There is nothing more surprising than outcomes and results in any sport, and the only thing which we should be surprised by is our own surprise at unexpected results, because they happen so often, all of which is what makes it so fascinating to watch. That was certainly the case, this weekend, for Salford Red Ded Devils when they took on the visiting Wakefield Trinity, with their visitors languishing without a victory at the foot of the table, whilst the Reds themselves were on the back of a sixty-point scoreline from the previous week.
Expectations for this encounter, therefore, had the sky as the limit in the minds of many, and when Matty Costello crossed for a converted try, in the fourth minute, thanks to a considerable overlap that their signature, slick handling had forged, a few more, rathermore guarded individuals will have joined their ranks.
It has been said, on previous occasions in these pages. that scoring too early and too easily can become something of a double-edged sword, by encouraging over-confidence in a team’s ranks, which leads to a small but important drop in their intensity, which in turn feeds into a growth in self-confidence among their opponents.
Factor in the desperation at Wakefield’s current plight, which must be eminent throughout their ranks, coupled with the fact that they had obviously done a very thorough job in their preparation for the game so that every strike player for Salford had been identified and was carefully marshalled. Kallum Watkins, for example, found, in opposite number Matty Ashurst, an almost ever-present obstacle to his breaking clear.
So the longer the Red Devils went without scoring again, the more the visitors grew in self-belief, and they found themselves getting to those try-saving tackles which kept their deficit to manageable proportions. For their part the home side started to show signs of frustration with themselves at their further lack of success, and a wild pass on their own line caused a goal-line drop-out, from which Wakefield opened their account, after ten minutes, to draw level.
A thwarted opportunity to score through Deon Cross, in the 23rd minute, as often happens in these circumstances led to the opposition going to the other end and taking a 6-10 lead with an unconverted try in their right corner. Fortunately, Salford still had one more try left in them before the interval, from a simple, basic scoot by Chris Atkins which was sufficient to get him over to restore a two-point half-time lead.
It would appear that discussions over half-time had shifted the Reds’ focus for the second half to establishing midfield dominance by the forwards, and for the first twenty minutes this went well with the pack gaining good field position and keeping the visitors penned in their own half. Tyler Dupree might not have made any eye-catching clean breaks, but he certainly made the Wakefield six struggle to contain him.
It was similarly great to see the now-returned, Adam Sidlow, rolling back the years by a decade since his last spell here, and wearing the opposition down using his power and size to grand effect, as he has done against us so many times during the interim period.
The nearest the home side were to come to scoring though was on 59 mins, when Rhys Williams got over the line, only to lose the ball in a last-ditch tackle, and, when Wakefield did eventually get to the other end, they were awarded a penalty in front of the posts which tied the score at twelve all, ten minutes from time.
It is at times like these that someone has to emerge to set their seal on the game, and, on this occasion, it was man-of-the-match, Marc Sneyd. He had been one of the Salford players, throughout the game, to have been able to trouble the Trinity defence, but drop-goals, after all, are one of his specialities. How reassuring it was, therefore, to watch him take complete control of the situation in the final five minutes, and through extra time.
His first, with five minutes remaining, was promptly wiped out by Wakefield, who were gifted possession from the restart, by Salford’s failing to take the ball before it went into touch, his second attempt was a rushed affair which went wide and his third was successful in itself but with it being disallowed for an incorrect play-the-ball immediately before. There was no such doubt over his final kick which won the match, much to everyone’s relief.
Disappointing as the performance might have been, however, the benefit of going through a dour, tough encounter, not to mention experiencing golden-point extra time, will undoubtedly stand them in good stead for the future, for it is not just having players who have gone through these experiences elsewhere themselves, but the whole group going through it together and learning from one another how to do so, successfully.