who built upon two back-to-back sets near the Salford line, by sending out a wide pass to Miski on the right wing and put them in double figures.

Tries like that, either side of half-time, can so often kill a game off, with that team following up with even more, but not on this occasion.  Salford, despite this seeming setback, took the game by the scruff of the neck, and no less than three back-to-back sets ended with Sneyd’s marvellous kick-in-goal bringing a try under the posts for Sam Stone, on 50 mins.

Twelve minutes later, Sneyd repeated this feat, with another in-goal kick this time to the left edge, which Tim Lafae latched onto, to put the Reds ahead for the first time after Sneyd had landed the goal from well out.

Heartbreakingly, there was to be one final twist.  We all know that a dismissal or sin-binning can change the balance of the game – usually in the favour of the non-offending team – but on this occasion Smith’s sinbinning on 72 mins turned out to favour the visitors, who galvanised themselves to even greater effort to see the game through.

The match winner came on 75 mins when a Salford goal-line drop-out was taken with a clear run to the line after the Red Devils’ right edge had been sucked into contesting for the ball, and the Warriors still had time to cross again with French using his explosive running talent cut through to give the scoreboard a somewhat unrepresentative look.

So, two points might have been lost, but what the Red Devils have gained in terms of respect, both locally and across the whole of rugby league, could well turn out to be far more important, for have they not shown to everyone that they can live with, and match, the elite of Super League, not just on one-off occasions but week-in week-out, even in the adverse context of last night? Bring on the rest!

RED DEVILS IN DEPTH: ST HELENS V SALFORD

Whilst it might be true that ‘everything comes to those who wait’, it has to be said that forty-four years is a considerable length of time to have waited –  half a lifetime, in fact – for that it is how long it had been since a Salford team has won away, at St Helens. 

On a total of forty-one occasions (the numerical discrepancy attributable to the Reds’ seasons out of the top flight and the pandemic on the one hand, and loop fixtures, cup ties if any, and play off games on the other) their fans have turned up at, first, Knowsley Rd, and later the Totally Wicked Stadium, with at least some measure of hope that their favourites would come up with a win, all to no avail as, on each of those occasions, the Saints extended their winning run with another victory.

Until last Friday, that is, when, at long last, it all came to an end.  Certainly, the travelling fans will have, once again, had some cause for optimism, with the Saints having produced a less than stellar performance, the previous week against Leigh, whilst Salford seem to have gelled together as a team far more quickly than many other Super League sides.

 That latter undoubtedly needed to be the case as the home side set to, to gain the ascendency from the outset, and the Red Devils needed all their defensive expertise to keep their line intact as wave after wave of onslaught was thrown at them.  On 6 mins, great tackling on Sironen succeeded in holding him up over the line, and then three minutes later, forced a Saints’ mid-set error, close to the Salford line.

Defending the line from a scrum, however, is much more problematic, with so few players in so much space, and in the tenth minute the Saints exploited that to send Welsby over for a crucially-unconverted try, with Dodd adding a second, eight minutes later.

Their ascendency was broken, almost immediately, thereupon,  by Marc Sneyd’s using the wind to hang the ball in the air from the kick-off, thereby causing havoc in the St Helens ranks and the Red Devils’ gaining some much-needed possession in good field position.

It was Salford’s turn now to turn on the pressure, and if there were evidence that they might, at any stage, steal the win, it was the way they then put the home defence to the sword testing it throughout the following ten minutes.  Three times they went close, once in the left-hand corner, immediately followed likewise by Kallum Watkins towards the right, both on 22 mins, and then two minutes later, a collision, which would have stood further video-referee scrutiny, with Walmsley denying Ryan Brierley the chance to get to the ball from a kick into the in-goal area.

Nevertheless, they got their just rewards on 24 mins, when Deon Cross scored in the left-hand corner to open the visitors’ account.  Saints might have had difficulty with their goalkicking, but with yet another one hundred percent record – three from the touchline – on its way, Sneyd reduced the arears to a mere two points.

Even so, Saints were to have the final say of the half, capitalising on a couple of Salford errors, to send Percival in under the posts, for a try which he then converted to restore the home lead to eight points.

