RED DEVILS IN DEPTH: SALFORD V WAKEFIELD

Although there may have been recent games in which the Salford Red Devils have put in better performances than the one last Friday evening against Wakefield Trinity, the outcome in those was far less satisfactory than that of this one.  We would however all have given a great deal, on those occasions, to have been coming away with two more league points, as we were able to do, this time.

The acquisition of these two, on Friday, to go alongside the pair achieved the previous weekend at Huddersfield, could prove vital in building future momentum, and ultimately gaining a position in the top six play-offs.

And there were certain aspects of this game, which were quite noteworthy in themselves, not least the Salford defence.  The greatest ignominy one can inflict upon a team is to keep them totally scoreless, and this, the Red Devils achieved with some distinction.

There will be some discussion within the Wakefield ranks about the number of handling errors in their approach work, which spoiled their chances, but these were predominantly in the second half, as a consequence of the pressure the Reds had exerted upon them earlier, thereby unsettling their attacking rhythm and their nerves, as the game wore on.

The opening exchanges were, in stark contrast, most intensely fought with both sides going set for set in a quite fierce arm-wrestle for the first ten minutes, with the only break in play coming with Salford’s opening try.  Indeed, this apart, it had been proving to be the visitors who were getting the upper hand, pushing the Red Devils further and further to their own line, thanks to the power of their forward drives and long raking end-of-set kicks.

If there were one moment which typified the strength and resilience of the Salford defence, however, it came in the twenty-first minute, with a four-man, gang-tackle, by Sam Stone, Kallum Watkins Andy Ackers, and King Vuniyayawa on the mountain of a man which is David Fifita, driving him back. 

Of course, four men are always going to prove too much for any one person – including David Fifita – but it is the ability to get the four men in there, all together at the same time, which is the real achievement.  It was this and many other such defensive efforts which eventually led to the lacklustre Trinity attack, later in the game.

Scores, though, were at a premium to both sides.  Indeed, there seemed to be something of good fortune about each of the Reds’ trio of tries.  In tight games, it often proves to be the mis-pass which breaks a team’s defensive line as the players get sucked out of position so leaving gaps, and that is exactly what happened with Salford’s first. 

An intended pass went to ground but then stood up neatly into Kallum Watkins’s hands enabling him to go straight through the gap in front of him, and, with support on either side of him, he chose Ryan Brierley on his inside, who went the remaining distance to the posts.

How important taking every point was proving to be led to Marc Sneyd improving upon his three successful conversions to tries the last of which was from the touchline, with a penalty goal, on 28 mins.

Ackers probably felt most thankful to the Wakefield player who palmed the ball back to him, unmarked, from a short goal-line drop-out, for his 49th minute try.  The real credit for that, though, should go to the outstanding Vuniyayawa for his ferocious crash-tackle on a Wakefield ball-carrier, to force the drop-out, and even prior to that to the Salford kick-chasers for tying the Trinity onto their own line, for the start of their set.

The culminating, final, ninety metre, try of the match came as a result of Ken Sio’s getting in the way of a Wakefield pass and setting off on the journey to the other try-line, before selecting Brierley, yet again, to go over, this time, in the corner, with less than three minutes left.

A twenty-point victory is, in itself, impressive, but what was somewhat frustrating was the number of other opportunities which could have counted, but on this occasion evaded them, not least the wet ball squeezing out of Brodie Croft’s grasp as he sought to take control of it, over the try line, from a short kick.  On another night, many of these chances would probably have combined to go some way towards doubling their final tally.

RED DEVILS IN DEPTH: HUDDERSFIELD V SALFORD

A magnificent second half performance proved to be decisive in the Red Devils registering their first win since their victory over Castleford, back in early June, when they proved far too strong and, equally so, able to adapt in defeating the Huddersfield Giants.

So often in recent weeks fans have left games feeling a little disappointed after slender half time leads have been eroded by opponents as the second forty minutes has passed.  Not so on this occasion, however, with the visitors going from strength to strength, as the game unfolded.

