AUGUST PLAYER OF THE MONTH NOMINEES REVEALED

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

With the Betfred Super League season almost over, it’s crunch time for Salford Red Devils in their pursuit of playoff rugby.

We have some big games coming up in September, but last month saw the Red Devils return to form after a six-game losing streak.

Despite a narrow loss to St Helens, we picked-up two massive wins over Huddersfield Giants and Wakefield Trinity to close out August.

Across that time, four players stood out above the rest.

Starting with new signing, Brad Singleton – who has taken to life at Salford by storm.

Since joining the club in mid-July, he has been a mainstay in Paul Rowley’s starting line-up and produced some stellar performances in the forward pack.

Next up is Oliver Partington.

It’ll come as no great shock to anyone to see the prop forward amongst the four candidates, after some high-quality minutes across the month.

After hitting 100 Super League tries and reaching 100 Salford Red Devils appearances last month, Ken Sio is your next nominee.

And last, but certainly not least, is Ryan Brierley.

He’s one of our own and continues to set the standard with some outstanding performances at fullback.

So, who gets your vote this month? Cast yours below!



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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: MAGIC WEEKEND SALFORD V HULL KR

Salford victories at Magic Weekend, have, over the years, been few and far between, with the last one coming with their 36-22 triumph over Leigh, back in 2017, so for the Red Devils to come away with the league points against a higher placed opposition was a most satisfactory outcome.  That it also came over a team, which had succeeded in notching up five successive wins against the Reds, made it all the more enjoyable.

The scoreline of 26-16 may appear to point to a closely fought battle, but, as occasionally happens, actually disguises the story behind it, for the Reds were by far the better of the two sides, and thoroughly deserved their win.  They dominated possession throughout the game, and whilst not at their best in so doing, respected possession better than the Robins.  Their discipline was far better, and they most sensibly sought to take advantage of many of their opponents’ indiscretions with the trusty boot of Marc Sneyd, who thereby added eight points to their tally, at a most crucial middle period of the game.

The combination of lengthy periods of possession, particularly in the opening spell, coupled with additiional penalties in their favour, meant that they held superior field position for great swathes of the game, to the extent that the Salford contingent behind the goals must have been most thankful when half-time came, and they then had the chance of seeing the game at much closer range.

For once, in recent encounters with the Robins, it was Salford, with Brodie Croft returning to his best form of the season, who had the match winner on their side, his break on 18 minutes setting up Joe Burgess for the try which cancelled out Hull KR’s opener which had come very much against the run of play.

The reduction in the number of players on the field between the 61st and 75th minutes was of somewhat unnoticed benefit to Salford, for even though it involved the loss of Deon Cross,, the extra space available to the pacey, slick Salford backs was exploited to the full, leading to two converted tries from Sio and Atkin to compensate for their earlier disappointments, as compared with one four-pointer from Hall.

It was, however, the missed chances which, had they gone Salford’s way would have opened up a far more commanding lead, that were, apart from the result, the most prominent feature of the game, with a succession of opportunities, for a variety of reasons, going begging.

It was early as the fourth minute that Chris Atkin was denied a try under the posts from a dummy-half scoot, by Hull’s defence, which turned out to be their greatest asset.  Without that they would have been in quite serious difficulties as they time and again turned up, and in numbers, to thwart Salford’s scoring opportunities, as further exemplified in the ninth minute, by their preventing Ken Sio from grounding in the corner, in a situation where we all would normally expect him to have scored.

Even Kallum Watkins’s much discussed effort, on seventeen mins, was prevented from being awarded as a consequence of the number of defending bodies being around him thus seemingly making his actual genuine grounding of the ball more questionable to the referee, while the same could also be said of Tim Lafai’s overturned score, because of issues around Burgess’s keenly challenged take of the ball in the air, with this time the video-referee making the call.

Perhaps the most surprising disappointment of all was when, in the 55th minute, Cross completely in the clear and with the unmarked Sio in support, was called back as a result of a collision in back field, which was determined to have affected his break.

Indeed, Salford looked the more dangerous from further out mid-field, than close up to the line, where they seemed to struggle to find the telling pass to unlock the well-drilled goal-line defence of the Yorkshiremen.  They looked more likely to find the key to doing this when moving the ball to the right flank, which was where most of those early, close calls came.

