CLUB STATEMENT – JOE BURGESS

Salford Red Devils can confirm that Joe Burgess has been released with immediate effect following a thorough investigation process.

As a club, we remain committed to upholding the highest standards of professionalism, integrity, and discipline and have an expectation that those who represent the club reflect these values.

Whilst the decision has not been taken lightly, after consideration it has been decided that the player’s conduct was not consistent with such expectations.

We wish Joe the very best in his career going forward and thank him for his efforts since arriving at the club in 2021.

The Club will be making no further comment on this matter.

RED DEVILS IN DEPTH: SALFORD V WARRINGTON

It might have taken up to eighty-three minutes to get a result, but when it came the celebrations throughout the Salford stadium were comparable with having won a major trophy, as the Red Devils gained the two league points at the expense of the visiting Warrington Wolves, to go level with them on points, with only two games remaining.

Such was the importance of this particular fixture that the tension and intensity, prevalent throughout the match, led to rather more errors than might be expected at Super League level, yet on this occasion so closely matched were the two sides that these merely added to the excitement as to how the game would continue to unfold.  Twists and turns really do keep your concentration, and nerves, keyed up to the final whistle.

And when it eventually did come, what a tremendous way to secure the win – not with the anticipated drop-goal, but through a near length of the field, try of the match, which capped everything that had gone before, in terms of quality.  Slick hands moved the ball swiftly to the left wing, to put Joe Burgess in the clear.  That he was backed up the whole of the way by Sam Stone, a second row forward, was quite remarkable taking into account both the energy and pace needed to be in position to take the inside pass to score.

That it was the home side which had eventually taken the game was, in some respects, justice, for they had, on the whole, been the better of the two teams throughout, showing more ideas and organisation on attack, whilst defending their line, in particular, to greater effect.

This was evidenced in the three tries each team scored during the regular eighty minutes.  Warrington’s first two came from individual errors from our wingers, usually so reliable under the high ball, each dropping a keenly contested bomb giving the Wolves a dream start to each half.

Williams’s score between the posts, on 68 mins, was the one time they did successfully breech Salford’s goal-line defence, though, in fairness, there had been three occasions in the first half when their efforts were chalked off, the most noticeable being on the stroke of half time, when the video referee overturned the on-field decision to Thewlis’s grounding, in Salford’s favour.

In contrast, however, Ben Hellewell’s 22nd minute try came as a result of his beating his marker, in one of the quite few, man-on-man, line breeches in the whole game.  Then there was Brodie Croft, now coming back into the form he had shown to such dazzling effect last season.  His first, on 29 mins, followed two tremendous tackles, the first from Ryan Brierley on his opposite number Dufty, and then from the magnificent King Vuniyayawa and Chris Atkin which forced the ball out of the grasp of Ratchford.  Andy Ackers was on hand to collect it with next Atkin then sending out a wide pass to Croft in acres of space to score unopposed.

There was much more to his second, on 62 mins, than just a lucky ricochet.  Twice he put in short, low, end-of-set kicks to the Wolves’ line, the first of which forced a goal-line drop-out for a repeat set.  The second hit an opponent’s leg with Croft being easily the most alert person on the field to react by turning back on himself collecting the loose ball, and going over by the right-hand upright.

Salford too, had had a couple of disappointments, the first coming as early as the seventh minute, when a good attacking move to the right enabled Deon Cross to straighten up and go for the line, only for a first attempted tackle to be adjudged by the video referee as effective, owing to the fact that there was still contact between the defender’s hand and Cross’s foot as his ball carrying arm touched the ground.

All of which combined to make this a most riveting contest, of which both sides seemed to make heavy weather, in their endeavours to secure the points.  In the considerable heat of the day, however, it was the Salford players who always showed the greater desire and determination throughout and the fact that they had already had successful experience of Golden Point extra time, in their first home fixture with Wakefield, stood them in good stead for the final culmination.

Having to play extra time in the run up before another do-or-die encounter the following week, away at Hull KR, who had already had an extra two days’ recovery from their visit to Huddersfield, does not seem at all helpful, but such was the euphoria from, and the manner of, this win, that the boost it will have given the players, both jointly and individually, might just be enough to carry them through despite the adversities they face in the run-up to the game.  The fabulous support of our travelling fans will undoubtedly be a vital factor in keeping their spirits up throughout the encounter, so please all do get yourselves over there and make yourselves known, throughout.

