RED DEVILS IN DEPTH: SALFORD V WAKEFIELD

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.

RED DEVILS IN DEPTH: HULL V SALFORD

Just over twelve months ago, in Round 3, after an encouraging, winning start to the ’22 season, the Salford Red Devils were brought down to earth with a bump by a comprehensive defeat at Hull, which consequently made it all the more gratifying to return there over this weekend, and repay them, and with considerable interest.

On the back of two disappointing defeats, both of which had been in encounters they could have won, their travelling faithful might have been forgiven for expecting something similar, as they made the journey over the Pennines, but, on this occasion their anxieties were to prove totally unfounded.

Although caught cold in the opening exchanges, with Hull scrum half, Clifford, deploying a show-and-go to cross for four points after just three minutes’ play, this proved a mere hiccup, as the Red Devils simply set-to to stamp their authority on the game, and within only three minutes they had actually got in front.

On only the second play from the restart, an incredible break by Marc Sneyd saw him hand on to the supporting Ryan Brierley who was stopped close to the left touchline fifteen metres out, and from his quick play-the-ball five pairs of hands propelled the ball to Deon Cross who grounded for the try, ten metres in from the right touchline. 

Sneyd’s successful conversion, from a highly similar position to Clifford’s earlier, failed attempt, put the visitors in front, and in that fifteen second period of play we had microcosm of what started to unfold as the game.

First, we had Sneyd’s unexpected, but telling break, which was to be the first of many he, in particular, and other play-makers, Brodie Croft, Andy Ackers and Chris Atkin made to wreak havoc in the home side’s defensive structures.  Indeed, Sneyd later turned this into a solo effort, when, in the 51st minute, he cut through from 15 metres out, to score under the posts.

Then we had the excellent support play of fullback, Brierley, in which he excels regularly, but to be joined in so doing, on this occasion, by many others to keep the second wave of attack in evidence and so frequently leading to tries.  He was soon among the try scorers, himself, as a result of getting alongside Croft, on the initial break, to score under the posts, in the eighteenth minute, crucially putting Salford three scores ahead, at 4-18.

Those five pairs of hands which accurately, and tellingly, got the ball to where the space was, on that first occasion, was to be replicated in many other attacks, and with such considerable variation in the form they each took, that the Hull defenders began to look completely bewildered by what was going on around them, seemingly unable to stem the flow of attacks and waves of tries which were mounting up.  Spectators could but marvel at the incredible display served up for their entertainment.

The fact that it was Cross, rather than Ken Sio, who got over for that first grounding was to herald something of a dearth of try-scoring opportunities, for both wingers, throughout the afternoon.  They contributed much in other aspects, however, particularly in diffusing high bombs to the corners and returning the ball up field on collection, without any errors.

As for the tries, so effective was the passing and support play throughout, that the try line presented itself to the inside strike players so quickly that it was the players just inside, who took the lions’ share, with Cross and co-centre, Tim Lafae each notching up a brace, as did second rower, Shane Wright.  Fellow second rower, Kallum Watkins, also crossed for one, on 45 mins. Lafae’s first, on 53 mins, must surely have ranked as the try of the game.

Finally, Salford went in front from that first try thanks to Sneyd’s accuracy with the boot, and this continued throughout the game, with his slotting over ten out of twelve shots, which compared most favourably with Hull’s solitary one from three.

Muted fears, during the interval, that the second half would see a turnaround in fortunes never materialised, for the simple reason that, unlike at Warrington where the Wolves received the ball direct from the second-half kick-off to generate some momentum, on Saturday it was the Red Devils who received it, and within fifty seconds had extended their lead even further, courtesy of Cross’s second try.

And so it continued for the following twenty minutes as their score was ramped up to fifty, but it was not only their attack which flourished.  They backed this up with some excellent defence, the highlight of which was the twenty-second minute, try-saving tackle by Sio and Brierley, both of whom seemed to fly across from nowhere to bundle Swift into touch, when he looked for all the world a certain scorer.

Hull just could not match the Reds in any of this.  Much has been said of their defence, and Tyler Dupree’s rampaging try, immediately after this incident, has been held up as evidence.  What this ignores, however, is that Tyler, most shrewdly, had picked a small gap to run at, and through, and the mismatch in size against other one-on-one challengers enabled him to brush them aside with ease.