So yet again, the Red Devils were successful with the outcome, maintaining their march up the table to fourth, at the end of the weekend, and extending their number of wins, in all games, to six out of the last seven.  This latest one, however, could have further beneficial effect for their forthcoming visit to the home of the Robins, for the quarter-final of the Challenge Cup.  Success breeds success, and having now broken the winning run of their hosts-to-be, they can travel over there in some confidence to test their metal in the Challenge Cup.

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:  LEIGH V SALFORD (2)

Even with a fully fit squad from which to select, it would have been regarded as a considerable achievement for the Salford Red Devils to have gone to the Leigh Sports Village for the second time in only two months, and come back with a victory, for, in the meantime, their hosts have been busily building up quite a reputation for themselves throughout Super League, with impressive victories over a number of sides including current Super League, and World Club, Champions, St Helens.

That, however, was far from the case, since the Red Devils’ squad had been so decimated over the interim period that, to an extent, the team had virtually picked itself, primarily on grounds of availability, thus making this Rivals Round success all the more impressive, and the sweeter.

Even the manner in which the game unfolded presented a number of significant adversities for them, not least the sin-binning of fullback, Ryan Brierley, on 48 mins, and it could not have come at a worse time with the Leopards having returned to the fray, following the half time interval, refreshed and ready to take the game to the Reds, at full steam.

So, as Brierly reluctantly trekked his way across the width of the field, there must have been many hearts in mouths, among the Salford Faithful, many of whom must have been expecting the very worst.  Damage limitation was about as much as one could expect, with the home side’s job having been made all the simpler, with the Reds, as a result, having to hold out for as long as possible against the numerical superiority facing them.

Yet, when the Salford fullback eventually returned to contest it was to an actually increased lead of two extra points, at 10-22, having eradicated Briscoe’s 53rd minute try, and expanded upon it with a Tyler Dupree special under the posts on 58 mins, from Marc Sneyd’s shrewd short pass, which he then converted.

Indeed, apart from hitting the post with his first, touchline attempt, Sneyd’s goalkicking was to prove crucial in the final result, and had they chosen to do so, they could have made their winning margin somewhat greater, with them deciding to run the ball on two late penalties close to the posts, rather than electing to take the kicks.

As might have been expected the Leigh side to took the field, most determined in manner, and although the Red Devils matched them in the opening arm wrestle, a misunderstanding between Danny Addy and King Vuniyayawa presented Leigh with their first attacking opportunity, which they clinically took by opening up an overlap on the left flank for Charnley to cross in the corner for a try, which was eventually increased to six points, five minutes later, with a penalty goal.

As was later to happen on a number of occasions, however, the game began to swing to the opposition, this time towards the Reds with their gaining three back-to-back sets from a combination of a Leigh handling error, penalty, and set restart giving them great field position and ample possession to attack the home line, culminating with a try from Ken Sio, from a typical Brierley kick into the corner.

That proved to herald one of those attacking purple patches which Salford fans had come to enjoy so frequently at the climax to last season, with the Red Devils enjoying plenty more possession to tease Leigh’s line-defence, before some fabulous footwork from second rower, Sam Stone, put him through to score his first points for Salford, against his former club. 

So often, in those halcyon days of summer 2022, it was the back-to-back tries, which sorely hurt opponents back then, and that is just what they served up on this occasion, with what certainly many Salford fans will have thought to be the try of the match.  

It started with man-of-the-match, Chris Atkin, not for the first time this season filling in at three separate positions over his time on field, dummying his way through a gap before handing on to the supporting Shane Wright, who went thirty metres up the field to set up Brodie Croft to sprint the remaining twenty to the posts, with his outpacing all despairing attempts to overhaul him.

Leigh’s second half recovery did narrow their deficit first to 10-16, and later 14-22, and kept them in the game, but the ascendency was, in the main, with the Red Devils, who, with a two-score winning margin could afford to keep their calm, run the clock down and keep the pressure on the Leopards.

Leigh’s final, last minute try, came far too late for it to make any difference to the outcome, with a mere eleven seconds left, at the final restart.  They had, nevertheless, contributed to an enthralling contest, which had ebbed and flowed from one to the other, and there is clearly little between the two sides, as the results of both encounters show. This is all to the good for both clubs and their fans, engendering a greater interest, and degree of competitiveness, in the locality, which will be continued once more, as the intensity of the competition for top six places hots up, just in time for their visit to the Salford Stadium, in mid-July.

