ERRORS COST RED DEVILS DEARLY

Wigan 34  Salford 20                 Match Report

Two brief spells, at the end of each half, saw the Wigan Warriors Reserves grab enough points to record a victory which appeared rather more emphatic than it actually was, in their home fixture with the Salford Red Devils.

In a concluding ten minutes of the first half, they succeeded, with two tries and a conversion, in overturning their visitors’ 14-6 lead to take a two-point advantage into the half time interval, and then in the final five minutes of the game stretched that tentative 22-20, two-point lead to fourteen, by means of two further, converted tries.

All of which was most dismaying for a brave Salford team that had not only matched their illustrious opponents for the remaining sixty-five minutes, but in many respects had been the better side. 

One aspect, however, in which they were second best, was in the number of handling errors they made, each of which presented the Warriors with more possession with which to gain momentum.  Add to that the fatiguing amount of defending this consequently incurs, and it becomes clear as to why the home side were able to secure the game towards the end of each half.

In every other aspect of their performance, though, the Reds  were outstanding, particularly in defence, but not only that, also with the power of their carries, their support for the ball carrier, their kicking game, and their exceptional commitment on a day in which temperatures rose continually throughout, thereby sapping energy levels well above the norm.

As if to show just how evenly balanced the two sides were, it took up to fifteen minutes for Wigan to open the scoring, and even then it came against the run of play, with an excellent Salford end-of-set kick turning fullback Hodkinson around, but, in so doing, enabling him to wrong-foot his nearest chaser and set up an eighty yard try, down the right edge, finished by scrum-half Farrimond, who added the goal.

Two minutes later, an extremely clever restart, by Nathan Connell, caused havoc in the Wigan ranks, giving possession to the Red Devils, which in turn led to their being awarded a penalty.  From the ensuing assault on the Wigan line, Charlie McCurrie took Jack Gatcliffe’s slick, short pass on the burst, and through a gap, for Salford’s first try.

The sin-binning of Wigan’s Eseh for interference with an injured player, in the twenty-first minute proved significant, with a great thirty metre scoot by hooker, Finley Yates, being finished off by the supporting Jordan Brown, who scored between the posts, and Gatcliffe adding the extras.

The introduction of Bardyl Wells into the fray, at this point, added significantly to the Red Devils’ effort, and, always someone to reckoned with, he, nevertheless, proceeded to have his best game in a Salford shirt, invariably needing three or more defenders to eventually bring his progresses to a halt.

On the back of this renewed vigour, the visitors proceeded to notch back-to-back tries, when the ever-improving, Connell, put up a high kick, which he chased and caught, to then race over for an unconverted try on the right putting the Reds in the lead at 6-14.

It was one of those Salford errors, however, on 30 mins, which gave possession to Wigan to score in the right-hand corner, and then, on 36 mins, after four back-to-back sets, they took that half-time lead with a converted try near the posts.

Twenty minutes of scoreless play, from the start of the second half, was broken by the Warriors, after Salford had been unable to take advantage of a kick-in-goal, and from the restart, with the Reds briefly down to twelve men due to on-field treatment to one of them, Wigan added another six points to move their score on to 22-14.

Even then, within five minutes,Salford had eradicated that score.  A magnificent wide pass out to the right wing, from Connell, found the unmarked Dan Harrison, who scored in the corner.  Gatcliffe landed the goal with his kick from the touchline.

From then on, right up to the seventy-fifth minute, the game could have gone either way, and indeed the Red Devils had the greater number of opportunities, but a combination of good Wigan defence and careless handling errors prevented this, with the Warriors’ counter-attacks proving decisive.

SALFORD

Ethan Fitzgerald, Daniel Harrison, George Charnock, Joshua Wagstaffe, Scott Egan, Nathan Connell, Jack Gatcliffe, Jordan Brown, Finley Yates, Alex Davidson, Charlie McCurrie, Henry Davies, John Hutchings

Substitutes

Bardyl Wells, Lewin Hough, George Hough, James Shields

RED DEVILS RESERVES OVERCOME SETBACKS TO SECURE WIN

Salford 23  Wakefield 16                         Match Report

Two first half tries, one from fullback, Nathan Connell and the other by centre, Josh Wagstaffe, put the Salford Red Devils Reserves on their way to a home victory over Wakefield Trinity Reserves, last Saturday, after they had weathered early pressure from the visitors in the initial arm-wrestle.

