RED DEVILS IN DEPTH: SALFORD V CASTLEFORD

Despite another short turn around after their victory over Leigh, the previous Saturday, Salford Red Devils, yet again in front of the television cameras, on Thursday evening, cemented their place in the current top six, with a hard-fought victory over the improving Castleford Tigers.

It is a notable tribute to the team that on the back of their tremendous performances in the later stages of last season, the SKY Sports team have targeted showing the Red Devils’ matches with some quite considerable regularity over the start of this season, and although it was an evening with both defences on top, the team did not disappoint in terms of dedication, effort, and, above all, winning.

True, the scoreline was on the low side, but on a cold evening, in a biting wind, the players did extremely well to produce a performance full of attacking ideas and handling ploys, which on a summer’s day may well have brought about a rather higher return in terms of points.  No-one could deny the quality of their slick inter-passing, which tested the Castleford defence, time and again. They just needed to have retained possession in attack for longer than the solitary sets they produced in order to wear the Tigers’ defence down.

It was therefore down to their defensive effort of limiting the visitors to a solitary try in the third minute and thereafter holding them pointless for the remaining seventy-seven, which brought them the two league points.  It was not necessarily their midfield line-defence which was most noteworthy, more their scrambling defence which brought some absolutely valiant efforts from a number of individuals. 

As early as the 17th minute a magnificent triple effort, started by Sam Stone, and quickly supported by Andy Ackers and Ryan Brierley, prevented a Cas try being scored by Milner thanks to their holding him back, a whisker from the line.  Two minutes from the interval the timely arrival of Tyler Dupree, at full pace, was enough to force Eden onto the touchline, thereby making his considerable athleticism in the subsequent grounding, irrelevant.

Similar efforts continued into the second half, when first, Marc Sneyd’s last ditch tackle on Evalds caused the fullback to lose control of the ball has he sought to ground it between the posts on 49 mins, followed up some 14 mins later by another tackle on Milner just short of the line, this time by Wright, followed by the intervention again of Brierley to prevent his endeavours to roll over and ground the ball over the line.  

There were also some significant pieces of individual skill, which might on occasions go unnoticed, or which we sometimes take for granted.  Joe Burgess’s 8th minute, high level take of the ball in the air, which, on landing, he followed up with a half break through the visitors’ defence to clear the danger, was one such of these, likewise, Kallum Watkins’s midfield sideways run and offload, under pressure, to free up Brierley to continue the build up to Brodie Croft’s try under the posts, on 36 minutes.

Probably most eye-catching of all however was Brierley’s feat of collecting the ball on 52 minutes, behind his own line, to then turn the speedy Eden inside out with some incredible footwork and then cap it all with an offload to Ken Sio, as another Castleford player bore down on him.   Everything about it had the hallmarks of absolute class.

Even Salford’s two-try total could well have been double that, had they been just a little more fortunate.  The referral of Sneyd’s 23rd minute grounding to the video-ref saw it disallowed as it became apparent that, after his short kick through, the ball had bounced up to touch his arm, thus being adjudged as a knock on.  Similarly, 44 minutes into the second half, Sam Stone was denied a try with, this time, Chris Atkin having fumbled a loose ball forward in his attempt to gather it up.

Nevertheless, there was to be no denying the Red Devils for the two tries which were to count.  In what had been their best period that far, spanning the second quarter, it culminated in Brierley racing down the right wing, from Watkins’s pass, to put in the best, and most rewarding, kick of the half, for Croft to take a grasp of it as it stood up beautifully for him to go over for his team’s opener.

Shane Wright has been growing in notoriety over recent weeks having already notched up three tries against Hull (2) and Leigh.  With 56 minutes on the clock, he latched onto Sneyd’s beautifully timed short pass to surge over the line, between the posts and with Sneyd then having converted both tries, he had the opportunity to open up a two score, eight-point, match-winning lead, when Milner was penalised for tackling Ollie Partington without the ball, ten minutes from the end.

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: HULL V SALFORD

For just over fifteen highly encouraging minutes, the Salford fans who had made the journey over to Hull filled with the confidence that their  hopes and expectations were well-placed, revelled in an opening stanza, which had their hosts well and truly on the rack.

Indeed, all the firepower in those initial exchanges lay with the Red Devils, who enjoyed the lion’s share of possession, and who were, consequently able to pen Hull on their own line for the bulk of this time.