RED DEVILS IN DEPTH: SALFORD V WIGAN

After a month’s absence from their home venue at the Salford Stadium, the Red Devils returned from their travels, on Sunday last, to entertain the Wigan Warriors, in what turned out to be, since their move there, a record attendance of spectators, for this Round 16 encounter.

It must have felt like an extremely bold step for the Directors to target, publicly, the breaking of the previously existing record, but by so doing it pioneered the way for the newly publicly owned club to draw on its resources of bodies around the town to rally round and help drive up the numbers to ensure a successful outcome in this respect.

It was not only the attendance, however, which marked the occasion, as a whole-day event had been planned to celebrate both the first home fixture under the new ownership and also Armed Forces Day, which culminated with a triple shot from a cannon at the northwest corner of the ground, thereby rousing the assembled multitude to greater excitement than ever.

And so, even before a ball had been kicked, the day had proved to be a considerable success and significant occasion for all those present, for which every single person involved in its inception and organisation deserves the utmost praise and gratitude.

For a game against such a side as the mighty Warriors and on such a special occasion, however, the side would really have preferred not to have had two members of its spine missing through injury, as was the case with both Andy Ackers and Brodie Croft.  Not that that reflects in any way upon their replacements, Amir Bourouh and the versatile Chris Atkin, who both slotted in smoothly at hooker and half back, respectively.

To then lose a third member of that crucial spine, in Ryan Brierley from the fullback role, on 35 mins, however, was a blow which really took its toll alongside the others, and it was probably as a result of the reorganization necessitated by this that led to the visitors snatching a half time lead from the grasp of the reshuffled Salford side, three minutes from the interval.

Every minute of that first half, though, had been keenly contested, set-for-set, throughout the full forty-minutes, with the Red Devils standing up magnificently to the Wiganers throughout the first quarter of the game, with solid defence and strong carries forward.

It was, therefore, as late as the 21st minute, before the Warriors opened the scoring with an unconverted try, after a sustained period of pressure brought about by repeat sets on the back of goal-line drop-outs and occasional Salford touches of the ball.  It is testament to the Salford players that they were able to repel the attack for as long as they had done.

Despite having had some early pressure of their own, though, the Red Devils had not really had sufficient field position to ask many questions of the Wigan defence, but then produced their best attack of the half when fine interplay down the left between Joe Burgess, Brierley, and Tim Lafai, took them into their opponents twenty metre area. 

An obliging penalty helped them remain a little bit longer down there, and after Ken Sio had gone close to scoring, the ever-improving Ben Helliwell put himself in a great position to receive Marc Sneyd’s slick pass and go over for their one try of the game, which, with Sneyd’s conversion, put them in front.

Having had the half-time break in which to restructure and regalvanise the side after the loss of Brierley, the Reds went straight into the attack, and good handling forced a most promising-looking overlap, on 43 mins, only for a rather wild pass into touch to scupper the opportunity, when simple one-to-on passing might well have turned the game in their favour.

As it was, a Salford handling error, three minutes later saw Wigan draw further ahead with a try direct from the ensuing scrum, with two more scores coming at ten to twelve minute intervals, to stretch the score beyond the hopes of the Red Devils.

They nevertheless still continued to take the game to Wigan in the last ten minutes but so well-drilled is the Warriors’ defence that they were prepared to concede set-restarts, which would once have brought a penalty, right throughout the game, thus nullifying the Salford attack, until six minutes from the end, when another missed opportunity, this time on the left, was lost with a poor final pass to Burgess, who would have had a walk in.

Looking back on the second half, unlike the visitors who were clinical in their finishing, it was the Reds’ failure to capitalise on those two scoring opportunities which gave the final score such a significant difference.  Even had only one of them brought a try it would have put them into double figures, whilst scoring both and with conversions would have put them within a somewhat more creditable eight points.

Disappointing a result as it was, though, it could in no way detract from the impressive event the club had turned the day into being.  It is an occasion when everyone could feel proud to have been involved with the club and to have been in attendance to savour and enjoy it.

