RED DEVILS STORM TO SEASON’S FIRST VICTORY

Salford Red Devils 44  Bradford Bulls 4                         Match Report

Salford Red Devils Ladies celebrated their return to Championship league fixtures with a grand forty-point victory over visiting Bradford Bulls, yesterday at the Salford Stadium.

After a three-match spell of being tested to the limit by Super League opponents, in the knock-out Cup competition, the Reds found some delight at being paired with a team, over which they quickly gained the mastery.

It was not just the scale of the victory, however, that was so noteworthy, even more so was the quite significant improvement they showed in their performance over the whole eighty minutes.  They started off playing on attack much as they had in previous games –  as individuals doing their own task in isolation – but as the game progressed they started to jell with one another and to apply some of the ploys which they have obviously learned and practised in training, and with success.

So much so, that by the later stages of the second half they were moving forward together as one line, passing the ball freely and accurately, and really looking every inch like a team, providing entertainment to the spectators who delighted in what they were watching.

It was in the eight tries they scored, and the way in which they were procured, however, that clearly highlighted their development through the game.  It was as early as the second set that the resultant tap from a penalty saw second-rower, Summer Harris, surge through a gap, as first receiver, and race some sixty-five metres to the try-line rounding the fullback, in the process to open the scoring and set the hallmark for the rest of the game.

Six minutes later, skipper, Alex Simpson scored another individual try this time from a pass – not from a Salford player but from an overly ambitious offload from a Bulls player – giving Simpson a clear run to the posts.  Goalkicker, Demi Jones, who had been off the mark with her first attempt made no mistake this time and went on to kick six out of her eight attempts – two from the touchline – with the only other miss coming on her last attempt of the first half.

Still, the Red Devils found rich pickings from exploiting gaps in the visitors’ defence, and next it was fullback, Michelle Davis, who not once, but twice, on 22 and 28 mins, made long range breaks, the second of which looked as though it were going to bring her an incredible one-hundred-metre try, her having first taken the ball between her posts. 

Heartbreakingly, she was caught from behind a couple of metres short of the line.  ‘Heartbreaking’, not so much for the benefit it would have done for the team at the time, but because she so richly deserved it having eluded, and even shrugged, off tackles on her way there.  Sadly, a bigger opponent, with a longer stride, was able to get within arms-length of her and pull her backwards, away from the line.

She did, nevertheless, have the satisfaction of knowing that her breaks both led to tries.  The first came with Simpson’s second of the afternoon, out wide on the right, when the ball was moved to the right directly from a scrum, to stretch the lead to 16-0, thanks also to Jones’s great conversion from near the touchline.

Although the Bulls were able to reduce their arrears with an unconverted try on their right edge, on 30 mins, this was quickly eradicated three minutes later, when good hands from Jones and Davis got right winger, Marnie-Lee Kelly over in the corner, to bring a 20-4 half-time lead.

The increase in confidence that that scoreline brought, and the cohesion that working together as a unit gave them in continuing to move the ball around, enabled them to score four further tries, all from good teamwork.

Sam Evans, having moved from half-back to centre was first to benefit from good approach work, on 50 mins, coming round towards the posts after having crossed, further out.

Prop, Emily Bagguley, was held up near to the posts, on sixty minutes, and from her play-the-ball slick hands succeeded in getting the ball to the right edge, where substitute, Jen Myler, crossed in the corner.

Possibly the slickest of all the build-ups came from Simpson’s beautiful, slipped pass, four metres out, coupled with Davis’s excellently timed run to receive it, which put the now stand-off half over between the posts, on 69 mins.

Undoubtedly, the most complex move of all came two minutes from the end, when a number of players moved the ball from left to right where Jones’s pass went to her right side, second rower, Myler, whose most cleverly angled run enabled her to complete her brace.

Congratulations then to all the players, who put the difficulties of the past weeks behind them, took control of the game from the outset, and achieved a victory well beyond most people’s remotest expectations.  Having made such huge strides, it is imperative that they now build on that, and endeavour to replicate much of it in future games, where they might well be required to overcome somewhat greater adversity than on this occasion.