They ran strongly, spread the ball swiftly and accurately, and when called upon to, tackled with energy and desire. In fact they did almost everything they could have done, except score.

Not that they were without opportunities, for they created three, but unfortunately without success, the first coming when Shane Wright was stopped by a last ditch tackle, extremely close to the line;

Soon afterwards, Brodie Croft’s kick-in-goal was just a little too strong for the chasing Ken Sio, who was unable to repeat his similar try-scoring feat from last week, and the ball had cleared the dead-ball line, before the winger got his hands to it.

Their final chance of taking the lead came with Joe Burgess’s scoot from dummy-half, only for him to be held up over the line, and shortly afterwards the whole game changed far more dramatically than anyone would have predicted.

Off the field, things had not been running as smoothly as is normally the case.  The withdrawal of James Greenwood in the warm-up led to the introduction of Ryan Lannon into the side was probably a greater cause of disruption than might be obvious with his inclusion coming not simply onto the bench, but, of necessity, directly into the starting lineup.

Then there was some confusion over an injury to Dan Sarginson, which ended up costing the team two of their allotted substitutions, and meant that players could not be rotated or rested as frequently, or for as long, as normal.  King Vuniyayawa, in particular, played a considerable number of minutes, over and above his scheduled time span.  Fatigue, and occasionally injury, can be an inevitable consequence of that.

Two wayward passes, however, were the cause of the remarkable first-half turnaround, with both leading to Hull tries on their right flank.  These were then followed shortly after by two others the first of which came down that same side of the field, and within that second period of fifteen minutes, the Humbersiders had taken a twenty points, unanswered lead.

To be fair to the Salford players at this stage, they galvanised together, and returned to producing the better aspects of their play which had been so noticeable in the first fifteen, and this time it brought benefits.

A high bomb from Marc Sneyd looked to be well-covered by the Hull defence, only for Tim Lafae to pounce from nowhere, and rob them of the possession, with a try close to the Hull posts.

A half-time deficit of fourteen points is not insurmountable, but one always had the sense that Salford had to be first to score in the second half.  They certainly seemed to be up for the task, upon the resumption, but little more than five minutes had elapsed, when they were reduced to twelve men with the sin-binning of Sneyd, after a disagreement with Hull’s Connor.

If the second period of fifteen minutes had been a game-changers, this ten minute spell was to more or less finish off the contest, for by the time Sneyd had returned, the Hull tally had ratcheted up from twenty to thirty-six points, and there was to be little way back for the visitors, thereafter.

In fact it was Hull, who further extended their lead to forty-two points, with the second of two extremely cruel bounces of the ball.  Fullback, Ryan Brierley, it had earlier been, whose attempt to deal with a low Hull kick-through, to the posts, had been so thwarted, while for this latest score the bounce prevented Burgess from making the ball safe, and on both occasions Hull chasers were on hand to take advantage of the luck which had come their way.

Nevertheless, the Red Devils  once again regrouped to share the scoring in the final twenty minutes with two of their own to match this latest, and one further final one from the home side.

The first of  Salford’s could, arguably, make claim to have been the try of the match, starting as it did with a sideways kick to hand, and the ball then passing through six pairs of hands before Sio crossed in the corner.

Tim Lafae wound up proceedings for the visiting Reds, with the second of his brace, touching down a kick through, but it was all little more than cold comfort for those connected with Salford.

Bad days at the office come round to everyone, at times.  The important thing is to learn from each, put it behind you, and in Salford’s case produce a quick and effective response, preferably at Huddersfield next week.

U19S MAKE IT BACK-TO-BACK WINs

It requires considerable self-belief, talent, skill, and above all character, for any team to turn  a number of early setbacks into an impressive win, but in their most recent home fixture, against Hull FC, the Salford Red Devils U19 College Academy showed they had all these qualities, in abundance, for after a somewhat dispiriting of starts, they regrouped to fight back, and then overcome further difficulties, to run out winners.

This victory, their second of the season, had all those present totally engrossed, and, as time went by, more and more het up with tense, nervous energy as the initiative swung first one way and then the other.  This was hardly unsurprising, as the visitors had fielded a strong side, which was all to the good because they provided a significant test of the home side’s capabilities.

That, however, was far from anyone’s mind as the visitors swept to a twelve-point lead, in the first ten minutes, as they twice attacked down their left wing.  The first came as a result of the Red Devils conceding a set restart followed immediately by a penalty, the extra possession from which, Hull exploited by freeing up their wingman to race clear and then feed his inside support for a score under the posts.