There will have been little surprise, one would suspect, in the Salford ranks at this, with the strongest starting seventeen they have been able to field since the early rounds of the season, and only long-term absentee, Shane Wright, who would undoubtedly have claimed a spot in the team if fit, missing out.

From the very outset there was a sheer determination evident throughout the visitors’ ranks and they totally dominated the opening exchanges, with Huddersfield being put on the back foot throughout this period.  Indeed, Salford did cross for a couple of would-be tries, both of which were chalked off by referee, Liam Moore, and much against the run of play, it was the Giants who opened the scoring on 17 minutes, with a converted try.

This merely served to stiffen the Reds’ resolve, and, within three minute, they had erased it by means of Ryan Brierley’s steaming onto Brodie Croft’s impeccably delayed/timed pass to go over to the right of the posts, and although Huddersfield restored their lead by two points, it was incredible footwork from Sam Stone, following a great break by Andy Ackers, that put the Red Devils in front for the first time, on 32 minutes.

No-one was getting overly optimistic at half time, with the score line being one of the slenderest of recent weeks.  But the mood of the Salford players was unmistakable as they resumed for the second half, and with good reason: that fifteen minutes in the dressing room had determined a total change of tactics, which was to prove to be the undoing of their hosts, who had clearly done their homework on how to defend against Salford’s wide expansive handling moves.

This had proved to be quite effective in the first half, limiting the Reds to only their two tries.  The second half was to be quite different, however, with the boot of Marc Sneyd taking over.  Not only did he succeed with converting all of their five try total together with a late penalty after the hooter had gone, his tactical kicking opened up the home defence again and again.

The first came as early as the 42nd minute when a high kick was allowed to bounce and resulted in Ackers adding a second kick overhead for Stone to completely rock the Giants by grounding the ball a split second before it would have gone dead.

Not every kick brought a try but invariably brought rewards of a different variety, such as goal-line drop-outs, knock ons, and good field position.  One further one, though, did, with Ken Sio grounding in the corner for his long-awaited hundredth Super League try, while Chris Atkin put the icing on the cake after Kallum Watkins and Deon Cross had reminded us of just how good the Reds can be with ball in hand.

What will probably have pleased the coaching staff particularly was the fact that they conceded not a single point after the interval and the Giants had to be content with their one solitary try and couple of goals from the first forty.  Not that they did not come close on a couple of occasions, but the Salford defence was equal to each, with last ditch tackles denying them when it looked for all the world that they would score.

So the drought of league points has been brought to an end, and this could be just the victory that will ultimately prove to be the one which turns the season around.  It was certainly one of their best all round performances and for the full eighty minutes.

JUNE PLAYER OF THE MONTH NOMINEES REVEALED

It’s time for you to vote for your June Player of the Month…

The Red Devils started the month with a bang and picked up two fantastic victories over Hull KR and Castleford Tigers.

In a close encounter at Magic Weekend, Brodie Croft was the star of a 26-16 victory.

That result was followed by a stunning, attacking display at the Mend-A-Hose Jungle, where we scored eight tries and moved within two points of the top.

With injuries in the squad at a crucial time, our progress has been slightly halted as of late.

We were eliminated from the Betfred Challenge Cup by Hull KR and suffered back-to-back Betfred Super League defeats against Wigan Warriors and Wakefield Trinity.

However, four names have been standout performers for Paul Rowley’s squad across the month of June.

Starting with Ryan Brierley, who has been nominated for a fourth consecutive month.

His consistency at fullback is a pivotal part of our spine and he is so often a driving force behind some of our best performances this season.

As is the skipper, Kallum Watkins – our second nominee.

A natural centre in the second-row, the England international continues to show his class on a week-by-week basis.

The return of Ken Sio was a welcome boost to the team last month. He scored two excellent tries against Castleford and reminded everyone why he is one of the most prolific wingers in the league.

Chris Atkin – who signed a contract extension last month – is our final nominee and Mr Versatile has been called upon in multiple positions, yet again this month.

Most notably, he finished a stunning breakaway try at Magic Weekend to secure the two points.

So… who gets your vote? Let us know by voting in the poll below!


