RED DEVILS MAKE IT THREE WINS IN A ROW

Salford 16  Oulton 14 Match Report

Salford Red Devils ladies continued their winning ways, last Sunday, with a hard-fought win over the visiting Oulton side, from the Wakefield area. 

Since returning to league fixtures following the completion of their Challenge Cup matches against three Super League sides, the Red Devils had already notched relatively comfortable wins against Bradford Bulls and Stanningley, but this Oulton formation provided a much sterner test.

This is hardly surprising as this was the club which had prevented the Reds from winning the Grand Final, two years ago.

The home side could not have got off to a better start, though, with a great kick-off finding open ground, and the bounce then finding touch to give the Red Devils possession for an equally fine first set. Lily Gray and Emily Webb must be the two smallest wingers in the league, but what they lack in size, they more than make up for with courage.

Consequently, when, at the end of that first set, the ball was moved to the right, it was only defensive numbers which, not for only this occasion, prevented Gray from going in at the corner, to complete a dream start.

Salford, nevertheless, continued to command the upper hand, and on nine minutes forced a goal line drop-out from a kick-in-goal.  Five minutes later, Summer Harris, deputising in the centre rather than occupying her usual second-row berth, was held up over the line, whilst stand-off, Michelle Davis, came close to grounding her own kick-in-goal, shortly after.

So much pressure was eventually going to bring its rewards, however, and on twenty minutes fullback, Alex Simpson raced twenty-five metres to beat the opposition to retrieve Davis’s high end-of-set bomb, to score an unconverted try in the left corner.

Just as it was beginning to look as though this would give them a 4-0 half time lead, the game swung dramatically in the visitors’ favour, on 36 mins, when they gained two back-to-back sets in the Salford twenty metre area from penalties, and let the visitors in at the corner to open their account.

They not only opened their account, they did so with interest, doubling their score direct from the kick-off to go in at half time with the four point lead the Salford players had believed would be theirs.

If the start of the first half had been particularly good for the Red Devils, the start to the second half was even better, with Davis, at the end of the first set, darting through the initial line of defence and then rounding in and out between three others to cross between the posts, giving Sam Evans a straightforward kick to restore the lead at 10-8.

The Oulton players were not to be outdone, this time, however, and started to mount pressure of their own, and it took an interception by Webb, on her own line to prevent their crossing again in the corner.  Not so, on 49 mins, when they were first to get to a kick-in-goal and score behind the posts to give themselves a 10-14 lead, which they were to hold until five minutes from the end.

Second-rower, Emily Bagguley, it was, who brought home the spoils for Salford with an absolutely class try, running onto Davis’s pass with spot-on timing, and at a great angle, all of which took her half-way through the line of defence.  

Even though her progress was halted by a couple of defenders, she showed incredible composure as she was brought down just short of the line by reaching out to place the ball firmly over the line, towards the left-hand touchline, converted by Davis.

So with league fixtures taking a break this week, all eyes will be turning to the Nines tournament at Warrington. With the individual talent there is within the squad, it could be a most enjoyable and entertaining event for Salford fans.

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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