RED DEVILS REGROUP TO MATCH DOMINANT ROVERS

Salford 10  Featherstone 30                         Match Report

One of those purple patches, when a team gets on top and everything they attempt comes off almost spectacularly, came the way of Featherstone Rovers Ladies’ side, for a twenty minutes spell, around the middle of the first half of yesterday’s rearranged game at the Salford Stadium, enabling them to set their hosts a significant challenge for the remainder of the encounter.

But rise to that challenge they did, despite having fallen behind by twenty points, by 27 minutes, and the longer the game went on, the more they managed to get on a par, and at times beyond, their opponents.

There had been little to indicate any of this in the opening minutes, with both teams, settling into an arm wrestle, which seemed to favour neither side, but then suddenly, in the ninth minute three telling passes opened up an overlap on the Fev right wing, and inside support of the break   enabled them to cross for the first score of the afternoon.

It did not remain the only try for very long, with their pressing home their advantage to register back-to-back tries, with, this time, a converted try, on twelve minutes to take their advantage to ten points.

Whilst the somewhat stunned Salford players were then able to stem the tide temporarily, they struggled to match the strength and physicality of the Yorkshire side, who really bossed the show, though the Reds did have the satisfaction, on one occasion, of pushing the much bigger Featherstone pack off the ball, at a set scrum close to the Rovers line, giving them a rare opportunity to test the visitors’ goal-line defence.

It was, nevertheless, they, who were next to score, once again, capitalising, on twenty minutes, from a Salford error in taking an end-of-set kick, and then stretched their lead even further, seven minutes later, to 0-20.

With the writing on the wall, and a long afternoon imminent, it needed something quite special to stem the flow and turn things around.  Step forward Sage Bannister, one of Salford’s close season recruits, who has settled extremely well into the club, despite having come from a rugby union background.  The change to league though has certainly suited her, and her name has been mentioned in other previous reports, primarily for her defensive feats, at fullback.

On this occasion, however, it was her capacity to attack from deep, in the thirty-sixth minute, which was to be so significant.  Receiving the ball from a scrum twenty-five metres from the Salford line, she spotted a gap in the Fev defence, through which she shot and then outpaced all attempts to halt her over seventy-five metres, including those coming from defenders cutting cross field at her, to round the try line and score between the posts, for what was undoubtedly the try of the game, easily converted by Demi Jones.

It was just what was needed to rally the Salford troops, and the second half was a much more evenly fought encounter as a result, with the whole team picking themselves and breaking the stranglehold the Rovers had had on the game.   From that point on they gave as good as they got, and although the rewards came predominantly through near misses, they did add to their tally with a further try.

A clever, low, end-of-set kick through the line, by Louise Fellingham, stood up nicely for centre Alex Simpson, invariably among the try scorers, to take the ball and cross, on 66 mins, to take the Reds into double figures.

It almost led to back-to-back tries, two minutes later, when a tremendous break by prop, Darcey Price, set up good position for Steph Gray to go over, only for her to prevented from grounding the ball correctly, which, unfortunately, was also what had happened in the right-hand corner to winger Liana Leota, nine minutes after the restart.

Although the visitors were rather more clinical in their grounding, they were limited to only two further scores, which was half the number from the first half, and they were made to work much harder for their points as the Salford forwards increasingly matched their domination.

 The outstanding performance of second rower, Helena Walker, with what must surely have been her best performance of the season so far, was the highlight of the home pack’s endeavours.  Despite not having the physical attributes of size and power of the Rovers, she stood up to the might of them from the very outset making really strong carries, and mustering up, relentlessly, on defence with determined tackling on any opponent.

As the players continue to develop in their adapting to the significantly increased demands of life in Super League, this game might well turn out to be a point in the season when they learned how to deal with, and overcome, bigger and stronger opponents.

SALFORD

Sage Bannister, Liana Leota, Alexandra Simpson, Stephanie Gray, Lauren Ellison, Louise Fellingham, Demi-Lea Jones, Abigail Collins, Brogan Evans, Emerald Hickey, Victoria Kini, Helena Walker, Megan Condliffe

Substitutes

Yasmin Parton Sotomayor, Aoife McKenna, Phoebe Partington, Tamzin Corcoran, Darcey Price

RED DEVILS SHOW THEIR CLASS

Salford Red Devils 28  Warrington Wolves Luna 14                     Match Report

In front of what was by far the largest home crowd of the season, the Salford Red Devils ladies’ team, winners of the League Cup only ten days earlier, put on a display of skilled open rugby, which must have delighted the contingent of Salford supporters who had turned out to cheer them on.