So much, therefore, for the fans who had made the journey there, to revel in, on their return.  For the team, it was not only a return to winning ways, but also a return to the amazing form they had last shown in the final third of last season, and this coming Sunday’s visit from Wakefield gives them an opportunity to showcase their many skills to all their home fans.

RED DEVILS IN DEPTH: SALFORD V HULL KR

It was such a promising opening, with the Red Devils starting with a splendid display of wide, expansive, attacking rugby, which had become so familiar to the Salford fans in the later stages of last season, but which had been absent in the previous week’s visit to the Leigh Sports Village.

Yet here it was again in what was only Round 2 of the new season, in all its exciting, entertaining spectacle, from the very first set when swift hands put right winger, Ken Sio, in space, and the visiting Hull KR players were desperately having to scramble back to prevent an early setback.

When, at the end of their back-to-back sets, they forced the first of two goal-line drop-outs, it seemed only a matter of time before they went in front.  It turned out to be just ten minutes, with their attack being restarted by the second of the drop-outs, and ended with a wide pass to Sio, who scored in the corner.

Although Marc Sneyd’s conversion attempt failed to find the mark, there was little doubt in anyone’s mind that there would be more on the way, and indeed for the next ten minutes the Red Devils continued to dominate possession and field position, though with no further points to add to the scoreboard.

The game started to change a little around the twentieth minute, with back-to-back penalties gaining good field position to enable the visitors to test the Salford defence, and although they did not get anything to show for it immediately, they seemed to grow in stature and confidence, as a result.

In truth, four points after such a protracted period of Salford dominance seemed scant reward for their efforts, as they had had sufficient possession and position to have added at least one, if not more, scores, which would probably have dispirited the visitors somewhat had they been able to do so.  As it was. their self-belief that they could contain the threat their hosts posed grew, and inspired them to further effort.

Consequently, when Sio, as he is wont to do, intercepted a Hull pass to his wing, his progress was arrested before he could even get into his stride and the team then had the task of taking the ball up the field, tackle by tackle.  They also seemed to make heavy weather of the increasing amount of defending they were required to do.

The Robins’ pack is quite an imposing group, all of whom are capable of making their mark on any game – a victory over the Wigan Warriors, as they had achieved in round 1, is no mean fete – and they started to gain the ascendency, not just on the attack where they drove forward relentlessly, but also on defence, where they harried and hassled the normally rampant Reds into an increasing number of hurried and wayward passes.

The writing was clearly on the wall, when, on 32 mins, the referee was forced to refer a Robins’ grounding to  the video referee, and, although this was ruled out, it merely portended what was to come after the interval.  It will surely have been the away dressing-room, which will have been the more satisfied, over the recess, and they continued where they left off, after the resumption.

Salford’s best moment of the second half came on 54 minutes, when they were stung into a response to Hull’s two-try opening to the half, by overcoming the less productive of some of their more recent attacking forays, with slick hands putting Deon Cross over for their second try, to put themselves to within two points of the visitors.

Twice within five minutes, Salford were denied possible further tries.  A referral to the video referee ruled out Sio’s grounding in the corner, on 56 mins, with Brodie Croft being ruled offside prior to his involvement, and then on 70 mins. A ball steal by Tim Lafai led to another attack along the line to the right wing, where Cross, this time, just had a bit too much to do to get over the line for what would have been his own second score.

Hull, however, had no such problems in adding to their score with further tries on 57 and 72 mins, as Salford continued to fail to muscle up to the continued pressure on their defence.  Deserved, Man of the Match, Ollie Partington had led the way in how to deal with this, and it is likely there will be work done upon this element for others, in the coming days.

RED DEVILS IN DEPTH: WIGAN V SALFORD PRE-SEASON FRIENDLY (SAM POWELL TESTIMONIAL)

It might not have been the result most Salford fans will have hoped for, but the purpose of pre-season friendlies is rather more wide-ranging than the final figures on the scoreboard.  First and foremost, they are one of the concluding steps in the players’, and team’s, development on the road to Super League Round 1, which for Salford is less than two weeks away.

Trips to Wigan seldom bring victories for the visiting side, and the home advantage must certainly have given them a head start. In addition .there was also some added motivation for the Warriors from the fact that this was the testimonial game for their highly regarded half back-cum-hooker, Sam Powell.  Their desire to do justice to their much-admired teammate, will have been increased their desire to do well, in itself.

