RED DEVILS IN DEPTH: ST HELENS V SALFORD (PLAY OFF SEMI-FINAL)

Salford Red Devils’ hopes and aspirations for a place in this year’s Grand Final, together with their 2022 season, came to an end on Saturday last, with their 19-12 semi-final defeat at the hands of the League Leaders Shield holders, St Helens, at the Totally Wicked Stadium.

Disappointing as the result has been, for everyone connected with the club, it has to be viewed in the context of the whole season.  There can have been very few, who, at the start of the year would have given Salford much chance of reaching the play-offs, let alone the semi-final, after vanquishing the much-vaunted Huddersfield side on their own meadow, and keeping them pointless in the process.

Following that, St Helens, with a place in the Bet Fred Super League Grand Final at stake, had clearly done their homework on the Red Devils and there can be no mistaking that they had identified their own strengths and played to them, with considerable gusto.

These lay, most significantly, around their superior physicality and intensity.  Not by chance are they the team to have conceded the least number of points in the season, for their tackling, particularly in the opening period, was ruthless, and at times, verging on the brutal, while the pressure they put on the Salford players with their line-speed restricted Salford to a mere few metres on the occasions they had the ball.

By comparison, the Red Devils took some while to utilise their own strengths in order to gain much in the way of ascendency.  Their initial problem had its roots from the previous week, with the loss of Brodie Croft, but no-one could possibly have imagined that this would be compounded, two minutes into this game, by the complete withdrawal of Andy Ackers, with yet another head injury.

Not that anyone should detract from the contributions of their two replacements.  Amir Bourouh put in an incredibly sterling performance in defence with an extremely high number of tackles, while Chris Atkin was the subject of some extremely hard hits, including a chicken-wing tackle which saw the sin-binning of Knowles shortly after an accidental head-high knock from Welsby, yet he continued to perform to his best, being involved in setting up Kallum Watkins for his try, two minutes later.

Salford’s surge up the league table, in the last three months has been built around the ability of their strike players, out-wide, to tear through opposition defences as a result of the team’s setting them up with exciting flamboyant rugby, which has been so marvellous to watch.  Croft and Ackers have been so pivotal to this: Ackers with his speedy ball distribution from dummy-half and his darting scoots through retreating lines, while Croft has been central to the decimation of so many opposing teams with his clever footwork, allied to his shrewd timing and accurate passing.

Losing both of these for such a finely balanced encounter was much greater than simply losing two-fifths of the spine of the team, which was bad enough in itself.  Other players found themselves having to execute their own plays with much less time than they normally have had.  Marc Sneyd, for example, was pressured on almost every kick, as evidenced by his forty-twenty attempt just failing to make the line, and Saints regaining possession for the restart.

Nevertheless, the Red Devils can take great satisfaction with the way they coped with all of this.  Initially, it was their valiant defence in the face of that early pressure, which impressed, with their limiting the Saints to two scores only and then keeping them try-less for the following fifty-three minutes.  By comparison, Salford’s first try came from Watkins on their first attack, in the thirtieth minute.

As has come to be expected of them, the Reds’ handling was the more adventurous and entertaining, as indeed were their tries.  St Helens were reliant upon short kicks into the in-goal area for two of theirs, whereas both of Salford’s came from clever, slick handling, with Ryan Brierley’s 60th minute score being easily the best of the afternoon, starting with swift hands to the left putting Joe Burgess in the clear down the left wing.

At 13-12, then, it really had become either side’s game, but sadly fortune favoured the Saints, with both Elijah Taylor and Tim Lafai being denied opportunities to score, the first for an obstruction in the build up, and Lafai’s being obstructed by Makinson, who was sin-binned for doing so.

It would be too easy for short-term disappointment to over-shadow the team’s achievement in being out on the field, that afternoon.  Far more important is for them to use the experience upon which to build next year.  Their 2017 Challenge Cup Semi-Final defeat by Wigan became a platform from which they became Grand Finalists, eighteen months later.  Next season could well be the time they go one-better-still.  2023 season tickets are available already, so take advantage of our Early Bird offer, which runs until 15th December.

