RED DEVILS IN DEPTH: SALFORD V WARRINGTON

The Red Devils celebrated their return to the Salford Community Stadium for a home fixture, on Saturday, with a most impressive and much deserved victory over near neighbours, Warrington Wolves.

Almost as if to underline the unity which Paul Rowley has created within his group of players, he had provided them, in the form of a game plan, with a blueprint to put the Wolves to the sword, which they carried out, if not for the full eighty minutes, at the most crucial points of the game.

For the second week in succession, this was based on the domination of his pack over their opponents, and in this respect he must have been extremely pleased, and indeed proud, of the way they undertook this, from the very first carry, right through to the final whistle, with prop, Jack Ormondroyd leading the way, in what might be argued to have been his best performance in a Salford jersey.

His hit-ups were tremendous, and the last two of the first half were significant in themselves, with the first setting-up the position for Marc Sneyd’s drop-goal, and then after the restart, a strong carry forward in which, Warrington’s second rower, Joe Philbin received some collateral damage, which necessitated his brief withdrawal for attention.

Alongside him, mention must also be given to the rejuvenated Andrew Dixon, who appears to have made the move from second-row to prop in great style, but uses the running skills of his former position to great effect in the middle, whilst winger Ethan Ryan was positively involved throughout the game in both attack and defence.

What more can one say about Tim Lafai?  Every time he takes the field he pulls out something out of the ordinary, and Saturday was no exception, with his twice handing-off of opposite centre, Stefan Ratchford on his thirty metre race to the line, on nine minutes, for the opening try.

A second one, giving them back-to-back scores, might well have followed, when a change of tactics saw slick passing open up a gap for Ryan Brierley to go through from Kallum Watkins’s off-load, only for the fullback to be stopped ten metres from the line.

Not for the only time, however, the game was to swing away from them, a few minutes later, when Warrington had three back-to-back sets from a penalty and a touch-in-flight, leading to the son of former Salford Head Coach, Karl Harrison, James Harrison’s simple try by the posts, which put them ahead with their successful goal kick.

It was George Williams’s in-goal end-of-set kicks, however, on which the Wolves relied most, though with a somewhat checkered overall outcome.  There were four of them throughout the first half, with both first and last rolling dead, and giving Salford two seven-tackle sets from the twenty-metre restart.  The second, whilst being better in itself, brought no result as fullback, Matt Dufty, was unable to take advantage of the opportunity, giving the Reds another seven-tackle restart.

The third, however, was absolutely on target, giving the impression of rolling dead but holding up long enough for the kicker to get around Brierley to register their second try for a 4-10 lead. 

Something as simple as a penalty from the subsequent kick-off, though, brought another swing in momentum, with the Red Devils gaining chance to attack the visitors’ line, thereby giving Joe Mellor his first try for Salford, under the posts direct from a play-the-ball, with Sneyd’s kick thus bringing the scores level, for a brief ten minutes.

Despite early Salford pressure, it was the visitors who opened the second half scoring with a penalty goal, which swung the single-point lead in their favour.  Credit to the Salford players, they promptly refocused themselves upon putting matters to rights.

Probably the most overworked official for the match was the video referee, who was brought into action on no less than five occasions, each time confirming the on-field decision of the referee.  Consequently, the game’s final and decisive try, which came on 71 mins, did just that.

Three times Brierley came close to scoring throughout the game, and three times he was thwarted – the third time by an off-the-ball tackle as it rolled around in the in-goal area.  The video ref has only two buttons as options to press – TRY & NO TRY, which relate as to whether a try has been scored or not.  Because there had been no try actually scored on the field, the big screen indicated that, but verbally it was confirmed to the referee that Brierley should be awarded a penalty try.

With a five point lead then to protect, Salford most effectively managed the game for the remaining seven minutes, just as they had done for twenty-five, at London, the week before, to become only the second team to have inflicted defeat on this high-flying Warrington side.

ORMONDROYD: “IT’S POSITIVE SIGNS FOR ME!”

Jack Ormondroyd is pleased with the progress he’s made in 2024.

The prop signed for Salford Red Devils in 2020 and has cemented himself as a regular member of the team under Head Coach, Paul Rowley.

Ahead of last season, Ormondroyd signed a new three-year deal, meaning he’ll be donning the red and white until at least 2025.

Reflecting on his own form, the 32-year-old admitted to our YouTube channel that he is back enjoying his rugby after a difficult season in 2023.