RED DEVILS IN DEPTH: WIGAN V SALFORD

Many have been the times in the past when Salford fans, making their homeward journey from the DW Stadium, would have embraced a scoreline of only a four points deficit, as a considerable success, in comparison with the hefty defeats of yester-year.  How times have changed in the fortunes of the Red Devils, and the expectations we fans now have of them, when so many of us will, last Friday, have travelled home feeling disappointed at not having won.

For make no mistake, this was a game that was within the team’s grasp of victory, during which they challenged and contested their hosts in every quarter, taking charge of proceedings after the first ten minutes, to go in at the interval, somewhat unrepresentatively, level at 8-8.  And they then went on to take something of a stranglehold on the game as they built up a 16-8 lead over the mighty home-side, until a combination injured and fatigued bodies were unable to up muster sufficient resistance to cling onto that lead.

Salford fans’ disappointment can only be with the result, for in every other aspect of the game they can have nothing but pride in their side’s commitment, dedication, and performance throughout the encounter, for the teams were so evenly balanced that they went head-to-head with each other throughout, in a battle of great intensity and tremendous speed.  Fast, furious, and even, at times, frantic was how it had developed by half time.

It was the home side, as one might expect, who were first to settle, after gaining possession from the kick-off, but for all their retaining of it for the greater part of the opening ten minutes had only a fifth minute penalty goal to show for it.

Having therefore soaked up all the pressure thrown at them to that point, the Red Devils found the opportunity to turn defence into attack, in the 14th minute, when good progress down the left flank ended with their forcing a goal-line drop-out which gave them the opportunity to set up the opening try of the game for Ken Sio.

Great credit has justifiably been given to the individual prowess of French, on Wigan’s right flank, and indeed his two-try contribution proved to be a key factor in the result, but equally so were the skills shown by the two Salford players who proved so key in the visitors’ scores.  In this one it was fullback, Ryan Brierley, who put in a neat little kick into the corner for Sio,  while, unbelievably, in the act of being tackled and totally off-balance, before ending up lengthways along the ground.

The about-turn in fortunes certainly had a positive effect on the Salford players, who continued to muscle up against their hosts’ efforts to regain control, but it was not until nearly on the half hour that French’s slick dummy opened up the first crack in the Salford defence to put them back in front.

Five minutes later, the Reds came oh-so-close to eradicating this score, when Joe Burgess was put in the clear down the left wing, only to be thwarted by a tremendous cover tackle by Field, which possibly could be claimed to have saved the game for Wigan, for normally we would have backed Burgess to have got round to grounding under the posts.

One most surprising aspect of the game, far more prevalent than usual throughout the half, was the number of ball steals, normally limited to around one per game, but which on this occasion, mounted up to four in the one half alone, three of which were won by the Reds.  Joe Burgess and Tim Lafai did well to effect theirs but that of King Vuniyayawa, on Field, was so deft and swift that spectators were left wondering how on earth he had managed it, but with all three giving the team much extra possession.

Points-wise though it was a case of having to be satisfied with a successful Marc Sneyd penalty goal to tie the score 8-8, at half time, with even his last-minute drop-goal attempt drifting wide.  Usually, a draw at half-time feels satisfying to both sides, but, on balance of play, field position, and possession, the Salford fans could have been forgiven in feeling that their favourites really deserved to be in front.

This confidence throughout the team was still quite evident on the restart, as they continued to apply pressure, and it was Brodie Croft, this time, who supplied that mark of genius to deliver the most outstanding pass of the game for Sio’s second try.  Sneyd’s excellent goal-kicking, two of which were from the touchline, increased their lead to eight points, by 55 mins.

The aforementioned combination of mounting injuries, which consequently prevented further adequate interchanges,  and fatigue caused by increasingly limited possession, saw momentum swing to the opposition not from set-restarts, as so often happens, but from a mix of four penalties, two touched-in-flights, and started by a French’s interception of a Salford pass.

Suddenly, the Warriors had an abundance of possession and the remainder of the game was spent largely with them on the attack in the Salford half, and the Red Devils forced solely into one-up carries as they endeavoured to lay, in vain, the basis for on attack of their own.

The outcome of a second show-and-go by French, followed by the final decisive try from King, brought the points to the home-side, but they had had to battle the whole game before eventually gaining the upper hand.

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.