RED DEVILS IN DEPTH: WAKEFIELD V SALFORD

For sheer entertainment value, this Round Seven game had everything anyone could have wished for, with classy, expansive, skilful handling, rampaging hit-ups, tricky defence-splitting running, end-to-end movement, and tries aplenty, all in one afternoon’s worth of Super League.

At first glance, it might appear to have been a game of two halves, with first Trinity, and then the visiting Salford side having total ascendency, in each of the forty-minute periods.  That assumption is certainly supported by the scoreboard, with Wakefield rattling up a 24-4 interval lead, and the Reds winning the second stanza by twenty points to six.

There was more to it than that, however, with Salford, in particular, making some notable impact when Wakefield held the whip hand.  For example, after the home side had taken an eighth-minute, six-point lead, it took the Red Devils a matter of only two minutes’ play,  before they eroded into it, with the first of Rhys Willams’s tries, after deft hands from the ever-impressive, Tim Lafae, and it was only thanks to their successful conversion that Wakefield continued to hold onto the lead.

Indeed, when you look at the number of tries rather than points accrued, it was completely even, with five each, four of which, for both teams, came in just one half.  Unfortunately, with both Salford wingers scoring a brace each, the majority of their scores were out wide, making it far more difficult for kicker, Marc Sneyd, to acquit himself as accurately as he probably would have liked, and, in the end, it was the three missed attempts from the most difficult, which were responsible for the final six-point difference between the sides.

Even after Trinity had opened up a 12-4 lead after fifteen minutes, Salford ripped through their defence, on twenty-six minutes, when Elijah Taylor made a clean break down the left, but was unable to take advantage of his teammates’ support as a Wakefield defender cleverly put himself between them, and the difficult inside pass went adrift.

If there were a period in which Trinity were totally dominant, it was in the final ten minutes of the half, when they doubled their number of points on the board.  It started with a poor Salford chase after a kick into their opponents’ in-goal area, which enabled Wakefield to build up a head of steam, and they promptly went a hundred metres down the field, in only five tackles, to score by the posts.  Winger, Tom Johnstone, then rounded off the half with one of his typical individual tries.

Much as they contributed to the game on attack, unusually, there must have been questions about the visitors’ defence, at times during the half, to be facing a twenty-point deficit.  There had been, nevertheless, a period mid-half, when they had withstood two back-to-back goal-line drop-outs, followed by two back-to-back penalties, all within close proximity to their own line.

Whatever the nature of the discussion during half time, Salford were a team transformed, from the start of the second half.  The immediate pressure they applied led to the initial rewards of two back-to-back goal-line drop-outs, of their own capped with a penalty, and they all added to the Red Devils’ total dominance, which culminated in Deon Cross’s converted try, on forty-seven minutes.

Momentum had swung in Salford’s favour, and they were now in the ascendency, so much so that it took merely seven minutes for the next score, from Ken Sio, such was the new-found confidence they were exuding.  They even went close to adding two further tries, only to be held up, over the line, on both occasions.

Wakefield, on the other hand. were now  confined to almost constant goal-line defence, and it was close to mid-point in the half before they launched an attack on the Salford line.

One aspect of play which the home side did command, however, was the ability to win most of the contested high kicks, though Rhys Williams will have gained considerable satisfaction from plucking the ball from one, short, goal-line drop-out, out of the air, and away from the waiting hands of an opponent to cross, unchallenged, for his second try.

Ken Sio, on the other flank, mirrored his colleague’s scoring rate, though, by the time he had the chance to complete his tally, thirty seconds from time, the Wakefield lead had increased to twelve points, and the victory was theirs.

There was much of which the Red Devils should be proud, however.  The notable improvement in their attacking play was most encouraging, as well as entertaining, and they certainly showed that they do have the clinical skills to turn their chances into points.  With a blank weekend coming up, there is the opportunity to hone these skills further, but also to rediscover their defensive strategy which has done so much to help them, in previous games.