“It’s positive signs for me,” he began.

“I think I had a bit of a dip last year, I don’t think I was great last year, so coming into this year I had a bit to prove to Rowls.

“I’m just trying to do the basics right and I’ve played a few more minutes than I did last year, so it’s good at the minute, and I’m enjoying it again.”

With four wins from six to kickstart the Betfred Super League campaign, Ormondroyd is happy with the teams’ level of performance, but also admits there’s plenty they can do to improve.

“Yeah, good – I think there’s always room for improvement. I think the two games we’ve lost were winnable games as well, so it’s positive signs.

“Like you say, a couple of months into the season and we’ve got plenty to go, so we’ve got a lot to work on still and hopefully we can keep ticking off them wins.”

Castleford Tigers lie in wait this evening; a team who currently sit without a point in 2024, but have showed plenty of resilience in the past few weeks.

“They’re a tough prospect,” Ormondroyd continued.

“They’re bottom of the league, which isn’t great for them, but watching the game last week against Leeds, they were all over them.

“If Leeds had defended a little bit worse there, they’d have scored a few tries, so there’s no easy games, and we’ll have to be on it if we want to get the win.”

Watch our full interview with Jack by clicking below.

RED DEVILS IN DEPTH: SALFORD V CASTLEFORD

‘It’s not how you start but how you finish’ is what we are so often told, but in last Sunday afternoon’s opening home fixture with Castleford, the Red Devils wrote their own variation to that mantra. And why shouldn’t they, for after all, players and coaches will often say that they need to get off to a good start.

This, though, was not a good start – it was an incredible start, with Salford camping out in the visitors’ thirty metre area for a full ten minutes of the game, during which time they enjoyed no less than nine consecutive sets of six. Penalties, opposition touches, goal-line drop outs forced from shrewd in-goal kicks and excellent kick chases, set restarts, and tries, all combined to give the Reds the impression that they could dominate the game from start to finish.

Perhaps the most praise-worthy aspect of all this, though, was their patience. The eagerness to turn possession and position into points can so often be the cause of over-ambitious or rushed passes, which let the opposition off the hook. Not on this occasion, however, as the Red Devils started their seventh set-of-six, and this time completed it by Sam Stone going over towards the left hand corner.

Nor did the onslaught end there. Another try – this time his first in a Salford shirt to Amir Bourouh from Brad Singleton’s great offload – brought their score to twelve points in as many minutes, courtesy Marc Sneyd’s conversions, which, in fairness, were only another facet of his exceptional overall kicking game, thus far.

Although there were still another two sets started, the interception of Sone’s well intended pass inside, brought that opening tirade to a conclusion. For the team on the receiving end of such ball deprivation, all they can do is just hope that, over the forty minutes, possession evens itself, or at least they get sufficient to get back into the game. Much to Salford’s surprise the Tigers did and shortly before half time the Red Devils’ twelve point lead had been cut to two.

If you are going to score an eye-catching try, two minutes before halftime is the time to do so. It not only demoralises your opponents going into the interval, it also changes significantly the mood of discussion in each dressing-room. Nene Macdonald’s highly discussed and viewed feat of athleticism was not only incredibly well executed, it was also timed superbly.

And the impact does not end there. The start of the second half consequently found both teams in much the same mindset as had been the case in that initial first half stanza, and it really came as no surprise when, after a period of intensive pressure, a beautifully weighted kick over the line by Sneyd was latched onto by Stone for his second try of the afternoon.

At 24-10 it seemed all over bar the shouting but this game did not pan out that way and much to many a spectator’s astonishment, it was the Tigers who took much of the spoils later on pulling back to 24-16.

The sin-binning of Jack Ormandroyd for much of the last ten minutes, did not help the Salford cause, but, as always when in difficulty Marc Sneyd can be relied upon to kick you out of trouble as he did on Sunday, slotting over a penalty kick at goal to pull his team further away – a wise move as Horne’s concluding Cas try was then too late to impact on the result.

RED DEVILS IN DEPTH: CASTLEFORD V SALFORD

Fresh from their somewhat unexpected victory over Leeds Rhinos, the Castleford Tigers must have felt quite confident at delivering a repeat performance and result, when they entertained our in-form Salford Red Devils in Friday night’s Round 15 fixture, especially after having run their visitors extremely close on their visit to the Salford Stadium back in mid-April.