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RED DEVILS IN DEPTH: ST HELENS V SALFORD

It had all looked so promising, and confidence was surely high among the Salford fans, as they travelled over to the Totally Wicked Stadium for their clash with the Saints, on the back of four successive Super League victories, including an extremely rare win over Leeds Rhinos, at Headingley.

The Saints, on the other hand, had had a rather less profitable couple of weeks, and were turning out after having undertaken the somewhat demanding sojourn to the south of France, for their away fixture with Catalans Dragons, all of which were most positive indications for everyone to be encouraged.

 In the end, however, it is all about what happens on the day, and that went contrary to these optimistic expectations, for the Saints had their own expectations and aspirations for the game – the expectations of the current World Club Champions to perform to that level – and took control in the second half to record a 26-12 home victory.

Not that anyone would have even thought that that would happen as the Red Devils turned on the style and swept into a twelve-point lead after only sixteen minutes, with two excellent tries.  The first came in the fifth minute when a totally unexpected, but magnificent, break by prop, King Vuniyayawa, left the Saints defence in his wake, and with the fleet-footed Brodie Croft in support, he fed the stand -off to go in, under the posts.

Andy Ackers it then was, who, eleven minutes later, put Kallum Watkins away down the right and his inside pass to Ryan Brierley saw, along with Marc Sneyd’s second successful conversion attempt, him double the Salford advantage to twelve, which was sufficient for the remaining twenty plus minutes to give them a 6-12 half time lead.

The second half turn around to the home team might lead anyone to regard this as a game of two halves but perhaps, on this occasion an over-simplification, because everything in a game leads on to what follows – more obviously to the more immediate, but also, to an extent, in the longer term.  The loss, for example, of Shane Wright, after a mere few minutes of his introduction denied the team all that he has brought to each game over recent weeks, and also meant that others had to play considerably more minutes, and therefore tired far more quickly as a result.

In fact the roots for this not inconsiderable half time turnaround had been planted during the first half.  There will have been few in attendance or watching tv, on the day, who would have thought, as Sneyd struck the ball to convert Brierley’s try that the Red Devils would fail to add to their score for the remainder of the match, but that was what happened and was something that fed into the St Helens game plan

The visitors had been put under spells of pressure from the outset right through to their first score, and then again between their two tries.  The Salford players had stood up well throughout each of these, as indeed they did throughout some rather more-lengthy spells thereafter, but the fact that these periods of Saints’ dominance became more protracted placed greater and greater demands on the players in terms of energy and concentration.

That these periods soaked up so much time was in part due to the St Helens players’ ability to complete their sets but aided by an increasing number of penalties and set restarts, which went the way of the home side.  Penalties are seldom awarded against teams in possession, the significant  majority are against defenders and, as these defenders start to tire, so their tackling technique suffers and the penalties continue to accrue all the more.

By the time the second half had got underway, the continued Saints’ pressure had started to tell on the Reds, and they immediately conceded yet another penalty, this time whilst in possession, for an incorrect play-the-ball, as early as the third tackle of the half, with a St Helens try coming directly off the back of it.

No-one could possibly question the Red Devils’ effort and commitment at any time during the encounter – without that there was no way they would have limited St Helens to only twenty-six points – but, in the second half, their execution was well below the standards we have become used to, with handling errors from some most wayward of passes seemingly prevalent, and each one presenting the home side with even more possession with which to challenge the Salford defence.

Forthcoming results may well show that in this match St Helens have turned a corner in their season, and that others will find themselves facing the same onslaught of pressure piled upon them, but for Salford players it is important to learn from the outing and fix the elements necessary for a Challenge Cup victory over visiting Huddersfield, next week.

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.

APRIL PLAYER OF THE MONTH NOMINEES REVEALED

It’s time for you to vote for your April Player of the Month…

The international break is upon us, so after ten games, it is a perfect time for everyone to pause and reflect on the season so far.

April was month where Paul Rowley’s side made real progression. We picked-up three hard-fought wins against Leigh Leopards, Castleford Tigers and Catalans Dragons, while we also welcomed back some valuable players from injury.

But despite such a strong team effort, four players stood out above the rest in this month.