The first of these came in the fifteenth minute when Wagstaffe scythed through the defence to put Connell, over, go round towards the posts, and give scrum-half, Kai Morgan, a straight forward kick at goal.

Seven minutes later, it was Wagstaffe’s individual skill which enabled him to spin round and wrong-foot the Trinity defence, after the ball had been moved to the left of the field, this time too far out for the conversion attempt to be successful.

The Red Devils dominance was by now so evident that they were able to force a Wakefield knock-on under their own posts, on thirty minutes, which resulted in the Reds gaining further possession from the resultant goal-line drop-out, and then as the clock was running down towards the final moments of the half, Morgan took advantage of having possession near Trinity’s line to drop a goal, and take the half-time score to 11-0.

It is almost inevitable, in by far and away the majority of games, that the momentum will suddenly swing away from one team to the other, and Saturday’s encounter was no different in this respect, upon the resumption.

Still taking the game to their opponents it was a well-intended pass, after only five minutes, which was intercepted by a Wakefield three-quarter, on his own twenty metre line, who sped down the left wing to open his team’s account with a converted try under the posts.

Dramatic turnaround as this was, things got a whole lot more unsettling as the visitors exploited this new-found scoring potential on their left flank, and, in their very next set, succeeded in launching yet another, almost identical, clean break down this wing.  This time, Connell was in position to stall the approach with a well-executed tackle, but a quick play-the-ball set the visitors off on a continuation of the attack to score by the posts and, with the added goal, take an 11-12 lead.

Now on the crest of a wave, Trinity revelled in a surfeit of possession, and on 51mins Connell was called upon again to snuff out another Wakefield break.  Four minutes later, however, there was no denying them as they crossed for a third try, this time in the right-hand corner, to stretch their lead to five points.

Things were beginning to look quite bleak for the Red Devils, especially when Jamie Pye, who alongside fellow prop, Jordan Brown, had been quite magnificent, had to retire with injury.  

Under such setbacks, many a team would have cracked, but step forward John Hutchings who had come off the bench to the second-row, and who now moved to prop to fill the gap.  Add, also the return to the fray of Ben Hellewell, and, credit to the Salford players they all stuck to their task of making the hard yardage up the field, completing their sets.

All of this consequently turned the game around in their favour, on 60 mins, when stand-off, Joe Purcell, fooled the Wakefield defence into thinking he was about to pass the ball to Brown, but instead shot through the gap that had opened up, to score under the posts.  Morgan made no mistake in putting Salford back in front, at 17-16.

Indeed, they came very close to scoring again, on 68 mins, only for the try in the corner to be disallowed for a forward pass, but the highly talented youngsters, Morgan and Connell, combined to put the game to bed, on 71 mins. 

On the last tackle of the set, Morgan showed great vision to notice that the Wakefield fullback had been sucked out of position, so he carried the ball forward to put in an overhead kick to just short of the try line, and Connell appeared from nowhere to dive onto the ball, and, despite the best efforts of a couple of Wakefield defenders, roll sideways over the try-line to ground it.  Just for good measure, Morgan added the goal-points from one of his more difficult kicks.

They then had just one more scare to overcome, when an end-of-set Wakefield kick to the left corner was taken by one of their chasers, close to the Salford line, but Ethan Fitzgerald, who had come onto the wing to counter the Trinity threat on their left wing, was equal to the task and forced the carrier into touch with a magnificent try-saving tackle.

SALFORD:

Connell, Egan, Hammond, Wagstaffe, Nofoaluma, Purcell, Morgan, Brown, Yates, Pye, Davies, McCurrie, Hellewell

Interchanges

Fitzgerald, Hutchings, Appleby, Wells

18th Man: Davidson

RESERVES FAIL TO BUILD ON DREAM START

Salford Red Devils 8  Leigh Leopards 18                      Match Report

They could not have made a better start to their home local derby encounter with the Leigh Leopards, just one week after the visitors’ outstanding home victory over the Leeds Rhinos, and for half an hour it looked as though the Red Devils Reserve side was going to take the spoils having been by far the better side to that point.

