SALFORD THREE-QUARTERS GRAB THE TRIES

Salford 30  Bradford 4                     Match Report

Following the Reserves’ Saturday afternoon victory over Newcastle, Salford Red Devils’ 150th Anniversary Celebration Weekend continued the following day with the first of the Double Headers continuing the vein of success for the Reds, with a comprehensive win over the visiting Bradford side.

It was the Reds’ three-quarter line which claimed all six of the tries, split evenly between left and right flanks, but with the two centres, Alex Simpson and Steph Gray both outscoring their respective colleagues on the wing, Holly Jones and Lauren Ellison, by an extra try each.

Although scoring tries is predominantly the sphere of the backs, it is not necessarily the way in which every game unfolds, but the fact that each of them, on this occasion, went to a three-quarter is a testament not only to them but the rest of the team.

The hard work, in the form of strong carries, was willingly undertaken by the forwards, who wore down their opposition via both their surging runs and unrelenting tackles, whilst the remaining members of the back division contributed with slick handling, which was so evident in the build up to each score.

In scrum half, Demi Jones’s case, however, she is every bit as dangerous with her boot as she is with her hands, and that was most evident in her contribution to the first try, on six minutes.  A good, well-controlled attack saw an overlap being forced on the right edge, on the last tackle of the set.  As the ball continued to be moved towards the right, Jones decided to take the quick route to securing the score by putting an overhead kick to the corner, where her namesake, Holly Jones, took the ball unopposed, and grounded in the corner, to give the Red Devils a 4-0 lead.

Ten minutes later, another attack saw the ball initially being sent from right to left, until this was suddenly reversed back inside to left centre Steph Gray to cut through for the first of her brace, giving Demi Jones her easiest kick of the half, of which she successfully took advantage.

The 23rd minute saw the ball travel the full width of the pitch to the left, where Gray again was able to find space to go over close to the corner, to establish a 14-0 half time lead.

In many respect the second half was almost a repetition of the first, though with the added ingredient of a Bradford try, on 55 mins, of which few would deny them, as they had gamely battled throughout to limit the number of points they conceded, whilst producing a number of assaults on the Salford line.

It had, however, been left winger, Lauren Ellison, who had opened the scoring of the half, ten minutes in, and indeed it was a mere four minutes after the visitors’ try before the Reds erased it courtesy of Alex Simpson, and Jones’s extending the lead by a further two points to 26-4.  Simpson then went one further with the final score of the match seven minutes from time.

Following the blank weekend the team will return to action next Sunday in an away fixture at Leigh, with considerably more confidence than they have had when facing our near neighbours in previous encounters.

SALFORD

Sage Bannister, Holly Jones, Alex Simpson, Stephanie Gray, Lauren Ellison, Louise Fellingham, Demi Jones, Megan Condliffe, Tamsin Corcoran, Emerald Hickey, Victoria Kini, Brogan Evans

Substitute

Abi Collins, Summer Harris, Jessica Panayiotou, Aofie McKenna

18th Player:  Hannah Wicks

RED DEVILS RUE CLOSING MINUTES LAPSES

Salford Red Devils 12  Barrow Raiders 28          Match Report

Two tries to the visitors, in the last four minutes, gave the final score to this enthralling Super League 2 encounter a somewhat one-sided impression, with the Red Devils having had the better of the majority of the second half, though once again having to strive in order to affect this upon the scoreboard.

Evidence of the finely balanced way in which the game was to unfold was laid bare in the opening quarter, with both teams going set for set against each other, but with both defences competently coping with the questions being asked of them.

It was not until the seventeenth minute that the deadlock was broken, and it was in fact the Red Devils who opened the scoring with a converted try.  An interception by Taz Corcoran, in the Salford thirty, enabled them to make their way up field, and an excellent end-of-set kick from Louise Fellingham was regathered byPhoebe Partington, who sent the ball out to left winger Lauren Ellison who scored in the corner.  Demi Jones then did extremely well to land the goal from wide out.

It was a lead onto which the home side were able hold for ten minutes, until a sustained period of Raiders’ pressure from a number of repeat sets eventually brought about an equalising score.

The compounded energy expended in defence over the remainder of the half, with Barrow commanding possession for lengthy periods in such hot and sticky conditions, took its toll as the half wore on, and further converted tries, after relentless waves of attacks, brought further scores on 32 and 39 minutes, with the half time whistle coming immediately upon the conversion from in front of the posts, on the last of these.