Certainly, the opening stanza seemed to reflect that as the Tigers, having received the ball from the kick-off promptly acquired four back-to-back sets, from a penalty early in the first set, and then head and feed at a scrum following a Salford forward touch of the ball, and finally a second penalty, to take them the full length of the remarkably short Mend-a-Hose Jungle field to apply strong pressure on the Red Devils’ goal-line defence.

Indeed, when the Reds went in front, from Rhys Williams’s score under the posts, in the eleventh minute, having secured the ball from an end-of-set kick along his wing, it was very much against the run of play, underlined by Castleford’s cancelling out four of the points he had gained them in less than a minute of the restart.

From that point onwards, however, the Tigers were barely in the hunt, as the slick, fast, entertaining handling of the Salford players opened up the home side’s defence time and again, with comparative ease, to take as 4-24 points lead going up to the half-time mark.

Probably because of their dominance for, by far, the majority of the game, many might be surprised at their conceding as many as ten points, all of them in the first half, even though their defence, in general, was well in control for almost the whole match.

There were, however, some rather unusual circumstances around the tries which the Tigers did manage to score.  The first was the one mentioned above, which might well have levelled the points at 6-6, but for Widdop missing the conversion.

One moment Tim Lafai was in possession of the ball on a clearing run towards the forty-metre line, when he lost control of it, and the next it was in the hands of Castleford’s, Quarequare, who had a clear run to the Salford try-line. In fact, the Salford players scrambled extremely well to prevent him going round to the posts, thus limiting the damage by two points.

The second came as much because of the hooter than any great fault with the Red Devils’ goal-line defence, with their backs to the actual clock.  With two tackles still to go in the set, the sound of the hooter coincided with the ball being in the hands of Miller, whose quick thinking saw him put in an unexpected short, overhead kick for it to be collected by Edwards with yet another clear run to the line.

Far more representative of the Salford defence, however, was the fact that it stood unbreeched by any planned move Cas’s attack could muster.  On the only other time they managed to cross the line, in the later stages of the second half, they were held up by a swarm of willing defenders.

The Salford attack, as far as entertainment was concerned, was probably, alongside the sixty pointer at Hull, and the similar forty-two against Huddersfield in the Cup, among their best of the season, which is unsurprising given the ideal, dry conditions.

The tries when they came were all thrilling to watch as the Reds clinically ripped open the home defence, and their variations made for all the more enjoyment.  The one which possibly caught most people’s eye was their third, when Brodie Croft took the ball to the line before feeding Deon Cross, whose combination of speed, clever swerved running, and dummy was good enough to take him the forty-five metres to the line.

Two rather surprising absentees in their armoury, though, was the lack of any set moves from the scrums, from which they preferred to rely on Lafai’s strong runs into the Tiger’s defence.

Other than those, there seemed a little less physicality than usual which was more than likely because it was not needed.  The one which really stood out was Jack Ormondroyd’s thirty metre charge downfield, direct from a Cas goal-line drop-out, midway through the second half.

With a massively important Challenge Cup quarter-final at Hull KR, next week, on their minds, though, it may be that they had decided that discretion was the most appropriate strategy for then, and if they were to come back from there still in the draw for the semi-final, any shortfalls from this particular game would be long forgotten.

REDS DEVILS IN DEPTH: LEEDS V SALFORD

In what was only the club’s fifth victory over Leeds at Headingley in seventy-eight years, the Salford Red Devils last Friday night, put that spectre to bed with an outstanding, winning performance, to take the spoils in an increasingly tightly fought battle to cement places in the Super League top six.

There had been an air of confidence and enthusiasm for the encounter, throughout the camp during the week, and on the night the players executed a game plan which drew on every strength within the side, leaving nothing to chance, and exposing any deficiency within their hosts’ ranks.

Whilst their attacking flair, as we knew it from last season, still lies awaiting the dry grounds, they have replaced it with an efficiency in defence of which Salford fans have not had experience for many a long year, and thereby rests a significant factor in the reasons for the paucity in post-war wins over there.

Looking back over the game without the anxieties which must have occasionally surfaced in some, whilst watching on the night, we can all appreciate just how good a game it was throughout, with both sides having their periods of ascendency.

Salford’s were probably the more prolonged, and certainly the more effective, because it was in these spells of dominance, with more than adequate possession in the Rhinos’ red zone, that their match winning twenty-two points were scored.  The effect on the home side of all this pressure was to force errors, particularly errors of discipline, leading to penalties and, consequently, even more pressure. 