There are some games, in which the final score does not totally reflect the game as a whole, and this was somewhat true of Sunday’s.  The Red Devils’ many positives, unfortunately, were often over-shadowed by a disappointing outcome.  Marc Sneyd’s great interception on eight minutes – only two minutes after Wigan had taken the lead – would, on most similar occasions, have brought a score, but unfortunately, on this occasion he lost his footing and the opportunity to draw level had gone.

Indeed, by half-time, there were many spectators with the view that a twelve all draw would have been a fairer reflection of the contest, with Rhys Williams having twice crossed in the left corner, but having been denied on the first occasion by last ditch defending, and on the second by an obstruction, in the build-up.

The opening stages of the encounter had seen a physically dominant Wigan, with the lion’s share of possession, totally controlling field-position.  So many of the Red Devils’ sets were started in their own ten metre zone, and that is where the hard-yardage is really hard to come by, sapping energy and with end-of -sets kicks coming barely twenty-five metres out, meaning that the Warriors were regaining possession well away from their own line..

This, however, started to change midway through the half, with the visitors muscling up and matching their hosts physically, the pressure from which started to force errors from the Wigan players.  It was from one such of these that some excellent attacking play, on 33 minutes, brought the Reds their try from Deon Cross in the right-hand corner, too far out for Sneyd to goal.

Holding out, thereafter, to half-time would have been most beneficial but an ill-judged pass went to ground, in the final minute of the half, only to be gathered by French, who had a clear run to the line, and the score at half-time stood at 18-4, which was a reflection, predominantly, of the chances each team taken.

The opening stages of the second half saw a much more aggressive Salford side forcing further Wigan errors, two of which led to fine breaks which had them on the back-foot.  The first, on 49 mins, had the Warriors scrambling back after a final kick through, to hack the ball into the North Stand for a goal-line drop-out.  Amir Burrough’s break from dummy-half, four minutes later, set up yet another scoring opportunity in the left-hand corner, which, with the odd, slightly different option, might have brought another four, or even six points.

A little more patience immediately afterwards might still have brought some further reward, but unfortunately, ill-discipline set in with a succession of penalties accruing against them, and the Warriors did not scorn the opportunities they then had, of putting the score beyond the visitors.

True it was a game, and everyone always wants to win no matter what, but, even more important, it was a dress rehearsal, and everyone knows that a great dress rehearsal does not always portend a great opening night, any more than the exact opposite portends the alternative outcome.

RED DEVILS IN DEPTH:  SALFORD V HULL

It was not quite the game we had been expecting.  Looking over the fixture list a few weeks ago, games against St Helens, Catalans, and Huddersfield loomed large on the horizon, but with Hull FC seemingly in free fall, at the time, this appeared to be one game we could possibly look forward to winning with rather more ease, particularly with it being a home fixture, and the rampant form that the Red Devils had shown in their most recent outings

In the event, however, this all proved to be a far cry from the game which ensued, with the visitors arriving with a rather more representative side than had been on view over recent outing and the benefit of this to their performance became increasingly evident.

Salford, themselves, might have been a shade off their lethal best, on the night, which to a certain extent is most understandable when taking into account the energy sapping travels to and from the south of France last weekend, coupled with the extremely short recovery period in the run-up to last night’s encounter.

Consequently, the scintillating attacks, to which have now become accustomed, were in somewhat short supply, and as the game wore on, the players had to adapt to a rather less flamboyant style in order to get the job done and bring home the two vital league points.

The opening exchanges had not, though, signalled anything different as they tore the Hull defence asunder with a blind-side move, which put Brodie Croft in the clear, but, with support available on either side of him, he attempted to dummy his way past Jake Connor, at fullback.  If he were to have that moment again, Brodie would probably take a different option, but with so many players alongside him, he possibly had too many from which to choose, on the spur of the moment.

Having seemingly been able to snuff out such a clear scoring opportunity did wonders for the motivation of the Humbersiders, and they seemed visibly to grow in confidence, from that point on.  It was, consequently, not until the eleventh minute that Salford notched their first points, which came on the back of sustained pressure, courtesy of a Hull goal-line drop-out.

Kallum Watkins, it was, who followed up his brace of surging runs at Catalans, the week before, when he was put through for another great run, to score close in, with Marc Sneyd converting.  Back-to-back tries have not been uncommon for Salford over recent weeks, but any thoughts of that happening in this game, soon evaporated, when it surprisingly turned out to be the visitors who were next to cross the line, after Salford had conceded a penalty to set them up to attack.

