RED DEVILS IN DEPTH: SALFORD V WARRINGTON

The Red Devils celebrated their return to the Salford Community Stadium for a home fixture, on Saturday, with a most impressive and much deserved victory over near neighbours, Warrington Wolves.

Almost as if to underline the unity which Paul Rowley has created within his group of players, he had provided them, in the form of a game plan, with a blueprint to put the Wolves to the sword, which they carried out, if not for the full eighty minutes, at the most crucial points of the game.

For the second week in succession, this was based on the domination of his pack over their opponents, and in this respect he must have been extremely pleased, and indeed proud, of the way they undertook this, from the very first carry, right through to the final whistle, with prop, Jack Ormondroyd leading the way, in what might be argued to have been his best performance in a Salford jersey.

His hit-ups were tremendous, and the last two of the first half were significant in themselves, with the first setting-up the position for Marc Sneyd’s drop-goal, and then after the restart, a strong carry forward in which, Warrington’s second rower, Joe Philbin received some collateral damage, which necessitated his brief withdrawal for attention.

Alongside him, mention must also be given to the rejuvenated Andrew Dixon, who appears to have made the move from second-row to prop in great style, but uses the running skills of his former position to great effect in the middle, whilst winger Ethan Ryan was positively involved throughout the game in both attack and defence.

What more can one say about Tim Lafai?  Every time he takes the field he pulls out something out of the ordinary, and Saturday was no exception, with his twice handing-off of opposite centre, Stefan Ratchford on his thirty metre race to the line, on nine minutes, for the opening try.

A second one, giving them back-to-back scores, might well have followed, when a change of tactics saw slick passing open up a gap for Ryan Brierley to go through from Kallum Watkins’s off-load, only for the fullback to be stopped ten metres from the line.

Not for the only time, however, the game was to swing away from them, a few minutes later, when Warrington had three back-to-back sets from a penalty and a touch-in-flight, leading to the son of former Salford Head Coach, Karl Harrison, James Harrison’s simple try by the posts, which put them ahead with their successful goal kick.

It was George Williams’s in-goal end-of-set kicks, however, on which the Wolves relied most, though with a somewhat checkered overall outcome.  There were four of them throughout the first half, with both first and last rolling dead, and giving Salford two seven-tackle sets from the twenty-metre restart.  The second, whilst being better in itself, brought no result as fullback, Matt Dufty, was unable to take advantage of the opportunity, giving the Reds another seven-tackle restart.

The third, however, was absolutely on target, giving the impression of rolling dead but holding up long enough for the kicker to get around Brierley to register their second try for a 4-10 lead. 

Something as simple as a penalty from the subsequent kick-off, though, brought another swing in momentum, with the Red Devils gaining chance to attack the visitors’ line, thereby giving Joe Mellor his first try for Salford, under the posts direct from a play-the-ball, with Sneyd’s kick thus bringing the scores level, for a brief ten minutes.

Despite early Salford pressure, it was the visitors who opened the second half scoring with a penalty goal, which swung the single-point lead in their favour.  Credit to the Salford players, they promptly refocused themselves upon putting matters to rights.

Probably the most overworked official for the match was the video referee, who was brought into action on no less than five occasions, each time confirming the on-field decision of the referee.  Consequently, the game’s final and decisive try, which came on 71 mins, did just that.

Three times Brierley came close to scoring throughout the game, and three times he was thwarted – the third time by an off-the-ball tackle as it rolled around in the in-goal area.  The video ref has only two buttons as options to press – TRY & NO TRY, which relate as to whether a try has been scored or not.  Because there had been no try actually scored on the field, the big screen indicated that, but verbally it was confirmed to the referee that Brierley should be awarded a penalty try.

With a five point lead then to protect, Salford most effectively managed the game for the remaining seven minutes, just as they had done for twenty-five, at London, the week before, to become only the second team to have inflicted defeat on this high-flying Warrington side.

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