RED DEVILS IN DEPTH: SALFORD V LEEDS

Two minutes of  talent, skill, and sheer opportunism, from two of Salford’s stand out players provided the game-changing moment, in last Friday’s home encounter with the Leeds Rhinos, when the Red Devils went from being under pressure to taking the lead, and, with it, dominance and control, for the remaining ten minutes of the game.

It started with the first of the twosome, Joe Burgess, collecting an overly weighted Leeds kick into the Salford in-goal area, racing to the twenty-metre line to take the tap restart, and then scything through the Rhinos’ disjointed defence, shrugging off attempted tackles, eventually, to be pulled down close to Leeds’s twenty.

That run immediately put Salford on the front foot, as the whole team had to race up for the play-the-ball, which then passed through the hands of the still advancing attack into the arms of Dion Cross.

Showing the talent of an absolutely top-class centre, he straightened up as if to go for the score himself, but then, having drawn the defence, sent out the sweetest of passes straight into the arms of Chris Atkin to romp in at the corner.  It was a piece of skill reminiscent of our own former international centre, Martin Gleeson.

Marc Sneyd’s goal from the touchline was all that was needed to put the Red Devils into the driving seat, but the actual match winning kick had come much earlier, at the end of the first half.  An easy penalty, on the sin-binning of Brodie Thompson, from in front of the posts with only half a minute to go, was slotted over.

That goal, unremarkable as it might have seemed at the time, not only kept Salford in touch with the Rhinos for the first thirty minutes of the second half, it also ensured that Atkin’s converted try put them two points in front and gave them the same cushioning enjoyed by Hull KR, the previous week.  It, furthermore, gave them a two-score advantage, shortly afterwards, when skipper, Elijah Taylor, cut through to chalk up an eight point lead, which in turn opened the way for Ryan Brierley’s final score under the posts, after he had supported King Vuniyayawa’s brilliantly angled run.

Over the years, victories over Leeds have been very few and far between, making them all the better to savour when one does eventually come along.   This one might not have been a classic, but, if anything, the win was especially important to both sides, with them each coming off the back of a run of defeats.

The first half was as much one of missed opportunities, as chances taken, with Leeds having an Ash Handley, opening score disallowed for a double movement, after five minutes.  Joe Burgess had similar misfortune when he was slid into touch before crossing in the corner, shortly after the Rhinos had eventually opened the scoring.

In fact, Burgess’s runs down his left wing led to two tries, one in each half, for although denied this try for himself, he had put Salford on the attack, and they took advantage of the position for Ken Sio to latch onto Brierley’s kick into the corner, to level the score at six points each, after Sneyd’s first conversion.

With a score differential of only two points, at the resumption, the majority of the second half was an arm-wrestle, though with far too many errors to make it totally enthralling.  Leeds may have come out on top in the set-restarts because they gave theirs away on the first tackle of the set, whereas Salford’s were ususally well into the set, and occasionally on the very last tackle.

It was the sin-binning of two players, Thompson being replaced there by Zane Tetevano mid-way though the half, which cost them dear, leaving them with only twelve men for a total of twenty minutes.   The Reds, on the other hand kept their slate clean and the full team on duty, throughout the eighty minutes.

Now, with a visit to Wigan in the Challenge Cup, next week, Salford can only benefit from the slaying of one bogey side, to help with a repeat performance on Friday at the home of anoth

RED DEVILS IN DEPTH: SALFORD V LEEDS

Two minutes of  talent, skill, and sheer opportunism, from two of Salford’s stand out players provided the game-changing moment, in last Friday’s home encounter with the Leeds Rhinos, when the Red Devils went from being under pressure to taking the lead, and, with it, dominance and control, for the remaining ten minutes of the game.

It started with the first of the twosome, Joe Burgess, collecting an overly weighted Leeds kick into the Salford in-goal area, racing to the twenty-metre line to take the tap restart, and then scything through the Rhinos’ disjointed defence, shrugging off attempted tackles, eventually, to be pulled down close to Leeds’s twenty.

That run immediately put Salford on the front foot, as the whole team had to race up for the play-the-ball, which then passed through the hands of the still advancing attack into the arms of Dion Cross.

