Salford 22 Leeds 36 Match Report
It is hardly surprising, when you take into consideration all that Leeds Rhinos have available to them in terms of recruitment to their Reserves side, compared with Salford, that encounters between the two sides can sometimes be most one sided – not that that proved to be the case in their latest contest, last Saturday – for whilst Salford have to vie with the likes of Wigan, St Helens, and Warrington for their recruits, the Rhinos have the whole of West Yorkshire, even over onto this side of the Pennines from which they have first choice as to whom they sign.
When, therefore, on Saturday, the Rhinos swept into a 30-6 lead, in the 42nd minute, it looked for all the world as though the remaining 38 would continue along the same lines. True, the Reds had managed to get on the scoreboard on 23 mins, to erode into what, at that point, had been Leeds’s sixteen-point lead, but as the visitors then went on to increase their tally through two further converted tries to bring up a 26-6 half-time lead, it looked as though that solitary try might turn out to be mere consolation.
What, however, that scoreline did not show was the way that, after the shock of conceding the opening try on four minutes, the Red Devils had gradually started to work their way back into the game, marshalling their defence for over ten minutes to withstand lengthy periods of attack before succumbing once more to a four-pointer in the corner.
When their try eventually came it was well worth having waited for. A penalty kick gave them good position in the Leeds twenty, and some fine handling culminated in fullback Billy Walkley putting winger, Scott Egan, over near the corner, from which Jack Stevens did extremely well to land the goal from out wide.
Despite this, and many other smaller positives, Coach, Stuart Wilkinson, says that the whole side was disappointed with the first half in general, and had been yearning for the half time interval to take stock and regroup.
“They are quite a young group, and when they were struggling to get a foothold in the game, they were also individually wrestling with themselves mentally as to how to deal with the situation. The half time talk gave them the focus they needed.”
Not that any reward came immediately, with Leeds adding a further four points two minutes into the half, but gradually the momentum of the game began to shift in the Reds’ favour. They retained possession for longer and built up their own spells of attack which eventually paid dividends.
It was as a consequence of extended pressure over several minutes, that their first score of the second half came, on 52 mins, when a quick play-the-ball, close to Leeds’s try line by Bardyel Wells enabled Finlay Yates to surge over from dummy half, giving Stevens a straightforward successful conversion attempt.
Fifteen minutes later, Salford’s patience, perseverance, and persistence, all of which are necessary in games which had suddenly become as tightly fought as this one had, saw the Rhinos becoming the architects of their own downfall when a defender ripped the ball in a tackle, backwards over his own line, to which Kellen Wood was first to react, and rewarded with the try. Stevens, once again added the goal points.
Had anyone been in doubt, after this, that the visitors were starting to get somewhat rattled, that doubt was surely removed when John Hutchings finished off a fine handling move with another Stevens converted try to bring the Reds to within eight points, on 70 mins.
If only they could have kept their line intact for the final ten minutes, it would have made a quite impressive final score against one of the top clubs in the league. Sadly, that was not to be as the Rhinos capitalised on a penalty, on 74 mins, to add a comforting, further six points to round off the scoring.
As far as this second half turnaround was concerned, Stuart Wilkinson was pleased with the way his charges had responded, though regretful of the fact that it had taken too long for them to do so. He was however well satisfied with the contributions and progress his three Welsh players, Joe Coop-Franklin, Billy Walkley, and Jacob Lee had made, both in this game and on a match-by-match basis.
They, and the rest of the team will be able to take all that a stage further, in three weeks’ time when they entertain Newcastle in their next league fixture.
Billy Walkley, Scott Egan, George Charnock, Joe Coope-Franklin, Owen Blackwood, Nathan Connell, Jack Stevens, Lucas Iles, Kellen Wood, Bardyel Wells, Joen Hutchings, James Greenwood, Matty Unsworth
Substitute, Jacob Lee, Finley Yates, Euan Haynes, Lucas Coan