SALFORD

Michelle Davis, Emily Webb, Becki Davies, Alex Simpson, Marnie-Lee Kelly, Sam Evans, Demi Jones, Emerald Hickey, Alice Connolly, Emily Bagguley, Jadine McVernon, Summer Harris, Sophie Morris

Interchanges: Abi Collins, Jen Myler, Darcey Price, Lydia Egan

18th Player Natasha Routh

RED DEVILS SPIRIT REMAINS UNDIMINISHED

Salford Red Devils 0  Barrow Raiders 46      Match Report

As if turning out to face their third consecutive Super League opposition in four weeks, when the Red Devils themselves are a team still in the infancy of their development, were not demanding enough in itself, the new-look ladies’ side had the added challenge of starting the match playing into the teeth of a raging gale accompanied by driving rain.

Even in a closely matched encounter those conditions would have held great sway in the probable outcome with the energy sapping difficulties they provide especially when facing them in the first forty when the opposition are still completely fresh.  This, however, was not an evenly matched encounter against a side which has clearly played together over a number of seasons at different levels and whose understanding of one another was evident from the outset.

Playing only their fourth match of the season there has been little opportunity for the Red Devils to jell together in such torrid circumstances as fixtures against Wigan Warriors and Cardiff Demons, the latter of which required a four-hour journey in each direction.

Two back-to-back penalties to Barrow at the very outset of this latest encounter, the first because the strength of the wind prevented Salford’s kick-off from crossing the ten-metre line, and the second caused by their incorrect play-the-ball after the Raiders’ opening attack had been repulsed, had the inevitable result of the visitors crossing for their opening, converted try in the second minute.

The wind was causing havoc for the Reds’ kicking game, but, after the Raiders had gone further ahead on 11mins, despite some resilient defensive efforts which had seen them held up over the line, amidst a posse of determined Salford players, kicker Demi Jones had most sensibly reverted to low kick-offs, the next three of which, quite remarkably were recovered by the Red Devils.

The first of these was an angled kick to the right, where winger, Emily Webb, did extremely well to get around a couple of Raiders to secure possession for the home side.  The second was an even more impressive effort from Jones herself when she put the ball through a gap between, and behind, two Barrow defenders, to chase through and collect the ball, and then on the third occasion placed her kick into space on the left and then into touch, thereby regaining them both possession and good field position.

And this was indicative of the Salford team, as a whole.  All the players within it are talented athletes who know their roles and, with ball in hand, can, as individuals, produce good elements of play.  Unfortunately, they have not yet gained sufficient understanding of one another’s ploys and skills to be able to put these together effectively enough to trouble opposition defenders, often losing possession early in the tackle count as a result of misunderstandings and poor execution.

Their best set of six, by far, came on 70 mins, when three great individual carries from Jadine McVernon who, not for the first time, relinquished her second-row berth to help out at centre, Lydia Egan who had been delivering such carries throughout the match, and Emily Bagguley who is proving to be a most reliable and dependable player in so many aspects of her game.

Having set up the position well inside the Barrow half, stand-off, Michelle Davis, then took over and made a fine break through the somewhat scattered defence, side-stepping and accelerating past various individuals before being brought down five metres from the line, by the fullback. 

Five or six games on, she should find that her teammates will have recognised her ability in this respect and will ensure they have someone alongside her to take what will be a well-executed pass to finish off the move.  It most certainly is a strong facet of her game, as she showed on 76 mins with another fine break, this time from close to her own try-line, to relieve some considerable pressure the team had been enduring.

Defending, on the other hand, was quite the opposite, with players always ready to get into the tackles to help each other out.  Consequently, a total of some ten points was saved by their forcing the Raiders to move the ball to the edges, where spaces were more easily found and one-on-one tackles more difficult to make effective, but which also made conversions from the touchline far more difficult for the visitors’ goal-kicker..

But what will ultimately prove to be the team’s greatest asset is the considerable team-spirit they have already built up despite all the problems they have encountered, so far.  This was most evident in the final five minutes of the game when sundry waves of Barrow attacks were repulsed by the Red Devils’ determined, and successful, efforts to keep their line intact and the score below fifty.

Hopefully, a return to Championship opposition in the form of Bradford Bulls, next Sunday, will enable the players some little time and space to start building up their partnerships with one another.

SALFORD:

Alex Simpson, Emily Webb, Sam Evans, Jadine McVernon, Marnie-Lee Kelly, Michelle Davis, Demi Jones, Emerald Hickey, Alice Connolly, Lydia Egan, Summer Harris, Abi Collins, Emily Bagguley

Interchanges:

Darcey Price, Hannah Wicks, Natasha Routh, Holly Grimes

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