The Reds had a great deal to be thankful for goal-line drop-outs, as one having already led to one try, another such restart saw the ball moved along the line to Tim Lafai, who, in the absence of Joe Burgess, fed Rhys Williams, who made just as much of the opportunity as Burgess, himself, would have done to take the score to 10-6.

Finding that their normal routes to the try-line were being well policed by Hull defenders, the Salford players were required to draw upon every individual skill they had at their disposal, and a superb 40-20, on 26 mins, from Sneyd, laid a platform for the Reds, but sadly without anything coming of it.

Not so Sneyd’s opposite number Gale, who had been causing endless trouble for the Reds, with his end-of-set kicks.  Indeed, Hull’s opening try had come from a kick, and so too did their second, though only with the assistance of an extremely awkward bounce – directly into the hands of Fash – which gave the visitors an eyebrow-raising, 10-12, half time lead.

It was a much more determined home side which emerged for the second half, and the patience they needed to accompany this was certainly tested to the full, at vital times.  Six minutes from the resumption they got their reward, in the form of a try straight from a scrum 25m out, which concluded with Ken Sio crossing in the corner to restore their lead, at 16-12, with Sneyd’s conversion.

Deon Cross’s 57th minute try between the posts went some considerable way to settling nerves, especially when Sneyd added on the extras, and there was an air of expectation that this might be  the portender of several more.  Far from that, however, it was Hull, who next got on the score sheet.

A most unexpected Hull downtown kick into touch – usually used by teams in the lead to wind down the clock – worked magically in their favour, when Salford lost the ball inside their own half, and the Yorkshire side opened up the defence on their left wing to bring them back to within four points, and those nerves began to jangle again.

Not for the players, though.  They remained totally calm, and used their experience from previous matches to soak up the sets, and the remaining seven minutes, with a steadiness which must have disheartened their opponents, until a final Hull error from a kick gave possession back to the Red Devils who celebrated with Ryan Brierley’s try, to wrap up the game.

A tough game it most certainly was, but possibly just the right thing to prepare the players for the challenge which awaits them, on Monday, at Castleford.

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.

RED DEVILS IN DEPTH: SALFORD V HUDDERSFIELD

RED DEVILS IN DEPTH: SALFORD V HUDDERSFIELD

For a full forty minutes, the Red Devils shone as brightly as the afternoon’s sun in the middle of a heatwave, as they put behind them their disappointment at Headingley, last week, after only two minutes, in this week’s crucial victory over Huddersfield.

We all know, now, after weeks of experiencing and enjoying it, just what fabulous and scintillating rugby this current Salford team can produce.  That they did so in front of the Channel 4 cameras giving nation-wide terrestrial television coverage of those skills was as good as anyone could have hoped for.

Deon Cross, it was, who made the first initial break of the game, after slick handling had sped the ball from the left wing to the right, and the timing of his pass to Ken Sio gave the winger a clear run to the line, for the first score.

Joe Burgess’s punishing of a Giants’ error, with a near eighty metre break away try, five minutes later, was followed, with some incredible football and handling skills from Kallum Watkins, to ground Brodie Croft’s initial low kick through, which, with two successful Marc Sneyd conversions, put the Reds well in charge at 16-0, after only twelve minutes.

Indeed, the only blip in the first half proceedings came in the 18th minute, when Burgess was deprived of possession by McQueen who went over for an unconverted Huddersfield try, but further Salford scores from Ryan Brierley off an inside, overhead pass from Sio, and then ten minutes later Sneyd’s kick, this time into the in-goal area, being grounded by Tim Lafai, again converted by Sneyd, more than eradicated that.

So far, so good, but a completely different type of game awaited them in the second half, which required significant adaptation of their approach, and which they delivered most convincingly – all the more so as the half wore on.

An extended interval had certainly presented the Giant with sufficient time to address certain issues, and with the absence of Brodie Croft in the sin-bin for the first nine minutes, they returned determined to make their extra man paid dividends, whilst the Reds, realising the challenge facing them in those early stages, had a new focus of protecting that mid-match lead by means of a secure defence.

The extent to which they would be successful was indicated by the fact that even against twelve men, it was into the seventh minute before the visitors succeeded in crossing the Salford line, and although they scored once more, shortly after Croft’s return, they had been building towards it for some time.