The first is Shane Wright – who has turned into quite a try-machine recently. After bagging a brace against Hull FC last month, he has scored a further two against Huddersfield and Castleford in April.

His all-round performance has been outstanding, with the Aussie also nominated for the Glen’s Super League April Player of Month, earlier this week.

Ken Sio – despite picking up another injury before our Round 10 clash – has made a massive impact across April. His electric speed and skill gives Salford a potent weapon on the right and will no-doubt finish the campaign as one of our top try scorers.

Earning back-to-back nominations, Ryan Brierley is continuing to prove why he is one of the best full-backs in the Betfred Super League.

And last but certainly not least is Kallum Watkins, who continues to show on and off the field why he was chosen to be Club captain at the beginning of 2023.

So… who gets your vote? Let us know by voting in the poll below!


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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: SALFORD V HUDDERSFIELD

Not for nothing is it known as an arm wrestle – that locking of horns of two evenly matched sides, going head-to-head and set-for-set with each other, as they battle for ascendency over each other, with no quarter asked nor given.  Winning an arm wrestle can be hugely advantageous, giving one of them a foothold in the opposition’s red zone, complete with a set of possession with which to launch an attack.

So evenly were the Red Devils and their visitors, Huddersfield, matched, last Sunday, that the whole game seemed like a series of arm wrestles with precious little respite for the participants as each side completed their sets error-free for what seemed like swathes of time, at any one go.

All of this became apparent as early as the first set, which, with only the slightest of interruptions on five minutes following the forming of a scrum after a Salford touch-in-flight, otherwise continued for a full ten minutes, until a wayward pass on the Red Devils line gifted the visitors the opening try.

The lack of handling errors was most pleasing to both coaches, with Salford coach, Paul Rowley, praising his side’s completion rate, and by the very nature of an arm-wrestle, one can feel confident that the Giants’ will have been somewhat similar. 

As a result, the breaks in play inevitably came from lapses in defence, predominantly via penalties.  Indeed, it was from a pair of back-to-back, Huddersfield, defensive indiscretions that the Red Devils opened their account on thirty minutes, not from a flamboyant, slick handling move, but from a direct, Brodie Croft carry, from which he fed the supporting Shane Wright, who shrugged off a couple of attempts to tackle him, to score to the right of the posts, from where Marc Sneyd the extra two points to reduce their arears at 6-8.

If only the Reds could have kept the half-time score differential to those two points, the eventual outcome might have been quite different, for they had had a period of domination following the introduction of fresh legs from the bench between the twenty to thirty minute mark, and this was followed up at the start of the second half with Matty Costello going over, on 48 mins in the corner for a try which would then have put them in front, after the ball had been moved along the line to the left through five pairs of hands, following a penalty which had given them an additional set.

As it was though, they had been caught out, three minutes before the interval, by Huddersfield’s change of tactic on the final tackle, when, instead of the expected end-of-set kick, they decided to run the ball, and created an overlap on their right flank to score between the posts for what could, arguably, be considered to be the match-determining try.

With the advantage of having been first to score, the Giants had the option of being able to turn kickable penalties directly into points, by going for goal as a means of increasing their lead, having already done so once, mid-way through the first half.  Consequently, on 54 minutes, with a four-point advantage, at 10-14, they took the opportunity from their second, to extend their lead to six. 

With an ever-increasing injury list, and the absence of a number of key players, it is unsurprising that the level of intensity began to take its toll on the Reds, in terms of both mental and physical tiredness, thus enabling the visitors to take advantage of one of Salford’s few handling errors on 65 mins, to double their lead to twelve points and then ten minutes later turn it into sixteen.

It is much to the credit of the Salford players, that despite there being only five minutes remaining, they continued to battle to the bitter end and were successful in narrowing the score to 16-26, with what was probably their most adventurous and clinical attacking move of the afternoon, which ended with skipper Kallum Watkins going over towards the right-hand corner, and Sneyd converting.