Galvanising in the face of this disappointment, Salford worked hard to gain a foothold in the game gaining possession on attack ten metres of the visitors’ line, only for that same left winger to show a clean pair of heels over ninety metres to notch their second, having intercepted Jack Stevens’s wide pass to Myles Paul, who was in space on the Salford right edge, where he would without doubt have scored, had the ball got to him.

It was most evident, at this point that Hull had to be deprived of any further score, or the task of getting on equal terms would have presented far more of a problem.  That score looked the most likely outcome, on seventeen minutes, however, as another Hull break, this time down the middle with a line of players in support, bore down on fullback, Nathan Connell.

Outnumbered he certainly was, but he simply concentrated on the player in possession and turned it into a one-on-one situation, and, against a much bigger and stronger opponent, got his tackling technique spot on to snuff out the threat completely – a feat he was to repeat a further couple of times in the second half.

That valiant effort not only succeeded in keeping the game within Salford’s sights, it also provided inspiration to the rest of the team to such good effect that, six minutes later, Jacks, Kenway and Stevens combined, with Stevens putting his second rower through, and then supporting him for the return pass, to score under the posts and add the extras.

Hull, though, were never going to draw back, and were always going to exploit the slightest indiscretion with points.  Thus, it was, that when the home team failed to field a goal-line drop-out, and then conceded a penalty, the Yorkshiremen exploited space on their right flank, for this winger to score in the corner, to extend their advantage to ten points, on the half hour.

The last ten-minute spell, however, was to produce a complete turn around in fortunes, as the Red Devils replicated their opponents’ two try opening, with two back-to-back scores of their own.   Quick, slick, passing along the Hull line, from left to right opened up space for right centre, Louis Lord, to surge through for the first, with Stevens’s conversion bringing the score to 10-16.

Directly from the kick-off, the Salford forwards made great yardage upfield, and towards the end of the set, Stevens put in the shrewdest of kicks behind the Hull right winger, with the ball then standing up beautifully for left winger, Elliott Kelly, to level the scores for the half time interval.

With honours now even, the Reds had everything to play for in the second half, but the initial grind of the arm-wrestle which ensued, gave no hint of the way the rest of the encounter would swing, like a pendulum, from one side to the other.

It was almost fifteen minutes into the half before defences broke, and when the first score came, it went to Hull, after a number of errors allowed the visitors to launch an attack on the Salford’ try-line, where another wide pass to the right wing restored Hull’s four points lead.

Not for long, however, with Salford delivering a well-executed kick-off into open space and regathered the ball to put themselves back on the attack, which culminated with Stevens and Connell combining superbly for the full back to go under the posts and for the conversion to put the home side ahead for the first time, at 22-20.

Throughout the game, Hull had always been capable of capitalising on the Red Devils’ mistakes, and when the ball was lost in a tackle, the visitors restored their four-point lead with a try and conversion.

The determining moment came sixteen minutes from the end, when Stevens made a magnificent solo break through the Hull ranks, kicked over the fullback’s head, but was prevented from scoring by a last-chance, desperate, obstruction, and from the resultant penalty the visitors were made to pay for the offence when Myles Paul, with his opposite winger now no longer a threat and sitting out ten minutes on the touchline, was put in at the corner, 26-26.

The extra man was utilised again ten minutes from the end, when Paul doubled his tally for the afternoon and he and his teammates clung on, to take the spoils.

Coach, Danny Barton, was more than pleased with his charges’ performance, and also the game itself, “It was a really good game to watch, because it was so intense, and the teams were so evenly matched.

“I was particularly pleased by the way our lads dug in together, and there was a definite improvement from last week’s game against Huddersfield.  There are always going to be errors in matches at this level, but we reacted particularly well in defence to any we made, when we didn’t compound the difficulty with any further ones.

“Our forwards were great, and Welsh international, Charlie Glover was my choice as man of the match, but our back three, of Jack Kenway, George Charnock, and Lukas Prescott also had impressive games.”

SALFORD

Nathan Connell, Myles Paul, Louis Lord, Josh Wagstaffe, Ellis Kelly, Lucas Coan, Jack Stevens, Charlie Glover, Henry Moran, Kai Parker, Jack Kenway, George Charnock, Lukas Prescott

Substitutes:

Chris Eves, Marshall Yates, Ben Wilkinson, Linden Taylor, Billy Wadeson

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