Salford Red Devils 16  Castleford Tigers 10             Match Report

Just one month after their tremendous victory away at Wakefield, Salford’s U19s College Academy side hosted current league leaders, Castleford Tigers.  With both teams undefeated thus far in all fixtures it was only the cancellation of the Red Devils’ away match at Barrow, which separated the two teams in the table.

It did not take long for the visitors to take the initiative with an early score following back-to-back sets as a result of a goal-line drop-out on the third set, too far out for a successful conversion.  The confidence they took from this saw them having the edge in the exchanges which followed over the first fifteen minutes, so much so that no-one would ever have anticipated that they would remain totally scoreless for the next seventy minutes, which was what transpired.

Gradually, but surely, the dogged determination of the Salford pack in delivering hard, full-pace hit-ups and meeting the same with bone-jarring tackles, brought a swing in momentum to the Red Devils by the middle of the half.  Nor did the remainder of the side shirk any element of the physicality in this arm-wrestle.

The consequence and evidence of the sheer physicality they brought to the encounter was greater and greater penetration into the Tigers’ ranks, which brought them improved field position to apply pressure on the Castleford line.  Indeed, they might well have opened their account rather earlier, but for errors with ball in hand and in decision-making around a couple of penalties awarded to them.

Just as it was beginning to seem that scoring opportunities would be so sparse as to ever happen, especially when Jim Shields was held up over the line, on 26 mins, the Reds struck, two minutes later, with a really well executed try, direct from a scrum.  As the above photograph shows, the ball was moved to the blind-side and an overlap forged for right winger, Joe Griffiths, who went over in style to go round to ground behind the posts, giving Ryan Makin a straight-forward goal-kick to give them the lead.

And the Salford players were not finished there.  They continued to dominate for the rest of the half, finishing off with probably the best try of the game, the build up to which came over forty metres down the left flank with every player making progress and timing his pass outside to perfection.  Nevertheless, it still needed scoring when the ball got to winger, Ellis Clarke, who, despite the attentions of the Castleford cover, managed in true professional style to reach out and place the ball over the line as he was falling to the ground a little short of the line.

The six-point half-time lead might not have seemed a winning one, at the time, but as the second half unfolded both sides went head-to-head in an almost seemingly endless stalemate.  Jake Briffa was held up over the line, on 47 mins, and Castleford too, with the slope now in their favour, had their moments, but all in all the two sides cancelled each other out until it became apparent that the next score would prove crucial.

And so it proved, with a little piece of individual brilliance from stand-off, Sean Murray, who first side-stepped his marker, and then dummied the fullback to dart over close enough to the posts for Murray to add the conversion and open up a ten point lead, which they were able to hold onto until six minutes from the end, when the visitors produced an equal piece of individual innovation  with a  chip & chase to make the final minutes of the game as tense and enthralling as it had been throughout.

Coach, Danny Barton, was in no doubt as to the way his charges had managed the win:

“It was a superb team effort with everyone playing their part, in what was a high-class game.  That is what we train to do each week, and this week we produced it right through.  Whilst everyone played their part, the leaders throughout the side provided the direction and example for all the others to follow.”

With a blank fixture next week, the players will get a little respite before making the long journey over to Hull FC the following week, for their next outing.

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