These, however, are early days in their development as a team, following its hefty restructuring over the close season, with a total of twenty new players, hastily but most shrewdly selected, having had to be brought in to replace that same number from last season, who had left for first team rugby at other clubs.

The quality of the recruits, however, was more than evident in their incredible opening fifteen minutes, in which they scored two fine tries and looked set to rattle up a few more.  Built on some tremendous carries through the Leopards’ defence by forwards of quite notable size, almost the whole of this opening period was spent in the visitors’ thirty metre area.

Following a fine first set, in which progress up field was substantial, the end-of-set kick and chase pinned Leigh down in their twenty, and the intensity and robustness of the Reds’ defence forced a handling error, from which hooker, Reece Bushell, opened the home account with an unconverted try towards the left edge.

The Salford forwards, with additional help from centre, Josh Wagstaffe, continued to put the Leopards’ defence to the sword, skittling would-be tacklers out of the way and putting their defensive line at sixes and sevens. 

One tremendous hit-up by captain, Jordan Brown – easily the best player on the field throughout the game – on twelve minutes, put the Red Devils within metres of the try line, and courtesy of a repeat set from a penalty the ball was moved from left to right and the sweetest of cut-out passes from fullback, Nathan Connell, to Dan Harrison, put the right winger in at the corner.

It just needed them to continue in similar vein and add to their eight-point tally, but, whether feeling that points were going to continue presenting themselves or just that they had not yet learned, as a team, how to manage such a situation, they found themselves being first thwarted, and then repulsed, by a Leigh defence gradually gaining some composure after their torrid start.

On the back of that, the confidence in the visitors’ ranks started to build, and their handling became much more assured, bringing them their first visit to the Salford line on 17 mins.  The Red Devils’ defence was, however, equal to the task, over two back-to-back sets, which, for the time being, kept their line intact.

Twelve minutes later, and benefitting this time from three set-restarts, a Leigh kick into their righthand corner brought them their first try, eroding their deficit to four points, before taking the lead on 32 mins with a try much nearer to the posts, giving them am 8-10 half time lead.

In almost similar fashion to the first half the Red Devils took the game to Leigh putting them under the same degree of pressure, which saw them benefit from set-restarts, three Leigh touches, and four penalties, but this time without the benefit of a score.

As so often happens, when a team has survived a lengthy period of time holding out in defence, they seize on their first opportunity to go to the other end and score, which is what happened on Salford’s loss of possession in front of the Leopard’s posts, to stretch their lead to 8-14.

Six minutes later, the game was put out of reach, with a further, concluding try, which in the wet conditions made a ten-point scoreline a far more comfortable one than would normally be the case.

Coach, Stuart Wilkinson, was quite philosophical about the outcome, however, realising that it was simply the point to which the players have come, as a team.

“We really could have done with a couple more pre-season friendlies to help us gel as a team, but there just wasn’t time to do so.  Consequently, we took our foot off the gas, when we were on top, and although we had lots of further opportunities to score throughout the game, we just were not ruthless enough.

“The power of our forwards was evident at the outset, but they did not retain it for long enough.  Having got that opening period of domination in this match, our task now is to extend it first from ten to twenty minutes, and then on to forty, sixty and the full eighty.”

SALFORD:

Nathan Connell, Dan Harrison, Ethan Fitzgerald, Josh Wagstaffe, Scott Egan, Kai Morgan, Jack Gatcliffe, Jordan Brown, Reece Bushell, Charlie Glover, Matty Foster, Andrew Dixon, Henry Davies

Substitutes:

Charlie, McCurrie, John Hutchings, Cole Appleby, Ben Tyrer

RESERVES MAKE IT BACK-TO-BACK WINS

Huddersfield 28  Salford 30        Match Report

Salford Red Devils Reserves took over, on Saturday afternoon, where their senior counterparts had left off the night before, by doubling the number of wins over the Huddersfield Giants this weekend, and also running up back-to-back wins of their own – but only just.