The first of these came in the twelfth minute, when after an opening ten-minute arm wrestle, in which flaws in the home side’s handling started to become evident, Salford won, forcing a goal-line drop-out and a subsequent repeat set.

It was, however, the sin-binning in the 18th minute, of Leeds’s stand-off, Austin, for an obstruction on Kallum Watkins, which brought things to a head, with the Red Devils then tearing their opponents defence to shreds to notch two converted tries, through first, Rhys Williams, after they had got their attacking line in full flow, and then, five minutes later, the ball being moved to the left and Sam Stone showing great skill to avoid attempted tackles before going over to the left of the posts.

Their second period of dominance came in the third quarter, when they increased a six-point, half-time lead to what was to be a match-determining sixteen, courtesy of a converted try and two penalty goals.

The Rhinos, nevertheless, had their moments, though for somewhat shorter spells.  Their first came in the final ten minutes of the first half when they changed tactics by reverting to some daring, and some risky, offloads, which on the night stuck, none more than in the run up to their 38th minute try, under the posts.

Similarly, the Yorkshiremen gained the ascendency for the concluding fifteen minutes, when they were rejuvenated by a further six-pointer in the corner by getting on the end of a cross-field kick to set up, though as it turned out to be, an unnecessary nail-biting conclusion to the encounter – unnecessary, of course, because the Salford defence was equal to anything the Rhinos could thereafter muster to throw at it.

And that defence is now becoming a weapon in their armoury that no-one, outside the group, had probably expected.  It has, though,  been increasingly evident over a number of matches, culminating in that home victory over Catalans, which will have stood them in great stead in readiness for this encounter, for yet again the pack had to contend with, and actually subdue, a much larger and powerful opposing set.

Led by their opening middles, King Vuniyayawa, who must have relished every moment of facing up to his former club, Ollie Partington, who so noticeably showed the knack of putting himself in the right position to dictate plays, and Tyler Dupree, fresh from international duty.  They were ably replicated by the trustworthy Jack Ormondroyd, and Shane Wright, whose form this season has been absolute revelation.

Kallun Watkins made a captain’s contribution showing such strength and determination in his running, but mention also has to be made of the contribution of Ellis Longstaff, who had to be drafted into the unfamiliar role of centre, and acquitted himself well throughout, even going over the third of the visitors’ three tries.

Finally, it would be remiss not to mention the significant role of Marc Sneyd, whose kicking, especially goal-kicking, week after week, can so significantly make the difference between winning and losing.  It seems now to be even falling into the dim and distant past, at Leigh actually, since he last missed a goalkick, and his two penalty successes against the Rhinos, were, points-wise, the equivalent of an additional try.

So, it is onwards, next week, to the Totally Wicked Stadium, where against the World Club Champions it will require everything on view from the Reds at Leeds, and who knows what more besides, to overcome the Saints.  After this latest victory, their fourth in a row, however, they certainly will not be short on confidence.

JACK ORMONDROYD SIGNS NEW THREE-YEAR SALFORD RED DEVILS CONTRACT

Salford Red Devils are delighted to announce Jack Ormondroyd has signed a new three-year contract, keeping him at the Club until 2025.

Following on from various important contract renewals in the off-season, our number eight is the latest to commit his long-term future to the Red Devils.

Ormondroyd’s personal game has been taken to new levels under the tutelage of Paul Rowley in the past 12 months and he’ll continue to play a vital role across 2023 and beyond.

On top of his incredible tenacity and work-rate in the front line, the prop scored four Betfred Super League tries across 2022 – perhaps typifying the brand of rugby league Rowley and his staff have developed in such a short time.

Off the field, Ormondroyd has become a real leader within the group; someone who multiple young forwards at the Club have name-checked when asked who is always open for advice. 

Reacting to his new deal, Ormondroyd said: “I am really happy to be staying at Salford for another couple of years.

“I’ve enjoyed my time here so far; we’ve got a great set of lads. Hopefully we can have another good year and do something special!”

Head Coach, Paul Rowley added: “It’s fantastic news that Jack is staying with the Club. He continues to work hard in everything he does and typifies the qualities and core values of the group.

“He’s fantastic to coach and a real leader within the group so his retention is another example of the clubs commitment to the succession of the team and therefore a real positive for our club.”