RED DEVILS IN DEPTH: MAGIC WEEKEND SALFORD V HULL KR

Salford victories at Magic Weekend, have, over the years, been few and far between, with the last one coming with their 36-22 triumph over Leigh, back in 2017, so for the Red Devils to come away with the league points against a higher placed opposition was a most satisfactory outcome.  That it also came over a team, which had succeeded in notching up five successive wins against the Reds, made it all the more enjoyable.

The scoreline of 26-16 may appear to point to a closely fought battle, but, as occasionally happens, actually disguises the story behind it, for the Reds were by far the better of the two sides, and thoroughly deserved their win.  They dominated possession throughout the game, and whilst not at their best in so doing, respected possession better than the Robins.  Their discipline was far better, and they most sensibly sought to take advantage of many of their opponents’ indiscretions with the trusty boot of Marc Sneyd, who thereby added eight points to their tally, at a most crucial middle period of the game.

The combination of lengthy periods of possession, particularly in the opening spell, coupled with additiional penalties in their favour, meant that they held superior field position for great swathes of the game, to the extent that the Salford contingent behind the goals must have been most thankful when half-time came, and they then had the chance of seeing the game at much closer range.

For once, in recent encounters with the Robins, it was Salford, with Brodie Croft returning to his best form of the season, who had the match winner on their side, his break on 18 minutes setting up Joe Burgess for the try which cancelled out Hull KR’s opener which had come very much against the run of play.

The reduction in the number of players on the field between the 61st and 75th minutes was of somewhat unnoticed benefit to Salford, for even though it involved the loss of Deon Cross,, the extra space available to the pacey, slick Salford backs was exploited to the full, leading to two converted tries from Sio and Atkin to compensate for their earlier disappointments, as compared with one four-pointer from Hall.

It was, however, the missed chances which, had they gone Salford’s way would have opened up a far more commanding lead, that were, apart from the result, the most prominent feature of the game, with a succession of opportunities, for a variety of reasons, going begging.

It was early as the fourth minute that Chris Atkin was denied a try under the posts from a dummy-half scoot, by Hull’s defence, which turned out to be their greatest asset.  Without that they would have been in quite serious difficulties as they time and again turned up, and in numbers, to thwart Salford’s scoring opportunities, as further exemplified in the ninth minute, by their preventing Ken Sio from grounding in the corner, in a situation where we all would normally expect him to have scored.

Even Kallum Watkins’s much discussed effort, on seventeen mins, was prevented from being awarded as a consequence of the number of defending bodies being around him thus seemingly making his actual genuine grounding of the ball more questionable to the referee, while the same could also be said of Tim Lafai’s overturned score, because of issues around Burgess’s keenly challenged take of the ball in the air, with this time the video-referee making the call.

Perhaps the most surprising disappointment of all was when, in the 55th minute, Cross completely in the clear and with the unmarked Sio in support, was called back as a result of a collision in back field, which was determined to have affected his break.

Indeed, Salford looked the more dangerous from further out mid-field, than close up to the line, where they seemed to struggle to find the telling pass to unlock the well-drilled goal-line defence of the Yorkshiremen.  They looked more likely to find the key to doing this when moving the ball to the right flank, which was where most of those early, close calls came.

So yet again, the Red Devils were successful with the outcome, maintaining their march up the table to fourth, at the end of the weekend, and extending their number of wins, in all games, to six out of the last seven.  This latest one, however, could have further beneficial effect for their forthcoming visit to the home of the Robins, for the quarter-final of the Challenge Cup.  Success breeds success, and having now broken the winning run of their hosts-to-be, they can travel over there in some confidence to test their metal in the Challenge Cup.

RED DEVILS IN DEPTH: SALFORD V HULL FC

After the excitement of several recent games, Salford supporters must surely be becoming used to being kept on the edge of their seats with the closely run encounters that have become almost regular occurrences, at least at the Salford Stadium.

From the Golden Point extra time victory over Wakefield, back in March, to last week’s progression to the next round of the Challenge Cup at the expense of Huddersfield when time was really the Red Devils’ greatest ally, the Salford players have had to hang on in, on a number of occasions, and this weekend’s clinching of the double over Hull was of very similar ilk.