That such a well-drilled side as Huddersfield then went almost thirty minutes without managing a further single point is great testament to the Reds’ resilience and commitment to the cause, especially when the game was played in a temperature of over thirty degrees, which was far more suited to attacking play than dour defending, but, with Huddersfield dominating possession, there was no alternative option for them.

The exuberance the Giants showed at pulling back to within ten points took them through the next ten minutes, aided by a number of Salford handling errors, but gradually their energy levels began to fall away, and the Reds began to look more and more in control of the situation.

The very sensible addition of two points, to stretch their lead to two converted scores, were attained as a result of Sneyd’s 63rd minute penalty kick from forty metres out, and provided the basis for him to be able to kick an important drop-goal, eleven minutes later, which probably sank the Giants’ spirits completely – their uphill struggle then becoming a three-score mountain to climb, in limited time and in still-climbing temperatures.

A final try from Harvey Livett, from yet another of Sneyd’s kicks, this time into the left corner, merely served to underline the Red Devils’ superiority, on the day.  Superior they were in flamboyance and entertainment, which was so delightful and thrilling to watch, but also superior in the hard work of tackling and defending, without which all the fine tries of that first forty might have been for nothing.

RED DEVILS IN DEPTH: SALFORD V HUDDERSFIELD

RED DEVILS IN DEPTH: SALFORD V HUDDERSFIELD

For a full forty minutes, the Red Devils shone as brightly as the afternoon’s sun in the middle of a heatwave, as they put behind them their disappointment at Headingley, last week, after only two minutes, in this week’s crucial victory over Huddersfield.

We all know, now, after weeks of experiencing and enjoying it, just what fabulous and scintillating rugby this current Salford team can produce.  That they did so in front of the Channel 4 cameras giving nation-wide terrestrial television coverage of those skills was as good as anyone could have hoped for.

Deon Cross, it was, who made the first initial break of the game, after slick handling had sped the ball from the left wing to the right, and the timing of his pass to Ken Sio gave the winger a clear run to the line, for the first score.

Joe Burgess’s punishing of a Giants’ error, with a near eighty metre break away try, five minutes later, was followed, with some incredible football and handling skills from Kallum Watkins, to ground Brodie Croft’s initial low kick through, which, with two successful Marc Sneyd conversions, put the Reds well in charge at 16-0, after only twelve minutes.

Indeed, the only blip in the first half proceedings came in the 18th minute, when Burgess was deprived of possession by McQueen who went over for an unconverted Huddersfield try, but further Salford scores from Ryan Brierley off an inside, overhead pass from Sio, and then ten minutes later Sneyd’s kick, this time into the in-goal area, being grounded by Tim Lafai, again converted by Sneyd, more than eradicated that.

So far, so good, but a completely different type of game awaited them in the second half, which required significant adaptation of their approach, and which they delivered most convincingly – all the more so as the half wore on.

An extended interval had certainly presented the Giant with sufficient time to address certain issues, and with the absence of Brodie Croft in the sin-bin for the first nine minutes, they returned determined to make their extra man paid dividends, whilst the Reds, realising the challenge facing them in those early stages, had a new focus of protecting that mid-match lead by means of a secure defence.

The extent to which they would be successful was indicated by the fact that even against twelve men, it was into the seventh minute before the visitors succeeded in crossing the Salford line, and although they scored once more, shortly after Croft’s return, they had been building towards it for some time.

That such a well-drilled side as Huddersfield then went almost thirty minutes without managing a further single point is great testament to the Reds’ resilience and commitment to the cause, especially when the game was played in a temperature of over thirty degrees, which was far more suited to attacking play than dour defending, but, with Huddersfield dominating possession, there was no alternative option for them.

The exuberance the Giants showed at pulling back to within ten points took them through the next ten minutes, aided by a number of Salford handling errors, but gradually their energy levels began to fall away, and the Reds began to look more and more in control of the situation.

The very sensible addition of two points, to stretch their lead to two converted scores, were attained as a result of Sneyd’s 63rd minute penalty kick from forty metres out, and provided the basis for him to be able to kick an important drop-goal, eleven minutes later, which probably sank the Giants’ spirits completely – their uphill struggle then becoming a three-score mountain to climb, in limited time and in still-climbing temperatures.