Director of Rugby and Operations, Ian Blease has also said: “It is incredible news that Jack is extending his stay with the Red Devils.

“Since joining the Club in 2020, his improvement – under the guidance of Paul Rowley and his staff – has been a joy to watch. His presence and voice in the dressing room is vital – especially for our young players – so I’m delighted he’ll be able to continue that going forward.

“After some other vital contract extensions in the off-season, I can’t wait for the season to kick-off on Friday and see what this team can achieve!”

Our number eight is committed for the future; are you? Buy your 2023 season ticket HERE.

RED DEVILS IN DEPTH: TOULOUSE V SALFORD

For the second week in a row, Salford Red Devils succeeded in defeating French opposition, in temperatures in the thirties – conditions which should have more than favoured both sets of opponents.  Surprising as last week’s victory over the Catalans Dragons was to many people, this latest win was, if anything, even more commendable, coming, as it did, on French soil, in front of a most partisan crowd, against a side, which, at home, in recent weeks, had put all manner of opposition to the sword, thereby gaining a momentum which had seen them lift themselves off the bottom of the table to go above Wakefield.

Despite their Super League Championship aspirations, the Dragons, in comparison, had been visitors to the A J Bell, having, by choice, flown in and out on the day, having succumbed to struggling Warrington, the previous week, at the Magic Weekend.  After this latest victory, it is now the Red Devils who have the momentum of recent victories, and, dare we say it, aspirations of making the top six at the end of the season.  Let’s be fair, even St Helens failed to win in Toulouse, while Leeds, in Round 19, had gone down by twenty points to six.

Not so the Red Devils, though you would hardly have expected so, when they fell behind by six points, with only ninety seconds on the clock.  It certainly was not the most auspicious of openings for them, with their conceding a penalty at the end of the very first set, thus giving Toulouse a second look at the Reds’ line, before opening up the defence on the final tackle.

Concerning as many of us might have found this, it has to be said that, for the remaining seventy-eight and a half minutes, the visitors successfully kept their line intact, no mean achievement, especially when one takes into account the venue and the conditions, while Toulouse’s other five points all came from kicks at goal.

It took the Red Devils until the 24th minute, to cross the home line, when Jack Ormoroyd charged over, but with at least one body beneath him, preventing his grounding of the ball.  That attempt, however, was encouragement that they were getting close to scoring, and some four minutes later, a loose pass by Toulouse, in their own half, was acquired by Kallum Watkins.  Anexcellent end-of-set kick from Mark Sneyd was taken by Joe Burgess on the try line, and all he had to was place the ball down cleanly, which he did.

For the most part, however, the first half had settled into a war of attrition, with first one side and then the other using possession to test out their opposition when in possession, particularly close to their opponents’ line.  Somewhat surprisingly, it was a drop goal, by Toulouse, five minutes from half time, which broke the deadlock, and led to a further couple of points shortly afterwards.

A clean break by Gigot, one of very few in the half, was, most thankfully, brought to an end by Burgess’s ankle tap.  Watkins’s drop onto the Frenchman, to ensure the tackle, was penalised by the referee, for unintentional contact with the head, and former Salford U19s, Chris Hankinson, doubled his score with the boot, bringing up a 9-6 half-time, home lead.

Tight as the first forty had been, the second half was quite the opposite, with the third quarter belonging solely to Salford.  Indeed, the very first set ended with Sneyd’s magnificent, 40-20, and then his kick at the end of the subsequent set, being fumbled and presenting the Red Devils with a third.

When, on 49 mins, the French side lost the ball, on the second tackle of a set, as a result of the constant pressure they were under, Salford were quickly awarded a penalty.  The lovely flowing action of their passing had been in evidence, on and off throughout the game, and was produced to fine effect for Ken Sio, to receive the ball in sufficient space to go over in the corner to put the visitors in front for the first time.

True, Toulouse reclaimed the lead, temporarily, on 53mins, courtesy Hankinson’s penalty goal. but that second Salford try had merely heralded in one of their purple patches for the next fifteen minutes.  They restored their dominance on the scoreboard two minutes later, when an overlap was worked on the left, directly from a scrum, giving Burgess a clear run to the line for a converted try.

A truly tremendous break by Brodie Croft, on 59 mins, thoroughly deserved a try, but, unfortunately, his support overran him and he was tackled in possession, with the Red Devils then having to be content with Sneyd’s taking a leaf out of the opposition’s book, and slotting over a penalty goal to make up for the one –  the only one – he had missed, all afternoon.