The major issue nowadays is that the Reds are quite regularly winning this sort of game, which has not been the case on so many previous occasions, and that is something worth celebrating in itself.

Once again, on Sunday afternoon there were many teeth-clenching moments, particularly as the last quarter of the game wore on, because the visitors had shown themselves quite capable of scoring when they had the opportunity.  Indeed, they had done so as early as the fourth minute, when they broke from deep in their own half to go the remaining length of the field with impressive handling and support play, to score in manner reminiscent of many a Salford try.

And thereby possibly hangs the reason for the closeness of so many matches.  It would seem that a number of other sides, for whom wide expansive rugby has hitherto been kept to a premium, are now chancing their arm by embracing this style of attacking play to suit their own strengths.  Such slick, well-rehearsed ploys are extremely difficult to defend against, as Super League teams in abundance discovered last season, and now the Red Devils are having to contend with such, themselves.

There is no gainsaying the originals, however, as Salford players continue to increase their armoury with even more options, as shown by their third and possibly decisive try, three minutes before the interval.  That final spell of ten minutes had proved to be a purple patch for the home side, when they overturned the second of two, Hull, four-point leads both of which they held for eleven minutes, this one being with a scoreline of 6-10.

A number of repeated, short sets then enabled the Red Devils to build pressure before a Brodie Croft kick-through was taken by Deon Cross for a converted try, which restored their dominance.  It was their second score of this period, however, which, for we spectators, stood out from everything else.  What we saw was a seventy-metre kick downfield, followed by a thrilling and closely contested chase.

What we had to reflect upon before appreciating it fully was the skill, talent and understanding among the players.  Few of us, probably, were expecting anything along these lines when the ball was passed to Marc Sneyd direct from the base of the scrum. Yet everyone of those involved knew exactly what was about to happen; everyone was on the same page.  With all of the defending Hull players lined up at the scrum, the opportunity was wide open for the attempt.

Our number seven’s kicking game is much admired, and feared, throughout the league, but to place the ball so impeccably for it to slow almost to a standstill between the Hull try and dead-ball lines from such a distance took incredible skill, not to mention hours of practice.

The undoubted strength of the Salford team is the pace they have in the backs, and it was the ability of the two chasers, Ryan Brierley and Joe Burgess both, to outpace the sole Hull covering defender, showed that off to the hilt.  Brierley it was, perhaps for some, surprisingly so, who was first to the ball, but it still needed grounding cleanly, and doing that at such speed required even more from the fullback.  It would have been so easy to have scotched the chance, going at such a pace.

That try, and how it came about, put a whole different perspective on the game, and on Salford’s ability to score from a variety of means.  Short, kick-chase tries often seem a little innocuous when compared to skilful handling moves and cleverly angled running.  The thrill and excitement, talent and skill, as a result of the distance involved in this one, however, made it comparable to any score, by whatever means.  It will certainly cause a few more headaches among opposing defences.

Being involved in so many close games is certainly honing the Red Devils’ talent for managing the game in the final quarter, and it is this, which, despite our anxieties in the stands, enables them to concentrate on nullifying their opponents’ further opportunities, something that they were far better at, this week, than the previous one.

Consequently, two second half tries kept them ahead, albeit on a couple of occasions by only two points, after a worrying start to the half, and then, after twice missing his first goalkicks in five games Sneyd calmly slotted over a drop-goal to give the side a two score cushioning, which kept them comfortable to the final whistle.

RED DEVILS IN DEPTH: SALFORD V CATALANS

Two extremely protracted and gruelling goal-line defensive efforts, in the final twenty minutes, each lasting over four minutes and comprising of three and even four sets of six with little respite, eventually saw the Salford Red Devils gain the spoils over a strong and physical Catalans side in last Sunday’s home Super League fixture, and thereby stretch their winning run to three, though not without the incredible, good fortune of the Dragons’ missed, final conversion, from almost in front of the posts.

They say that fortune favours the brave, and t was most certainly true for the Salford players last Sunday, as they wore themselves to frazzles, roared on by the magnificent, highly vocal home fans, in dealing with wave after wave of Catalans’ attacks, based upon the physical prowess that they possess, particularly in the forwards.