RED DEVILS IN DEPTH: WARRINGTON V SALFORD

For the second week in succession, Salford Red Devils had a half time lead expunged during the second period, to end up with a loss that had appeared most unlikely, as the teams trooped off for the half-time interval, in this Round 3 fixture at the home of the Warrington Wolves.

That the home side had opened 2023 with two most impressive victories, at home to Leeds and away at Huddersfield, must have hung over the visiting Salford fans, prior to kick-off, but such anxieties were quickly dissipated despite a Warrington try in the eighth minute, for there was a definite step up by the Reds, from the previous week’s performance against Hull KR.

The tactics based around their slick, wonderfully entertaining qualities might well have not changed but the execution of them was markedly better than the previous week, with every pass being so much more telling, and the gaps opening up more easily and effectively, as a result.

Their first, and equalising try, on eleven minutes, was a consequence of some precisionally timed, and accurately executed, passes, as the ball was moved along the line to Joe Burgess who unsurprisingly had had his opposite number sucked in-field, and so was completely in the clear to race down the wing before sending an equally effective and accurate pass inside to the supporting Ellis Longstaff, who must have revelled in crossing the line against his parent club, on their own pitch.

In addition, the Red Devils had learned from their previous experience the importance of muscling up in the physical aspects of the game.  Twice, in the opening twenty-five minutes, Tyler Dupree made clean breaks through the Wolves’ defence, brushing off attempted tackles and making great yardage up the field to build up good field position.  Not only he, but the remaining members of the pack were eager to make their presence felt, with Ollie Partington at the centre of so much of both attacking play and defensive efforts.

Last week, the problem was that they had failed to build a sufficiently comfortable lead, after their opening four pointer.  Not so, this time out, with first yet another interception by Ken Sio which saw him make progress before setting up Ryan Brierley, who showed terrific speed to get over for another. 

With Marc Sneyd’s being on target with both conversion attempts, his third effort was to tack on the extras to his own try, when he hoodwinked the Wires’ defence and coasted through.  He rounded off the first stanza with an additional two points from a penalty goal, which meant that by half time, there was a clear fourteen points difference between the sides, as opposed to the four, against Hull KR.

It is extremely doubtful that there was anyone who did not expect a response in some form or other from this Warrington side, so impressive in previous weeks, and our players will have certainly prepared themselves for such, but, when it came, it was in a form that was extremely difficult to do anything about, for quite simply they were most cleverly deprived of the ball, being in possession for less than ten minutes of the forty.  Without it, all anyone can do is tackle, tackle, and keep on tackling in the hope that it will come around to them, eventually.

All that tackling takes it toll, however, on energy levels, knocks and the like sustained in the collisions, and with a sense of frustration building up, which can then affect effectiveness on the few occasions possession does come their way.  One wayward pass to Joe Burgess, on the first tackle of a set, which went behind him and straight into touch, was merely symptomatic of this.

The Wolves took possession straight from Salford’s half-time kick-off, and proceeded to start as many as seven sets and retain possession for almost nine minutes.  The Reds’ one chance of stemming this tide came at the end of the first set, the high kick from which was left completely unclaimed by anyone on the field, and the ball, having been allowed to bounce, ricocheted up and backwards into the arms of Warrington, who were quickly afterwards awarded a penalty, which triggered a set restart.

From that point on, they found ploy after ploy to reclaim the ball for yet another set. The problem then became compounded by defenders conceding penalties, set restarts, and even a sin-binning, which on this occasion proved to be so crucial, in their increasingly tiring endeavours to styme the waves of attack thrown at them.  So good, though, was the Salford defence in the early stages of the half that there were times when the Wolves actually ended up further back than they had started the set.

Significant, however, was the Reds’ seeming difficulty to deal with the high, short-distance, hanging kicks, which their hosts seemed to be able to reclaim, with some regularity.  Williams’s kick into the corner for Thewlis’s try was probably their highlight of these, and if the final score-line seems a little unfair to the luckless Red Devils, it was, in part, because it was adversely affected by two, eight-point tries, the first of these being this one, with Dupree being adjudged to have fouled the scorer after the grounding.

So, after four months of the close season, during which coaches of other sides have had chance to weigh up how to deal with the flamboyant attacking style of the Salford Red Devils, we have twice now seen the use of tactical kicking as a partial means of starving them of sufficient possession to be the threat they can be.  It is now up to Salford to work on dealing with this in readiness for next week’s trip to Hull. FC

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