Sio wound up the evening’s scoring, with another converted try in the corner, after a strong hit-up by Helliwell on the previous tackle, after which the ball was moved further to the right, where the winger used clever footwork to beat his opponents to get over the line.

The final fifteen minutes of the game saw the home side regroup and throw everything into their attack, but their only success was in forcing three goal-line drop-outs from kicks into the in-goal area.

Almost unbelievably, just as Burgess had saved the day with an ankle tap on Gigot in the dying seconds of the first half, so he repeated the exercise, this time without the need for additional help, on Ashall-Bott from a break following his twenty-metre restart, some seven minutes from the final whistle.  That proved to be their last fling of the dice, and the Red Devils were able to pocket the points and return home to prepare for next week’s visit from St Helens.

RED DEVILS IN DEPTH: SALFORD V CATALANS (2)

 

It was back in early April – Easter Monday to be precise – when the Catalans Dragons paid their first visit of the season, to the A J Bell Stadium.  It would be fair to say that their performance, and the result, were far from flattering to the Red Devils with the visitors from the south of France returning home with a comfortable 10-36 victory.

How quickly fortunes can change, with Sunday’s latest encounter providing an almost complete reversal of that first occasion, with the Frenchmen, this time, managing to cross only once, for the first score of the afternoon.  From that point onwards, the Salford players set about avenging that earlier defeat, by turning in one of their most valiant defensive performances of recent seasons, rendering the Dragons completely pointless for the remaining seventy-two minutes.

It was not as though they did not have ample opportunity to rack up points, by the dozen, with the opening stages of each half being completely overshadowed by their dominance of both possession and field position.

It is invariably any team’s attack which provide spectators with their main source of entertainment and enjoyment.  Tries, tries, and more tries is what fans of every club want on behalf of their club, but on Sunday the roars of encouragement, appreciation, and approval, for the Red Devils, when they finally secured the ball, eight minutes into the second half, together with delighted and relieved applause, was equal to that afforded to their favourites on any of the scores, they eventually produced.

And deservedly so, for had they not Just tackled themselves to a standstill, standing resolute in the face of all the odds, by withstanding no less than seven back-to-back sets, a number of these coming on the final tackle of the set.  That a couple of minutes later they had to repeat this brave endeavour for a further couple of sets, only served to underline the extremely high quality of their defensive line as they stood shoulder to shoulder against the seemingly relentless onslaught of Catalans’ attacks.

Yet the longer the visitors held possession, the more confident both Salford players and supporters became that they would not manage to score.  There were some remarkably close shaves, however.  Who, for example, can forget that incredible try saving tackle of Joe Burgess, on 28 mins, which was worth at least four points to his side, in its denial of that amount to the Dragons?

The supporters themselves also made their contribution to the win, with their vocal support, particularly through the most tortuous phases.  Their persistent, and constant, encouragement to the team, with their singing and shouting, giving the players the determination to see out the adversity with which, at that time, they were beset.

There was no mistaking the Dragons’ presumption that they could wear down the Reds by the sheer size, and aggression, of their much revered pack, but the Salford forwards stood up to them with a courage and a passion that cemented them together as a unit, so that, when they ultimately did gain possession, their far greater mobility enabled them to serve their halves and threequarters with a quality of possession that they had denied their opponents.

Of course, there were tries.  You do not accrue thirty-two points without scoring some, and the Reds went over, on five occasions.  Ken Sio led the way, with a hat-trick, after a few weeks’ drought, owing to a paucity of opportunities.  Andy Ackers’s scoot, followed by the most scintillating of passes to Brodie Croft, put the Dragons’ tormentor-in-chief, in the clear, before the defenders had even realised what was happening.

Then there was Jack Ormondroyd.  His back-to-back tries, at Warrington, were extended by yet another on 78 mins, when Marc Sneyd’s kick was recovered by Ryan Brierley for the big prop to rampage through, for his third of the season.

On top of that there were further near misses.  Brodie Croft’s overhead kick, on 37 mins, unfortunately bounced away from him, thereby denying him a clear opportunity.  A final pass to Sio, from Deon Cross, on 49 mins, after a mercurial break upfield, was ruled forward, which otherwise would have saved his side from their second salver of second half defending duties, that so inspired their fans.