RED DEVILS IN DEPTH: SALFORD V WAKEFIELD

There is nothing more surprising than outcomes and results in any sport, and the only thing which we should be surprised by is our own surprise at unexpected results, because they happen so often, all of which is what makes it so fascinating to watch.  That was certainly the case, this weekend, for Salford Red Ded Devils when they took on the visiting Wakefield Trinity, with their visitors languishing without a victory at the foot of the table, whilst the Reds themselves were on the back of a sixty-point scoreline from the previous week.

Expectations for this encounter, therefore, had the sky as the limit in the minds of many, and when Matty Costello crossed for a converted try, in the fourth minute, thanks to a considerable overlap that their signature, slick handling had forged, a few more, rathermore guarded individuals will have joined their ranks.

It has been said, on previous occasions in these pages. that scoring too early and too easily can become something of a double-edged sword, by encouraging over-confidence in a team’s ranks, which leads to a small but important drop in their intensity, which in turn feeds into a growth in self-confidence among their opponents.

Factor in the desperation at Wakefield’s current plight, which must be eminent throughout their ranks, coupled with the fact that they had obviously done a very thorough job in their preparation for the game so that every strike player for Salford had been identified and was carefully marshalled.  Kallum Watkins, for example, found, in opposite number Matty Ashurst, an almost ever-present obstacle to his breaking clear.

So the longer the Red Devils went without scoring again, the more the visitors grew in self-belief, and they found themselves getting to those try-saving tackles which kept their deficit to manageable proportions.  For their part the home side started to show signs of frustration with themselves at their further lack of success, and a wild pass on their own line caused a goal-line drop-out, from which Wakefield opened their account, after ten minutes, to draw level.

A thwarted opportunity to score through Deon Cross, in the 23rd minute, as often happens in these circumstances led to the opposition going to the other end and taking a 6-10 lead with an unconverted try in their right corner.  Fortunately, Salford still had one more try left in them before the interval, from a simple, basic scoot by Chris Atkins which was sufficient to get him over to restore a two-point half-time lead.

It would appear that discussions over half-time had shifted the Reds’ focus for the second half to establishing midfield dominance by the forwards, and for the first twenty minutes this went well with the pack gaining good field position and keeping the visitors penned in their own half.   Tyler Dupree might not have made any eye-catching clean breaks, but he certainly made the Wakefield six struggle to contain him.

It was similarly great to see the now-returned, Adam Sidlow, rolling back the years by a decade since his last spell here, and wearing the opposition down using his power and size to grand effect, as he has done against us so many times during the interim period.

The nearest the home side were to come to scoring though was on 59 mins, when Rhys Williams got over the line, only to lose the ball in a last-ditch tackle, and, when Wakefield did eventually get to the other end, they were awarded a penalty in front of the posts which tied the score at twelve all, ten minutes from time.

It is at times like these that someone has to emerge to set their seal on the game, and, on this occasion, it was man-of-the-match, Marc Sneyd.  He had been one of the Salford players, throughout the game, to have been able to trouble the Trinity defence, but drop-goals, after all, are one of his specialities. How reassuring it was, therefore, to watch him take complete control of the situation in the final five minutes, and through extra time.

His first, with five minutes remaining, was promptly wiped out by Wakefield, who were gifted possession from the restart, by Salford’s failing to take the ball before it went into touch, his second attempt was a rushed affair which went wide and his third was successful in itself but with it being disallowed for an incorrect play-the-ball immediately before. There was no such doubt over his final kick which won the match, much to everyone’s relief.

Disappointing as the performance might have been, however, the benefit of going through a dour, tough encounter, not to mention experiencing golden-point extra time, will undoubtedly stand them in good stead for the future, for it is not just having players who have gone through these experiences elsewhere themselves, but the whole group going through it together and learning from one another how to do so, successfully.

RED DEVILS IN DEPTH: HULL V SALFORD

Just over twelve months ago, in Round 3, after an encouraging, winning start to the ’22 season, the Salford Red Devils were brought down to earth with a bump by a comprehensive defeat at Hull, which consequently made it all the more gratifying to return there over this weekend, and repay them, and with considerable interest.

