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.