It has been said that the 43rd minute dismissal of Percival was the turning point of the game, but that might be rather too simplistic, because little in the way of outcomes on the field actually changed, for a while.

Players are so used to temporary, ten-minute sin-binnings of opponents, which require them to make that period really count in terms of points on the board, but total dismissal is quite different enabling patience, composure, and pressure building, over a protracted period of time.

For the following fifteen minutes, however, the Salford players threw caution to the wind in their endeavours to score at virtually every play, and consequently rather than scores it was errors only, which accrued.

The actual turning point came, when, against all expectations, Dodd scored his second try, which this time he converted to open up a 20-6 lead.  This seemed to act as a wake-up call to Salford, and from the restart there appeared to be the determination to be error-free from that point on, and a focus on the aforementioned patience and composure saw them building up the most concerted pressure of the game.

Although St Helens were able to deal with this in the short term, so relentless did it become that it was only a matter of time before their line was to be breached, and it was the strength of Nene Macdonald which enabled him, on 65 mins, to twist round in a tackle on the try line to ground the ball, and restore the long-standing, yet overturn-able, eight-point margin.

Next, a touch-in-flight by Saints winger Bennison, gave the Reds a set restart, and after Salford been endeavouring to outflank their opponents on the edges throughout the game, St Helens were caught completely unawares, by Chris Atkin’s step back inside from first receiver, to go over between the posts, on 67 mins, and all but eliminate the St Helens lead.

Not quite, though, and it required one piece of absolutely brilliant handling by Tim Lafai, followed by equally clinical finishing by Cross for his second of the evening, to put the Red Devils ahead, for the first time in the game, on 74 mins.

By the time the teams had lined for the short kick-off, which was taken by St Helens, there was still three minutes remaining.  Salford fans’ thoughts might well have then wandered back to other such occasions when their hosts had snatched the game, at the death – most recently from Matty Smith’s post-hooter drop-goal, Regan Grace’s last minute try in the corner, and a controversial video-refereeing call of a try, which many thought might have been overturned for a double movement.

Not this time, however.  Try as they did to force their way over St Helens were held short on each occasion – Walmsley losing the ball in the tackle which halted their closest call –  and for the first time since 12th January, 1980, the Red Devils held on to win a game, which will stand proudly alongside their 1996 second round Challenge Cup victory over Wigan, in the minds of all Salford fans.

RED DEVILS IN DEPTH: SALFORD V HULL KR

After as many as seven games against Saturday’s visitors, Hull KR, and only one victory to celebrate – last season’s Magic Weekend – Salford fans might well have felt a little trepidation ahead of this one, with a sense of déjà vu hanging over them.  There was no need to worry, though, for the team turned on arguably its best performance of the season, taking control of events from the outset, and seeing it right through to the final whistle.

Conditions, one might have thought, remembering the fast slick handling that became their hallmark, in late 2022, would probably have been against them, with an extremely wet, slippery ball to handle, and equally treacherous conditions underfoot, but to many people’s surprise, it was they, who mastered all this far and away the better of the sides.

So what was it that they did so well, which laid the platform for their second home win of the season?  Like every game, the foundations were based around a dominant, robust, hard-working pack, led by those stalwart of the side, Brad Singleton and Kallum Watkins.

 This was in evidence from the very first set, when they received the ball, from the kick-off, on their ten-metre line, but instead of being pinned down to a ten to twenty metre gain, they finished the set in their opponents’ half having made over forty metres upfield.  And that set the prelude to all the hard drives and heavy yardage they were to make during the remainder of the match.

The team as a whole was prepared to work as hard as was needed and this showed through in their defence, which was immaculate.  They kept their shape, almost unerringly, throughout the whole of the game, and there was one five-minute spell from the 26th to 31st mins, in which they had to face five consecutive sets of six, at the end of which their line was still intact.

Their willingness to forage for the ball was far the superior, and it invariably seemed to be they, who were first to any loose ball.  Their preparedness to give away back-to-back sets by getting a hand to deflect a possibly telling pass, during that five-minute period, was much of the reason that it lasted so long.

When in possession, they concentrated on getting to the end of their sets, without taking too risky offloads.  Around the play-the-ball, hooker, Amir Bourouh showed the extent to which he has slotted into the side at hooker, and he dictated play around the ruck, throughout.  It was he, who spotted the Robins’ lack of numbers on the blindside, on 34 mins, sent the ball out to the right, where Chris Hankinson went in for his first, Super League try for Salford.