There had been so much to admire in their performance, throughout the majority of the fixture, with the Salford forwards taking control from the outset, and the Reds opening the scoring with ease, from two early converted tries in the first twelve minutes.  This was in some respects unsurprising as they were able to field a much bigger and physically stronger side than in recent weeks, owing to the return from injury of a couple of senior players and the inclusion of two or three loan players from Swinton.

They even had a purple patch at the start of the second half, when they took the game completely away from the opposition to open up a twenty-point lead, which enabled their travelling fans to relax briefly before the game was turned on its head. 

Due, most likely, to inexperience of game-managing a winning lead, with ten minutes to go that lead had been halved, and shortly afterwards reduced to a mere six points.  Almost unbelievably, the final kick of the game was to become the deciding factor in the result.

It was as the result of a Giants’ error in the seventh minute that right winger, Dan Harrison, suddenly found himself in possession on his own twenty metre line with no-one in front of him.  He therefore did what all good wingers do, he pinned back his ears and sped the remaining length of the field down the touchline, holding off all pursuers to score wide out, but not too far out for Matty Rudd to commence his one hundred percent goal-scoring feat, which was to prove so crucial, at the final whistle.

If that had not shocked the home team to the core, conceding back-to-back tries so early on must surely have done so, when at the end of the very next set, the resultant end kick led to Scott Parnaby adding the second.

Just as it might have been thought that the visitors could score at will, their hosts galvanised themselves and, aided by their kick off being dropped close to the Salford try line and a rather foolish set-restart being given away, they had enough tackles in the bag to force an overlap on the right for a converted try to open their account.

Such was the Red Devils’ dominance, however, they were able to wipe out this setback with another try of their own.  An end-of-set chip and chase led to a penalty, which in turn led to Jordan Brown forcing his way over, between the posts.

Had they been able to carry this 6-18 lead into half time, it would have given them a three-score cushioning, but a dropped ball in their own half gave possession to the Giants, and they forced another overlap, this time on the left flank to bring the score to10-18, at the interval.

No-one could have hoped for a better start to the second half than the Red Devils got, with two tries in the first five minutes.  The first came as a result of pressure on the Giants, whilst in possession close to their own line.  The ball was lost backwards, and Amir Bourouh was first to get to it, followed by Owen Blackwood making it another pair of back-to-back score when he crossed between the posts to bring the score to 10-30.

It was on the 58th minute that the game changed so remarkably.  A Salford mix up on attack, in the Giants’ left hand corner, led to two back-to-back penalties, and the resultant sets of possession saw Huddersfield narrow the gap by four points. 

From then on, the game became more and more frustrating for the Reds as a total of five penalties in twenty minutes gave the home side a new lease of life, with further tries on the 70th, 72nd, and 79th minutes.  Fortunately, only the first of these was converted, and their final kick, which every Huddersfield fan on the ground was willing to go over, missed, and the relieved Salford players ran out winners.

Coach, Stuart Wilkinson, was pleased with the way his team had performed for the bulk of the game, and in particular the ferocity of their physicality both in attack and defence, but equally pleased with the win.  He felt that Amir Bourouh had been outstanding throughout, showing creativity, providing inspiration, and standing head and shoulders above everyone else on either side, whilst Joe Coop was continuing to show improvement week in week out.

Their last fixture of the regular season will come next week when they make the long journey to Humberside to take on Hull KR, where they could make it a hat-trick of wins with which to round off.

SALFORD

Billy Walkley, Daniel Harrison, Owen Blackwood, Joseph Coope- Franklin, Scott Egan, Matthew Rudd, Joseph Lowe, Leunbou Bardyel Wells, Amir Bourouh, Matthew Unsworth, John Hutchings, Scott Parnaby, Rhys Davies

Subsitutes

Jordan Brown, Jacob Lee, Charlie Glover, Kellen Wood

18th PLAYER – Mikey Gilligan

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