‘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.