It had been back in late March when these two sides had first clashed in what had been the Reds’ opening fixture of the season, and how rewarding it must have been, last night for everyone to reflect on their performance in that first encounter, compared with the slickness of their performance, this time around.

In fairness, both sides had made considerable progress over the season, and the visitors showed their quality in the opening stages, crossing for the first score, after only four minutes, and then regaining a 6-8 lead, on 18 mins, after centre, Sade Rihari had, together with Demi Jones’s conversion, given the home side a slight advantage, on seven minutes.

The game changed remarkably, and from the visitors’ perspective, most cruelly, on the restart, when the kick-off saw the ball put into space in the Warrington twenty where at least three unpredictable bounces, saw Salford fullback, Luci McKeown, first onto it, with a second kick to knock it over the try line, where she grounded it, for Salford’s second score.

Going up in sixes, whilst the opposition are doing so in fours, is most helpful, and Jones’s second conversion emphasised her superiority in this department.  Relinquishing their briefly restored lead so promptly, must have been quite sickening for the Warrington players, and indeed the remainder of the first half saw Salford in total command, building on their now increased advantage on the score board.

By half time, that advantage had further increased by ten points, courtesy of right winger, Lauren Ellison, who crossed for two tries.  The first came directly from a scrum, twenty metres from the Warrington line.  The initial running was done by Taz Corcoran, who had packed down at the back of the scrum, from where she collected the ball taking it to the right, whilst also drawing defenders in, so that when Ellison received the ball she had a free run to the corner.

Five minutes from the interval, fine defensive work by Alex Simpson forced a knock on, thereby providing further possession for the Reds.  The ball was moved slickly along the line, until it arrived in McKeown’s hands, and she momentarily held onto it thus attracting attention her way before sending it on to Ellison.  A slightly easier kick at goal than the previous attempt was slotted over by Demi Jones, to bring the half-time score of 22-8 – a comfortable, though not commanding lead.

The visitors, as any reasonably good team would do, used the interval to regroup, determine what had gone wrong, and then address the issues on the field during the second half.  The outcome of this was that the second half was a much more tightly fought battle, with both teams keeping each other scoreless, for over twenty minutes.

Salford did have a few opportunities to go further ahead, but were denied either by a well-organised defence, or by handling errors close to the line.  The real heroes of the half were the forwards who took on the visiting pack with a ferocious determination to make every metre they could.

Player of the Match, Darcey Price set an excellent example, which was replicated by many others, including, Abi Collins, Casey Naylor, Sarina Tamou, Megan Condliffe, Yasmin Parton-Sotomayer, Vikki Kini, Kayleigh Bradshaw, and the unlikeliest of forward of all, Brogan Evans.  These players just simply ate up the metres as they sought, each set, to put the Red Devils back in striking distance.

The finest piece of rugby in the whole match came on the sixtieth minute, and remarkably did not end in a try, but that in no way diminishes the quality of the rugby which was served up.  It started thirty metres out, with McKeown, under considerable pressure from opponents, managing to slip out a pass to Rihari, who then surged through the line at a great angle, before sending out the classiest of passes to Ellison, who race for the corner, only to be tackled into touch by excellent scrambling defence from Warrington.  No try, but attacking play right out of the top drawer.

Respite for the visitors was short-lived, for two minutes later McKeown broke through to score under the posts, giving Jones a fourth successful conversion.  That the visitors later caught the Salford defence somewhat lacking in concentration, and went through to level up the scores for the second half was probably a fitting end to the game, because they had hey contributed much to the encounter, even though, on the day, the Red Devils showed their superiority thus rewarding their home fans, who had come to lend their support.

SALFORD

Luci McKeown, Lauren Ellison, Sade Rihari, Alex Simpson, Jena Monks , Louise Fellingham, Demi Jones, Megan Condliffe, Tamzin Corcoran, Abi Collins, Kayleigh Bradshaw, Vikki Kini, Sarina Tamou

Substitutes:

Brogan Evans, Hannah Wicks, Helena Walker, Darcey Price, Yasmin Parton-Sotomayor, Casey Naylor, Eponine Fletcher

ACKNOWLDGEMENT

Steve McCormick – Photograph showing Lauren Ellison scorer of two tries

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