Salford Red Devils 10 Hopwood Hall 8 Match Report
With a three-week gap since their last outing, which was exactly a month ago when they had entertained Wakefield, it is little wonder that the Salford U19s College Academy ‘Red’ team took some little time to get back up to speed, in this their return encounter with Hopwood Hall College.
A number of postponements, predominantly caused by adverse playing conditions, combined with the half term break, had clearly taken the edge of the Reds’ performance, and the visitors took advantage by sweeping to an eight-point lead, after thirty minutes.
Once they had managed to get on the scoreboard, shortly before half time, however, the Salford youngsters were gradually able to take control of proceedings, as they had done in their previous encounter at the home of the visitors, eventually going in front, fifteen minutes from the end.
The big difference, however, between this match, and the earlier, away encounter, was that on that previous occasion, Salford had had a strength in depth of forwards, on the bench. This time, though, for various reasons there was a dearth of forward power, with the substitutes’ bench being comprised entirely of backs, some of whom were required to play in the forwards against a particularly big and powerful opposing pack, in order to spell members of the starting six.
Add to that the considerable loss of prop, Charlie Glover, ten minutes into the game, and the Salford side really looked up against it. Step forward, fellow forward, Ewan Haynes, who, with his move up to prop, really took charge of the situation, leading from the front and inspiring his fellow forwards to follow suit, which, to their credit, they did.
The always reliable Jack Kenway, having moved from second row to loose-forward, took up cudgels alongside him, as did second rower, George Charnock, with some injection of running skills of his own individual style. A special mention must also be given to centre-by-trade, Josh Wagstaffe. Moved, quite early in the game, from his usual slot in the three-quarters into the forwards, he proceeded to put in hit after valuable hit-up, making much needed yardage, on each occasion.
It was fifteen minutes of arm-wrestle, before the visitors opened the scoring, the last five of which they had had Salford on the rack, desperately defending their line. Just as it looked as though they had weathered the storm, with play having moved to the other end of the field, their defence was opened up by a clever passing-move. A reverse pass, inside, created the first clean break of the afternoon, and a kick to their left corner saw their winger take the ball to cross for the first of their two unconverted tries.
Their lead was doubled, fourteen minutes later, when an overlap was worked, this time on their right, where their winger was unmarked and had a clear run to the line.
Sideways runs across the face of an opponent’s defensive lines invariably seem to indicate a lack of attacking ideas – except when George Charnock undertakes one. Twice, in the first half, he cut inside from the left flank, and on each occasion the angle of his left to right run caused confusion in the opposition’s line. The first time it led to right winger, Myles Paul, getting over in the corner only for the final pass to be adjudged forward.
There was no such disappointment, six minutes from half time, when Charnock set up Josh Higgin, who timed his run, straight at the line, to perfection, taking Charnock’s defence-splitting pass with ease. Crucially, Jack Stevens added the conversion to bring the Red Devils to within two points of their opponents at the interval.
The second half was a hard, uncompromising war of attrition, with a number of stoppages for injuries sustained in the intensity of the conflict. Both teams had tries disallowed; Salford’s when fullback Nathan Connell was adjudged to have been held up over the line, while Hopwood Hall’s would-be scorer lost the ball as he went to ground it.
The one successful attempt went the way of the hosts, on sixty-five minutes, thanks to Kenway’s excellent kick into the right corner, where Paul was able to make up for his earlier disappointment by taking the ball on the run and scoring in the corner. With Stevens’s conversion attempt going wide, the Red Devils had to continue to fend off further incursions towards their line to ensure their slender lead remained intact.
With a three-week break, over the Christmas period, the players will next be turning their attention to the Cup, with their first round tie being against Wigan & Leigh College, at Leigh Sports Village, on Wednesday, 12th January, 2022.
Nathan Connell, Myles Paul, Josh Wagstaff, George Charnock, Alec Walton, Adam Tierney, Jack Stevens, Josh Higgin, Will Fernly, Charlie Glover, Jack Kenway, Louis Lord, Euan Haynes
Mikey Gillan, Chris Eaves, Oliver Burgess, Ellis Kelly, Linden Taylor, Billy Wadeson