‘Praiseworthy’ is too mild a word for the valiant home pack who had, despite giving away size and weight advantage to their visitors, stood up to them throughout the encounter, and alongside the remainder of the side thwarted onslaught after onslaught, relentlessly hurled at them, particularly in the final half-hour of the game.

The necessity in their having to give so much to the Salford cause was the consequence of just how evenly matched the two sides were, and also the fact that there were only six points separating them, by the time the game was entering its final quarter.

Despite the ascendency, over the previous hour, swinging from one side to the other, with the Red Devils controlling the majority of the first half and Catalans picking up the gauntlet in the second, neither side was able to turn that dominance into sufficient points as to have much in the way of cushioning, even when in the lead.

The Dragons handling deteriorated rapidly, after having matched their hosts in the opening stanza, and it was their continual loss of possession that gave Salford opportunities to attack, the first coming from a penalty against the visitors, who then obliged by giving away an additional set-restart, ending with King Vuniyayawa’s surging over the line, close to the posts.

Clinical as this had been, the Reds were not able to reproduce anything similar for some considerable time, thereafter.  An excellent 40-20, from Andy Ackers, in the 16th minute, was squandered by possession being lost very early in the next tackle count, when the visitors might well have succumbed a second time, with this having come so quickly after the earlier try.

The Reds’ most clear-cut opportunity, though, came on 33 mins, with a break by Joe Burgess down the left, but his inside pass to the supporting Ellis Longstaff proved too difficult for the centre to take.  When they did eventually manage to cross the line again, it came from the most unlikely of positions.  A 20m restart saw a switch in direction to Burgess, who, having left his left-wing position, raced down the right side to use the utmost skill to ground the ball over the line despite having been overhauled by Johnstone, short of the line.

The sparsity of tries coming their way consequently twice prompted Marc Sneyd to take successful kicks at goal, one in each half, which were at the end to prove crucial in a two-point winning margin.  No-one could, however, have foreseen the unexpected outcomes from either, with Salford failing to take the ball from the kick-off, from the first, on 23 mins, and Johnstone then crossing in the corner, direct from the resultant scrum.

The second came on 46 mins, and yet again, on only the third play from the restart, Ackers lost his grip on the ball in a half break, and it was at this point that the change in moment came about.  The Frenchmen immediately went downfield to score close enough to the posts for the conversion to be successful, thereafter subjecting their hosts to that almost continual defensive effort, but significantly, without denying them the hearty end-of-match winning celebrations, they so richly deserved.

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: WIGAN V SALFORD

Many have been the times in the past when Salford fans, making their homeward journey from the DW Stadium, would have embraced a scoreline of only a four points deficit, as a considerable success, in comparison with the hefty defeats of yester-year.  How times have changed in the fortunes of the Red Devils, and the expectations we fans now have of them, when so many of us will, last Friday, have travelled home feeling disappointed at not having won.

For make no mistake, this was a game that was within the team’s grasp of victory, during which they challenged and contested their hosts in every quarter, taking charge of proceedings after the first ten minutes, to go in at the interval, somewhat unrepresentatively, level at 8-8.  And they then went on to take something of a stranglehold on the game as they built up a 16-8 lead over the mighty home-side, until a combination injured and fatigued bodies were unable to up muster sufficient resistance to cling onto that lead.

Salford fans’ disappointment can only be with the result, for in every other aspect of the game they can have nothing but pride in their side’s commitment, dedication, and performance throughout the encounter, for the teams were so evenly balanced that they went head-to-head with each other throughout, in a battle of great intensity and tremendous speed.  Fast, furious, and even, at times, frantic was how it had developed by half time.

It was the home side, as one might expect, who were first to settle, after gaining possession from the kick-off, but for all their retaining of it for the greater part of the opening ten minutes had only a fifth minute penalty goal to show for it.

Having therefore soaked up all the pressure thrown at them to that point, the Red Devils found the opportunity to turn defence into attack, in the 14th minute, when good progress down the left flank ended with their forcing a goal-line drop-out which gave them the opportunity to set up the opening try of the game for Ken Sio.

Great credit has justifiably been given to the individual prowess of French, on Wigan’s right flank, and indeed his two-try contribution proved to be a key factor in the result, but equally so were the skills shown by the two Salford players who proved so key in the visitors’ scores.  In this one it was fullback, Ryan Brierley, who put in a neat little kick into the corner for Sio,  while, unbelievably, in the act of being tackled and totally off-balance, before ending up lengthways along the ground.