On the back of two disappointing defeats, both of which had been in encounters they could have won, their travelling faithful might have been forgiven for expecting something similar, as they made the journey over the Pennines, but, on this occasion their anxieties were to prove totally unfounded.

Although caught cold in the opening exchanges, with Hull scrum half, Clifford, deploying a show-and-go to cross for four points after just three minutes’ play, this proved a mere hiccup, as the Red Devils simply set-to to stamp their authority on the game, and within only three minutes they had actually got in front.

On only the second play from the restart, an incredible break by Marc Sneyd saw him hand on to the supporting Ryan Brierley who was stopped close to the left touchline fifteen metres out, and from his quick play-the-ball five pairs of hands propelled the ball to Deon Cross who grounded for the try, ten metres in from the right touchline. 

Sneyd’s successful conversion, from a highly similar position to Clifford’s earlier, failed attempt, put the visitors in front, and in that fifteen second period of play we had microcosm of what started to unfold as the game.

First, we had Sneyd’s unexpected, but telling break, which was to be the first of many he, in particular, and other play-makers, Brodie Croft, Andy Ackers and Chris Atkin made to wreak havoc in the home side’s defensive structures.  Indeed, Sneyd later turned this into a solo effort, when, in the 51st minute, he cut through from 15 metres out, to score under the posts.

Then we had the excellent support play of fullback, Brierley, in which he excels regularly, but to be joined in so doing, on this occasion, by many others to keep the second wave of attack in evidence and so frequently leading to tries.  He was soon among the try scorers, himself, as a result of getting alongside Croft, on the initial break, to score under the posts, in the eighteenth minute, crucially putting Salford three scores ahead, at 4-18.

Those five pairs of hands which accurately, and tellingly, got the ball to where the space was, on that first occasion, was to be replicated in many other attacks, and with such considerable variation in the form they each took, that the Hull defenders began to look completely bewildered by what was going on around them, seemingly unable to stem the flow of attacks and waves of tries which were mounting up.  Spectators could but marvel at the incredible display served up for their entertainment.

The fact that it was Cross, rather than Ken Sio, who got over for that first grounding was to herald something of a dearth of try-scoring opportunities, for both wingers, throughout the afternoon.  They contributed much in other aspects, however, particularly in diffusing high bombs to the corners and returning the ball up field on collection, without any errors.

As for the tries, so effective was the passing and support play throughout, that the try line presented itself to the inside strike players so quickly that it was the players just inside, who took the lions’ share, with Cross and co-centre, Tim Lafae each notching up a brace, as did second rower, Shane Wright.  Fellow second rower, Kallum Watkins, also crossed for one, on 45 mins. Lafae’s first, on 53 mins, must surely have ranked as the try of the game.

Finally, Salford went in front from that first try thanks to Sneyd’s accuracy with the boot, and this continued throughout the game, with his slotting over ten out of twelve shots, which compared most favourably with Hull’s solitary one from three.

Muted fears, during the interval, that the second half would see a turnaround in fortunes never materialised, for the simple reason that, unlike at Warrington where the Wolves received the ball direct from the second-half kick-off to generate some momentum, on Saturday it was the Red Devils who received it, and within fifty seconds had extended their lead even further, courtesy of Cross’s second try.

And so it continued for the following twenty minutes as their score was ramped up to fifty, but it was not only their attack which flourished.  They backed this up with some excellent defence, the highlight of which was the twenty-second minute, try-saving tackle by Sio and Brierley, both of whom seemed to fly across from nowhere to bundle Swift into touch, when he looked for all the world a certain scorer.

Hull just could not match the Reds in any of this.  Much has been said of their defence, and Tyler Dupree’s rampaging try, immediately after this incident, has been held up as evidence.  What this ignores, however, is that Tyler, most shrewdly, had picked a small gap to run at, and through, and the mismatch in size against other one-on-one challengers enabled him to brush them aside with ease.

So much, therefore, for the fans who had made the journey there, to revel in, on their return.  For the team, it was not only a return to winning ways, but also a return to the amazing form they had last shown in the final third of last season, and this coming Sunday’s visit from Wakefield gives them an opportunity to showcase their many skills to all their home fans.

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