The disappointment at the twelve point, 6-18, half time deficit, stirred the Red Devils to mount aan impressive opening to the second half.  A barnstorming thirty metre break by substitute Yaz Parton-Sotomayor was supported by the effervescent Brogan Evans to go over, between the posts, for a try once again converted by Jones.

Her try was only just and fitting reward for her efforts throughout the game, as indeed was the case with earlier scorer, Ellison.  With Evans, it was a case of probably the smallest forward in the league taking on the might of much bigger opponents with a gusto and bravery well beyond expectation. Ellison, for her part, made a contribution well in excess of that usually made by a winger, even in the modern game.

Equally so, Demi Jones, whose goal, and end-of-set, kicks regularly give so much to the side, was also involved in much of the work, both on, and off the ball, which so often goes unnoticed.

With their spirits therefore uplifted by being one converted try only, behind, the Salford players really got on top, and for at least half an hour not only held their own in defence, took the game to the visitors on attack, and did virtually everything other than register further points.  Steph Gray’s crossing the line but being prevented from grounding the ball, on 71 mins, was just one example of the pressure they brought to bear on the Raiders.

Eventually, however, energy supplies once again began to run out, and, just as in the closing stages of the first half, Barrow took command with two tries, the second of which was converted, to extend their lead by ten points, on the 75th and 78th minutes.

Despite the disappointment of the loss, our players can take some satisfaction for having kept in the game for by far the majority of it, which, with steadier finishing could have been mush closer still, in spite of those two half-closing lapses.  With Castleford as the next visitors to the Salford Stadium, next Sunday, the Red Devils have the opportunity to build on the foundations they laid this week, and hopefully earn themselves another win.

SALFORD

Hollie Jones, Liana Loleta, Alexandra Simpson, Stephanie Gray, Louise Fellingham, Demi Jones, Megan Condliffe, Tamzin Corcoran, Emerald Hickey, Phoebe Partington, Helena Walker, Brogan Evans

Sunstitutes

Casey Naylor, Jessica Panayiotou, Darcey Price, Yasmin Parton-Sotomayor

RED DEVILS CAN TAKE EXPERIENCE FROM FRIENDLIES INTO SUPER LEAGUE

Having gained the coveted promotion they so much desired to Super League 2, the Red Devils will get their much deserved opportunity to open their season at this new elevated level, with a trip across the Pennines to Castleford, this coming Sunday.

Not that this will be the first time that they will be facing Super League opponents, having already had a taster of this in two pre-season friendlies, against Wigan Warriors and Leigh Leopards.  The more relevant of these, probably, was the more recent, against the Leopards, since Wigan, as might be expected, occupy a place in Super League 1, while Leigh will be one of the teams our players will be facing during the course of the season.

For a variety of reasons, one should never read too much into the outcomes of friendly games, as the context to these are, by definition, completely different to league encounters, with coaches keen to suss out new combinations and introduce new additions to the squad, while the players have the opportunity to try executing new moves.

It was, however, a totally different context altogether for the Red Devils when they took on the Leopards, with the playing squad considerably reduced to the basic seventeen, by a combination of work, personal, and family commitments to several players alongside a number of injuries, unlike their opponents who had reserves in abundance.

This, therefore, gave head coach, Chris Bates, the opportunity to blood many of his new signings, alongside the remainder of his squad from 2022.  Ideally, this would have taken place with just one or two at a time, taking the field just to get the feel of things, with the experienced players providing the stiffening needed to overcome the opposition.

On this occasion, the majority of them were playing alongside one another, throughout, which set them a much greater challenge than would normally be the case.  The situation was further compounded by the fact that each of the newcomers was also new to rugby league, with their playing either their first or second, only, game of rugby league.

 They did, nevertheless, individually, acquit themselves very well, and every one of them showed considerable promise with talent and skills that will undoubtedly become invaluable to the squad, as they integrate themselves into the side over the coming weeks.

Sam Evans, coming in at such a pivotal position as half back on her rugby league debut, grew confidently throughout the game into the role.  Sage Bannister, at fullback, had already shown her considerable defensive abilities in the match with Wigan, and she, once again, showed these, when, on 25 mins, she combined with loose forward, Brogan Evans, to pull off yet another try saving tackle when the visitors were only six points ahead.

For sheer commitment to the Salford cause, however, prop, Summer Harris  deserves accolades for having been prepared to occupy a berth on the wing, of all places, while substitute Emerald Hickey was called into action as early as the second minute, as a result of the temporary loss of Sarina Tamou injured in one of the first tackles of the game.