The about-turn in fortunes certainly had a positive effect on the Salford players, who continued to muscle up against their hosts’ efforts to regain control, but it was not until nearly on the half hour that French’s slick dummy opened up the first crack in the Salford defence to put them back in front.

Five minutes later, the Reds came oh-so-close to eradicating this score, when Joe Burgess was put in the clear down the left wing, only to be thwarted by a tremendous cover tackle by Field, which possibly could be claimed to have saved the game for Wigan, for normally we would have backed Burgess to have got round to grounding under the posts.

One most surprising aspect of the game, far more prevalent than usual throughout the half, was the number of ball steals, normally limited to around one per game, but which on this occasion, mounted up to four in the one half alone, three of which were won by the Reds.  Joe Burgess and Tim Lafai did well to effect theirs but that of King Vuniyayawa, on Field, was so deft and swift that spectators were left wondering how on earth he had managed it, but with all three giving the team much extra possession.

Points-wise though it was a case of having to be satisfied with a successful Marc Sneyd penalty goal to tie the score 8-8, at half time, with even his last-minute drop-goal attempt drifting wide.  Usually, a draw at half-time feels satisfying to both sides, but, on balance of play, field position, and possession, the Salford fans could have been forgiven in feeling that their favourites really deserved to be in front.

This confidence throughout the team was still quite evident on the restart, as they continued to apply pressure, and it was Brodie Croft, this time, who supplied that mark of genius to deliver the most outstanding pass of the game for Sio’s second try.  Sneyd’s excellent goal-kicking, two of which were from the touchline, increased their lead to eight points, by 55 mins.

The aforementioned combination of mounting injuries, which consequently prevented further adequate interchanges,  and fatigue caused by increasingly limited possession, saw momentum swing to the opposition not from set-restarts, as so often happens, but from a mix of four penalties, two touched-in-flights, and started by a French’s interception of a Salford pass.

Suddenly, the Warriors had an abundance of possession and the remainder of the game was spent largely with them on the attack in the Salford half, and the Red Devils forced solely into one-up carries as they endeavoured to lay, in vain, the basis for on attack of their own.

The outcome of a second show-and-go by French, followed by the final decisive try from King, brought the points to the home-side, but they had had to battle the whole game before eventually gaining the upper hand.

RED DEVILS IN DEPTH: WARRINGTON V SALFORD

For the second week in succession, Salford Red Devils had a half time lead expunged during the second period, to end up with a loss that had appeared most unlikely, as the teams trooped off for the half-time interval, in this Round 3 fixture at the home of the Warrington Wolves.

That the home side had opened 2023 with two most impressive victories, at home to Leeds and away at Huddersfield, must have hung over the visiting Salford fans, prior to kick-off, but such anxieties were quickly dissipated despite a Warrington try in the eighth minute, for there was a definite step up by the Reds, from the previous week’s performance against Hull KR.

The tactics based around their slick, wonderfully entertaining qualities might well have not changed but the execution of them was markedly better than the previous week, with every pass being so much more telling, and the gaps opening up more easily and effectively, as a result.

Their first, and equalising try, on eleven minutes, was a consequence of some precisionally timed, and accurately executed, passes, as the ball was moved along the line to Joe Burgess who unsurprisingly had had his opposite number sucked in-field, and so was completely in the clear to race down the wing before sending an equally effective and accurate pass inside to the supporting Ellis Longstaff, who must have revelled in crossing the line against his parent club, on their own pitch.

In addition, the Red Devils had learned from their previous experience the importance of muscling up in the physical aspects of the game.  Twice, in the opening twenty-five minutes, Tyler Dupree made clean breaks through the Wolves’ defence, brushing off attempted tackles and making great yardage up the field to build up good field position.  Not only he, but the remaining members of the pack were eager to make their presence felt, with Ollie Partington at the centre of so much of both attacking play and defensive efforts.

Last week, the problem was that they had failed to build a sufficiently comfortable lead, after their opening four pointer.  Not so, this time out, with first yet another interception by Ken Sio which saw him make progress before setting up Ryan Brierley, who showed terrific speed to get over for another. 