Nevertheless, the Red Devils still had enough in their armoury to see off one of the most feared teams in Super League, with Championship ambitions for the end of the season, and in conditions, which should have suited the visitors far more than they did the home side.  The Salford players now need to take this weekend’s experience with them, as they travel, for their very first Super League visit to Toulouse, next weekend.

RED DEVILS IN DEPTH: WARRINGTON V SALFORD (2)

An absolutely magnificent fightback, in the final quarter of the game was the hallmark of an exceptionally entertaining, afternoon’s rugby league, when the Red Devils visited the Halliwell-Jones Stadium, to take on the Warrington Wolves.

There will be many, who will have left the game feeling quite disconsolate and disappointed, but they will not be Salford fans, and nor can anyone have anything to complain about, in respect of the entertainment on view.

No, the Salford fans left rejoicing at their side’s incredible reversal of a 24-8 score line, which the Wolves had built up ten minutes into the second half.  That this was, in itself, a reversal of the 0-8 lead into which the Red Devils had scorched during the opening fifteen minutes, simply underlines just how unpredictable, and riveting, this encounter turned out to be.

From the very outset, it was the visitors who turned on the style.  A Marc Sneyd kick, at the end of a seven-tackle set, was collected by left winger Rhys Williams, amid a most static Wolves’ defence, which he exploited to the full by racing into space and crossing for the opening try, on six minutes.

Seven minutes later, a well-directed pass from Ryan Brierley, from dummy-half, saw Deon Cross dart through the defensive line for Salford’s second score.  Although Sneyd was unable to convert either of them, these two tries were to constitute the winning eight-point margin, at the final whistle.

Efforts to improve upon that, however, proved surprisingly fruitless, mainly because the home defence regrouped and determined to snuff out the Salford attack at its source, namely, half back, Brodie Croft, who had been running rampant for the duration, to this point.  Consequently, three or four attacks went unrewarded, and the result was a building frustration within the team, which led, in turn, to a complete shift in momentum.

It was not the sinbinning of Kallum Watkins on thirty-seven minutes, which was responsible for the Warrington comeback; that merely served to illustrate the effect of being a man short, on such a firm, dry pitch, in such a fast, free-flowing game.

It was, in fact, the conceding of a succession of no less than seven penalties, within only a couple of minutes, which invited Warrington to attack, that was the real cause of the problem, most of which were for off-side.  Such an amount of possession, in such good position, is never going to go without presenting subsequent problems, and indeed, on twenty-two minutes, Salford fans were most relieved that a possible Wolves’ try, by the side of the posts, was disallowed.

Indeed, they will have been equally thankful, on the stroke of half-time, when Sitoleki Akauola superbly denied Thewlis another try, by pushing him into touch.  There had been no denying Warrington, on 27 mins, however, when a scoot from Daryl Clark, caught out the Salford line of defence, and he scored close to the posts for the conversion to bring them within two points, 6-8, at half time.

The fact that, at the start of the second-half, Watkins still had by far the majority of his time in the sinbin to sit out, was exploited by the home side to the full, and the Red Devils had a rather challenging spell, until his return, on 48 minutes, by which time Warrington had taken the lead with two converted tries, on 41 and 45 mins, and to which they promptly added a third, on 51.

When, at that point, former Salford favourite, Stefan Ratchford, slotted over his final conversion, the game was hanging in the balance.  Any further score would, undoubtedly, have been extremely difficult for the visitors to overturn, but the sixteen-point lead was by no means a winning margin.

The incredible stamina and resolve which the Salford players showed over the remainder of the game was nothing but outstanding. So many teams in this situation would have gone into their shell, longing for the final whistle.

With a full complement restored, they simply rolled up their sleeves and set to, to get the result.  The swing in momentum started on 55 mins, with some great handling, particularly from Watkins, whose wonderful pass out of a tackle, seemingly to nobody, ended up in the hands of Chris Atkin for him to score and so start the fightback.

Prop forwards are not renowned for their try-scoring feats, and back-to-back tries from props are a considerable rarity.  Jack Ormandroyd, whose stature has recently been growing by the week, and whom we singled out, last week, for his off-the ball work, put the cap on an outstanding performance, yesterday, to cross, most remarkably, on both 70 and 73 mins, for Sneyd-converted tries, the second following a barnstorming run by fellow prop, Tyler Dupree, to put Salford back in front by two points.