Although not recognised as a winger, both he, and fellow winger, Deon Cross, have done extremely well in a position, which, in the modern game carries much responsibility, as two thirds of the vital back three.  Both have become fine centres over recent years, but their moves out onto the wings has not fazed them at all, and both were try scorers, on the night.

The third member of the said back three was the cause of a last-minute change prior to kick-off, with Ryan Brierley pulling out, and Chris Atkin being thrown in at the deep-end, into the fullback role.  If anyone had any qualms as to how he would cope, they should not have done, having seen how he has managed to slot into, seemingly, any position on the field.

Indeed, his first involvement, in only the third minute, was to see him halt Ryan Hall in full-flight, only ten metres from the try line.  Even more eye-catching was his magnificent defence, 24 mins in, when he bravely dived onto the ball to make it safe from a kick onto his line, with sundry Hull players bearing down on him giving him little room for error.

Then finally, of course, there was Man of the Match, Marc Sneyd.  His kicking game has been a lynch pin in all our matches to date, but he really came into his own on Saturday, with his various types of kick, which time and again turned the Robins’ defensive line inside-out and round-about. It was his low kick into the in-goal area that was grounded by Cross for the opening try of the game, in the 14th minute.

Add on a one hundred percent goal-kicking record, not just in this game, but throughout the season, and he has become one of the stand-out players in Super League, to date. His first two successes, on Saturday, were both from the touchline, and on opposite sides of the field, but both delivered with laser-like accuracy.

So, an excellent all-round team performance, delivering a clever, well-thought out game-plan devised by Head Coach, Paul Rowley, and his coaching staff, in which the strengths of the Salford players were fundamental. 

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.

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.

CHRIS ATKIN WINS JULY PLAYER OF THE MONTH

Chris Atkin has been voted July’s Player of the Month.

Mr Versatile has won the award ahead of teammates, Ben Hellewell and Ken Sio, who have both also enjoyed some excellent individual performances across July.

It was a tough month as a collective, but Atkin was still a shining light for Paul Rowley’s side.

Constantly shuffled around the team sheet without complaint, the 30-year-old is certainly a fan favourite and perhaps it’s about time he got his hands on an individual accolade.

Reacting to winning the award, Atkin said: “I really appreciate all the support from the fans.

“Playing out of position, I have taken on a lot of different roles this season, so it is great to get that recognition.”

Got a question for Chris? Head to our social channels to ask it and you may be featured in one of our upcoming videos.

A huge congratulations to Chris for the award!

JUNE PLAYER OF THE MONTH NOMINEES REVEALED

It’s time for you to vote for your June Player of the Month…

The Red Devils started the month with a bang and picked up two fantastic victories over Hull KR and Castleford Tigers.

In a close encounter at Magic Weekend, Brodie Croft was the star of a 26-16 victory.

That result was followed by a stunning, attacking display at the Mend-A-Hose Jungle, where we scored eight tries and moved within two points of the top.

With injuries in the squad at a crucial time, our progress has been slightly halted as of late.

We were eliminated from the Betfred Challenge Cup by Hull KR and suffered back-to-back Betfred Super League defeats against Wigan Warriors and Wakefield Trinity.

However, four names have been standout performers for Paul Rowley’s squad across the month of June.

Starting with Ryan Brierley, who has been nominated for a fourth consecutive month.

His consistency at fullback is a pivotal part of our spine and he is so often a driving force behind some of our best performances this season.

As is the skipper, Kallum Watkins – our second nominee.

A natural centre in the second-row, the England international continues to show his class on a week-by-week basis.

The return of Ken Sio was a welcome boost to the team last month. He scored two excellent tries against Castleford and reminded everyone why he is one of the most prolific wingers in the league.

Chris Atkin – who signed a contract extension last month – is our final nominee and Mr Versatile has been called upon in multiple positions, yet again this month.

Most notably, he finished a stunning breakaway try at Magic Weekend to secure the two points.

So… who gets your vote? Let us know by voting in the poll below!


2023 JUNE PLAYER OF THE MONTH!

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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.

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