A final try from Harvey Livett, from yet another of Sneyd’s kicks, this time into the left corner, merely served to underline the Red Devils’ superiority, on the day.  Superior they were in flamboyance and entertainment, which was so delightful and thrilling to watch, but also superior in the hard work of tackling and defending, without which all the fine tries of that first forty might have been for nothing.

RED DEVILS IN DEPTH: LEEDS V SALFORD

At the time, it all looked so familiar – a journey to Leeds in such a positive frame of mind after that tremendous victory over St Helens, followed by the re-awakening to reality of most trips to Headingley Stadium, with Leeds ramping up an eighteen lead, which they later expanded to thirty-two.

With hindsight, however, it was not like that in its entirety, for that was only half the tale.  True the Rhinos made an extremely good start, tearing through the visitors’ defence in the very first set of the game, to notch their first six pointer after only forty-five seconds, owing to a missed tackle on the left edge during the build-up.

Six minutes later, Dan Sarginson, with the sun glaring into his eyes, slightly misjudged the flight of the ball from a high bomb, which gave Myler, who was moving forward onto it at pace, the chance he needed to take it on the full for their second, whilst some rather soft tackling on Martin allowed the Leeds second-rower to force his way over the line to register an eighteen points lead on fifteen minutes, having been aided by a penalty and two set restarts.

Even then, despite what the scoreboard showed, it had not been only Leeds, throughout that opening period.  Five minutes into the game, and with the score at only six points, Deon Cross appeared to have scored, only for it to be ruled out owing to a Salford touch forward in flight, from the preceding high kick.  Indeed, the number of tries the Reds had disallowed over the whole game, would, if converted, have been enough to have put them in position to win the game.

‘Nearly’, and ‘almost’, even ‘disputed’, mean nothing, however, in terms of points, so it was not until the first quarter of the game had elapsed that the Reds started to get back into it.  In fact, it was on the twentieth minute that Salford’s first points were gained, with an end-of–set kick being caught and passed along the line to left winger, Joe Burgess, in space, for him to cross in the corner.

Eight minutes later, a kick into the corner forced a Leeds goal-line drop-out, which preluded a passing move of the slickest of handling, which started by going to the left, at which point it reversed and went from left to right, ending with a wide pass from Watkins to Ken Sio, to reduce the Rhino’s lead further.

Without a successful conversion attempt for either of the two tries, though, overtaking Leeds’s eighteen points was always going to be an uphill battle, and if only Brodie Croft’s dance through their defence, on 34 mins, had been grounded to the referee’s satisfaction, it would have reduced it by the full six points, being, as it was, close to the posts.

They therefore had to wait until the 49th minute, for Croft to repeat his effort, this time having a much easier, clear-cut act of grounding, and at this point the Rhinos were really shaken.  The whole story of the second half, thus far, had been that of total Salford dominance, as, in fact, had the final quarter of the first half.

Virtually every set of possession, during the second forty had seen the Red Devils charging upfield, making in the region of sixty to eighty metres in each set, to the extent that the Leeds players looked almost completely out of energy, and there for the taking.  So confident were the visitors that they even scorned taking a penalty kick at goal, from directly in front of the posts, and even though they failed to score from the resultant set, it seemed almost inevitable that they would take the lead before long.

Sadly, this proved not to be the case, and a penalty goal took Leeds to six points ahead, and suddenly the balance of the game seemed to have swung the other way.  The Rhinos’ defence now appeared more resolute, and their reserves of energy had obviously been replenished by the reintroduction of some of their starting players, and others who had been spelled during the game.

Consequently, when an attacking pass to the right was intercepted by Super League’s top poacher, Handley, to race ninety metres for a try, the Salford players must have found this a little dispiriting, so much so that their grip on the game began to lessen.

Another Leeds penalty goal to accompany the sin-binning of Sitaleki Akauola, increased the home lead to 28-14, and the twelve remaining Salford players were then unable to hold out against Martin’s scoring his second try, which alongside his highly successful goal-kicking, had done so much to damage Salford’s aspirations.

So the Headingley jinx remains, but there was just so much that was positive, in that mid-match period.  Indeed, for a neutral spectator it must have been a wonderful whole afternoon’s spectacle of attacking rugby from both sides – presumably exactly what had been envisaged by those who had first advocated and instigated summer rugby – and many of us were there to enjoy it.  Winning would, of course, have capped it all, but maybe we should not let the result completely deprive us of the enjoyment and excitement our team’s performance contributed to such an entertaining match.

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