It was only fitting that the dominance of the Salford victory should be underlined by a further six pointer, started by the impressive Atkin and finished by fullback, Ryan Brierley, which gave them the cushioning to be able to soak up Warrington’s final attacking flurries, in the last three minutes with relative ease.

Winning at a top club, like Warrington, is most commendable.  To end up having to win the game twice, as they did, is a truly magnificent achievement, and the players deserve all the plaudits that the fans, and their coaches, bestowed on them.  With Magic Weekend supported by Sky Zero, now only seven days away, what better place to show the whole nation, and rugby league in particular, just what this attacking force of Salford Red Devils has become.

RED DEVILS IN DEPTH: SALFORD V WAKEFIELD

As the visiting Wakefield swept into an early 0-6 lead after a mere three minutes of play, in last Sunday’s Super League encounter, the signs for a Salford victory seemed somewhat sparse, and no-one could possibly have predicted the amazing about turn, which was about to manifest itself.

This had been an eagerly awaited match ever since the Red Devils had been pipped at the post, back in April in their away fixture, at Belle Vue.  More recently, however, the tightness of the two teams’ league status had turned the game into a ‘must win’ fixture for both sides.

Besides that opening try proving to be a complete red-herring, as far as the result was concerned, it also proved to be a wake-up call for the home side, who responded with what must have been their most outstanding performance, and subsequent victory, in the past two seasons.  Once the momentum began to swing in their favour there was absolutely no stopping them, and the points started to accrue at the most remarkable speed.

Overwhelming victories often lead to the debate over whether it was good attack or poor defence which was the dominant reason for the outcome.  Not on this occasion, however, because there could be no gainsaying the incredibly impressive attacking force into which the Salford attack turned.  That all but two of their tries were scored by backs, and five of them by wingers is testament in itself to that.  Wakefield’s  defence just had no chance of coping with it.

Tries galore was the outcome, and the skill, grace, and clinicity, with which these were forged simply had to be marvelled at.  They sprang from virtually every aspect of the game – in-goal kicks, directly from scrums, goal-line drop-outs, penalties, well-supported clean breaks – all of these proved to be the starting point for one or other of the thirteen tries.

The ones which were the most impressive and enjoyable, however, were those, predominantly in the first half, in which the absolutely fabulous, slick, handling saw the ball swept from one side of the field to the other, with a precision, and also variations, that were so beautiful in their execution, that they had to be seen to be believed.  The position of each player in the line, on each occasion, was centimetre perfect, and the timings of each and every pass were impeccable.  They had to be to foil the Wakefield defence as frequently as they did.

And what of the Wakefield defence?  Well, they certainly will not have conceded willingly, when you consider just what was at stake.  They simply had the misfortune of coming up against a team, which, on the day, was absolutely on fire, and totally dominated possession.  We can all remember periods, in which they successfully contained the Reds in their own thirty metre area, until an end-of-set kick relieved the pressure.

There is a limit to the amount of defending anyone can do, though, and with the amount of possession Salford enjoyed, Trinity’s energy levels understandably fell as each half progressed, and particularly in the second half, there was a small number of clean breaks which came as a result of the visitors’ fatigue.  They, nevertheless, still managed to score a second try, on 51 minutes.

A total of seventy-four points does not come predominantly from poor defence, however, it has to come primarily from the exceptionally high quality of the attack in order for it to mount up to such a massive scoreline, and this is undoubtedly what happened on this occasion

There even were a couple of occasions when it looked as though another try was on the way only for it to be chalked off by the referee.  Harvey Livett failed to ground cleanly Marc Sneyd’s in-goal kick on 8 mins, while Sneyd himself was given exactly the same judgement in the second half, and was also called back, later, whilst on his way to the line, for a forward pass.

In addition, there was a considerable amount of off-the-ball work, which probably went unnoticed, but which was quite instrumental in the victory.  An end-of-set kick towards the Wakefield try-line, for example, was recovered by the fullback, only to receive the full force of Jack Ormondroyd’s charging tackle, with the ball being knocked out of his grasp, thereby acquiring possession for Ryan Brierley 62nd minute try.

The challenge for the team now is to put this game behind them and focus on next Sunday’s match at Warrington.  This scoreline, marvellous as it is, will have no relevance then, and the 0-0 score, from which both teams will start, will need all the hard work that any game needs, in order to bring back the points from the Halliwell Jones.

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