Showing the talent of an absolutely top-class centre, he straightened up as if to go for the score himself, but then, having drawn the defence, sent out the sweetest of passes straight into the arms of Chris Atkin to romp in at the corner.  It was a piece of skill reminiscent of our own former international centre, Martin Gleeson.

Marc Sneyd’s goal from the touchline was all that was needed to put the Red Devils into the driving seat, but the actual match winning kick had come much earlier, at the end of the first half.  An easy penalty, on the sin-binning of Brodie Thompson, from in front of the posts with only half a minute to go, was slotted over.

That goal, unremarkable as it might have seemed at the time, not only kept Salford in touch with the Rhinos for the first thirty minutes of the second half, it also ensured that Atkin’s converted try put them two points in front and gave them the same cushioning enjoyed by Hull KR, the previous week.  It, furthermore, gave them a two-score advantage, shortly afterwards, when skipper, Elijah Taylor, cut through to chalk up an eight point lead, which in turn opened the way for Ryan Brierley’s final score under the posts, after he had supported King Vuniyayawa’s brilliantly angled run.

Over the years, victories over Leeds have been very few and far between, making them all the better to savour when one does eventually come along.   This one might not have been a classic, but, if anything, the win was especially important to both sides, with them each coming off the back of a run of defeats.

The first half was as much one of missed opportunities, as chances taken, with Leeds having an Ash Handley, opening score disallowed for a double movement, after five minutes.  Joe Burgess had similar misfortune when he was slid into touch before crossing in the corner, shortly after the Rhinos had eventually opened the scoring.

In fact, Burgess’s runs down his left wing led to two tries, one in each half, for although denied this try for himself, he had put Salford on the attack, and they took advantage of the position for Ken Sio to latch onto Brierley’s kick into the corner, to level the score at six points each, after Sneyd’s first conversion.

With a score differential of only two points, at the resumption, the majority of the second half was an arm-wrestle, though with far too many errors to make it totally enthralling.  Leeds may have come out on top in the set-restarts because they gave theirs away on the first tackle of the set, whereas Salford’s were ususally well into the set, and occasionally on the very last tackle.

It was the sin-binning of two players, Thompson being replaced there by Zane Tetevano mid-way though the half, which cost them dear, leaving them with only twelve men for a total of twenty minutes.   The Reds, on the other hand kept their slate clean and the full team on duty, throughout the eighty minutes.

Now, with a visit to Wigan in the Challenge Cup, next week, Salford can only benefit from the slaying of one bogey side, to help with a repeat performance on Friday at the home of anoth

PAUL ROWLEY NAMES NEW LEADERSHIP TEAM

Salford Red Devils head coach Paul Rowley has chosen a new leadership team to guide his side in 2022, with Elijah Taylor named captain and Marc Sneyd and Brodie Croft taking the vice-captain roles.

Taylor arrived from Wests Tigers, where he was co-captain, ahead of the 2021 season, and despite missing parts of this year through injury, has impressed in a Salford shirt.

The 31-year-old has brought a vast amount of experience into the Salford squad since his arrival, with nine years in the NRL and a Rugby League World Cup with New Zealand.

Speaking on becoming captain of Salford Red Devils, Elijah Taylor said: “I’m humbled and yet excited for the opportunity to captain the team.

“Salford has a rich rugby league history and we’re all working extremely hard at training to lay a strong foundation for this coming season.”

Taylor is highly regarded amongst the coaching staff and squad as a natural leader, and the Kiwi will have the support of vice-captains Brodie Croft and Marc Sneyd, the latter spending 2021 as co-captain of Hull FC before returning to the Club that kickstarted his professional rugby league career.

A two-time Challenge Cup and Lance Todd Trophy winner, Sneyd returns to Salford with valuable big-game experience and is well respected within the squad for his leadership qualities and rugby league knowledge.

Number 7 for 2022, Sneyd said: “I’m happy to be vice-captain under ET (Elijah Taylor) and I’ll do my best to lead as best I can.

I’m just excited to get on to the field now and start playing games.”