With Marc Sneyd’s being on target with both conversion attempts, his third effort was to tack on the extras to his own try, when he hoodwinked the Wires’ defence and coasted through.  He rounded off the first stanza with an additional two points from a penalty goal, which meant that by half time, there was a clear fourteen points difference between the sides, as opposed to the four, against Hull KR.

It is extremely doubtful that there was anyone who did not expect a response in some form or other from this Warrington side, so impressive in previous weeks, and our players will have certainly prepared themselves for such, but, when it came, it was in a form that was extremely difficult to do anything about, for quite simply they were most cleverly deprived of the ball, being in possession for less than ten minutes of the forty.  Without it, all anyone can do is tackle, tackle, and keep on tackling in the hope that it will come around to them, eventually.

All that tackling takes it toll, however, on energy levels, knocks and the like sustained in the collisions, and with a sense of frustration building up, which can then affect effectiveness on the few occasions possession does come their way.  One wayward pass to Joe Burgess, on the first tackle of a set, which went behind him and straight into touch, was merely symptomatic of this.

The Wolves took possession straight from Salford’s half-time kick-off, and proceeded to start as many as seven sets and retain possession for almost nine minutes.  The Reds’ one chance of stemming this tide came at the end of the first set, the high kick from which was left completely unclaimed by anyone on the field, and the ball, having been allowed to bounce, ricocheted up and backwards into the arms of Warrington, who were quickly afterwards awarded a penalty, which triggered a set restart.

From that point on, they found ploy after ploy to reclaim the ball for yet another set. The problem then became compounded by defenders conceding penalties, set restarts, and even a sin-binning, which on this occasion proved to be so crucial, in their increasingly tiring endeavours to styme the waves of attack thrown at them.  So good, though, was the Salford defence in the early stages of the half that there were times when the Wolves actually ended up further back than they had started the set.

Significant, however, was the Reds’ seeming difficulty to deal with the high, short-distance, hanging kicks, which their hosts seemed to be able to reclaim, with some regularity.  Williams’s kick into the corner for Thewlis’s try was probably their highlight of these, and if the final score-line seems a little unfair to the luckless Red Devils, it was, in part, because it was adversely affected by two, eight-point tries, the first of these being this one, with Dupree being adjudged to have fouled the scorer after the grounding.

So, after four months of the close season, during which coaches of other sides have had chance to weigh up how to deal with the flamboyant attacking style of the Salford Red Devils, we have twice now seen the use of tactical kicking as a partial means of starving them of sufficient possession to be the threat they can be.  It is now up to Salford to work on dealing with this in readiness for next week’s trip to Hull. FC

JOE BURGESS SIGNS NEW THREE-YEAR SALFORD RED DEVILS CONTRACT

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

Our number five is the latest in a long line of players who have recently committed their long-term future to the Red Devils.

Since joining the Club from Wigan Warriors in late-2020, Burgess has gone from strength to strength. The 28-year-old has been a mainstay on the wing for Paul Rowley and formed a lethal left-edge partnership with Samoan World Cup finalist, Tim Lafai.

He scored 16 tries in 2022, with his consistency and athleticism vital in Salford’s run to the play-off semi-final. His hat-trick against Castleford Tigers back in May was a particular highlight, with each try showing just how much the Red Devils utilise his electric pace.

In reaction to extending his stay, Burgess – in typically humorous fashion – said: “I’m delighted to extend my stay at Salford Red Devils. It is very enjoyable working with this group of people – bosh!”

Head Coach, Paul Rowley has added: “It is fantastic news that Budgie is staying with our group.

“He is an experienced competitor who knows what winning looks and feels like. His fingerprints are on many of our special moments – and the group and I look forward to him being a part of many more.”

Also reacting to the news, Director of Rugby and Operations, Ian Blease said: “I am absolutely thrilled that Joe is the latest player to commit his long-term future to the Red Devils.

“He is an excellent and valued member of the dressing room, and his performances in a Salford shirt over his time here has been fantastic to see.

“His raw pace and athleticism would be a potent weapon for any team, so I am delighted that we’ve managed to ensure that will be with us for 2023 and beyond!”

Sign up to the official newsletter