Finishing up the leadership team, Brodie Croft also takes a vice-captain role at Salford.

Although still relatively young, Croft is a World Club Challenge winner and has played in an NRL Grand Final.

Our new number 6 will be working very closely with Sneyd this season in the halves, which will only strengthen their co vice-captaincy relationship as well.

Speaking on becoming vice-captain, Croft said: “It’s certainly a huge privilege to be named vice-captain here at Salford.

When Rowls (Paul Rowley) pulled me aside last week to ask whether I would take up vice captaincy with Sneydy, I jumped at the opportunity. I’m constantly growing as a player but really cherish the responsibility that comes with this role.

Hopefully I can lean on a lot of my experience I’ve had so far in my career, particularly at Melbourne where I was learning under some of the best players to have ever played rugby league!”

Get behind your new Salford Red Devils leadership team in 2022, by purchasing a season ticket HERE.

Taylor all set for Hull but expects tough test

Salford Red Devils’ new number 13 Elijah Taylor is looking forward to the clash with Hull FC on Saturday but is expecting a tough battle with the Black and Whites in Round 2 of the Betfred Super League.

The New Zealand international, who joined from NRL’s Wests Tigers in December, made his Betfred Super League debut last Friday in the 29-6 defeat to St. Helens in Round 1.

However, despite the loss, Taylor was proud to make his debut for the Red Devils, which he capped with a Man of the Match performance.

Taylor said: “I’m disappointed with the result obviously. We worked extremely hard over the last 12 weeks, but it was good to play Super League.

“I have always watched it since I started my career when I was 13 years old. I used to watch it when I was a little kid and to finally play my first game was pretty cool.”

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Looking ahead to Saturday’s game against Hull FC, Taylor is expecting a tough test from Brett Hodgson’s men.

“I expect another physical game, I know a lot of players who are in that squad.

“They’ll be up for the game, they came off a good win against Huddersfield. So, we’ll be doing our work during the week to hopefully get it over them this week.”

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With Salford reaching two major finals in the last two years, continuing to compete for silverware is the 31-year-old’s target now as a Red Devil as well as featuring for New Zealand in this year’s World Cup.

“Playing finals footy is definitely one of the goals and playing for the Kiwis at the end of the year, that is another of my goals.

I am just going to start off with this week, work as hard as I can, train as hard as I can and play my best football for Salford.”

You can rewatch our 28-22 victory over Hull FC in 2020, our last outing against the Black and Whites, HERE by signing up to RDTV.

Image credit: Steve McCormick
Written by: Charlie Mulholland

“It won’t define our season” – Marshall on Round 1 defeat

Salford Red Devils head coach Richard Marshall is confident that his side will recover from the defeat to St. Helens in last night’s season opener. 

The Betfred Super League Round 1 clash with Saints ended 29-6 to Kristian Woolf’s men but Marshall is not worried and believes his side, which featured five new faces last night, just need a little time to gel.

Marshall said: “It’s our first competitive hit-out.

“We’re a new team. It’ll take time for us to gel and it’ll take time for us to find our combinations.

“The players are disappointed, as am I. We want to win everything – it was my first Super League game as head coach and I wanted to win it.

“We’ll review the game and we’ll learn through that but it won’t define our season losing to St. Helens.”

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Despite the disappointing result, Marshall was pleased with some of what he saw defensively.

Marshall said: “I thought defensively at times we were really strong and we outmuscled them but we just couldn’t do it consistently for the 80 minutes.

“We had some really resolute defence on our line, we stopped a handful of tries.

“I think if we’d been a bit more resilient with the ball and a bit more disciplined we could have got a few more scores and made it a contest.”

Marshall was particularly impressed with Salford’s new number 13 Elijah Taylor, who had a Man of the Match performance on his Betfred Super League debut.

Image credit: Steve McCormick

“I thought Elijah Taylor was outstanding,” Marshall added.

“I thought his work rate in and around the middle and what he did with the ball was brilliant.

“In training he’s one of the most vocal, one of the most professional players we’ve got.”

You can listen to the full post-match press conference here by subscribing to RDTV.

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