An unsurprising 4-26 reversal was therefore the final result, with Salford’s try coming from left winger, Lauren Ellison, after 52 minutes to narrow Leigh’s 0-10, half time, lead.  Indeed, having had time to take stock of the situation during the interval, the first fifteen-minute spell of the second half proved to be the Red Devils’ strongest period during which they dominated possession and were able to keep play in the visitors’ thirty metre area and launch several attacks on their line, leading up to their try.

Sheer fatigue, owing to the shortage of bodies on the bench to enable further interchanges, however, eventually caught up with the Salford players, and the comparatively fresh-legged Leopards were able to take control in the later stages to run in three further tries.

SALFORD

Sage Bannister, Lauren Ellison, Alex Simpson, Victoria Kini, Summer Harris, Louise Fellingham, Sam Evans, Megan Condliffe, Tamzin Corcoran, Sarina Tamou, Helena Walker, Abi Collins, Brogan Evans

REPLACEMENTS

Darcey Price, Laura Bent, Hannah Wicks, Emerald Hickey, Katie Garry

RED DEVILS ENCOUNTER MARKED DEGREE IN INTENSITY

Salford Red Devils 4  Wigan Warriors 38                 Match Report

Five months after tasting the joys of celebrating their promotion, at the first attempt, to Super League 2, Salford Red Devils Ladies’ side got to experience just what that meant in terms of an on the field encounter, yesterday, when they took on the might of Wigan Warriors.

And ‘might’ there certainly was from them, in abundance, and the longer the game went on the more evident this became, with the levels of pace, intensity, and physicality considerably greater than anything the home side had, hitherto, experienced, which is hardly surprising when you consider that their first season had been spent in the Championship, whilst the Warriors had been among the elite of Super League 1.

Yesterday’s pre-season friendly, therefore, was against a team somewhat superior to those whom the Red Devils will encounter in Super League 2, but nevertheless a foretaste of the standards to which they will have to measure up when they eventually, as is their aspiration, gain promotion to the top flight.

If, however, their performance in the opening thirty minutes was any indication of their potential, then that is something, which given time, they will be capable of doing, with their going head-to-head with their opponents, throughout this period.

An early error in possession allowed the visitors a brief assault on their line, but Salford quickly regained possession and thanks to some really strong drives from the forwards, took play up to the other end of the field, where they established their dominance over the proceedings.

Even the loss through injury of regular try-scorer, Lauren Ellison, followed by the sin-binning, on 19 minutes, of newcomer, Sage Bannister, occupying the fullback berth, for holding down after she had so magnificently halted a Wiganer in full flight, did nothing to unsettle the Red Devils.

Indeed, it was during this ten-minute period when they were down to twelve players that they took the lead, with Ellison’s replacement, another debutant, Liana Leola, intercepting a Warrior’s pass and showing a clean pair of heels over seventy metres, for the opening score on 21 mins, which, unfortunately, Demi Jones was unable to convert.

Keeping the visitors at bay for that full ten-minute period was undoubtedly a tremendous achievement, but it did take its toll, in terms of energy levels, and the visitors gradually started to mount pressure and build dominance for themselves.

The first evidence of this came on 31 mins, when a Wigan try was disallowed for a forward pass, but four minutes later there was no such error, when they drew level, after the Reds had failed to diffuse a high bomb, with their first try in the right corner.

Almost on the stroke of half-time, they built up their best attack of the game, to that point, creating a considerable overlap on their left flank to score close to the posts and adding the extras for a 4-10 half time lead.

Despite the disappointment of conceding a third try two minutes after the resumption, the Salford players did galvanise themselves for a fifteen minute period of dominance, but, without any reward via the scoreboard, began to fade as tiredness set in, and two back-to-back, converted tries, on 56 and 59 mins put the result beyond doubt.  Two further Wigan six-pointers on 71 and 75 mins gave the result a more one-sided impression than the Red Devils possibly deserved, against a side, let us remember, who had been two divisions above them.

A second friendly in four weeks’ time, against Leigh Leopards, will give them both time to increase their levels of physicality, and gain a more accurate indication of the general standard required in Super League 2.

SALFORD

Sage Bannister, Katie Garry, Steph Gray, Alex Simpson, Lauren Ellison,  Lousie Fellingham, Demi Jones, Megan Condliffe, Tamzin Corcoran, Sarina Tamou, Helena Walker, Victoria Kini, Brogan Evans

Substitutes

Abigail Collins, Darcey Price, Eleanor Walsh, Laura Bent, Hannah Wicks, Summer Harris, Liana Leola

RED DEVILS’ DREAM START NOT ENOUGH TO SEAL CHAMPIONSHIP

RED DEVILS’ DREAM START NOT ENOUGH TO SEAL CHAMPIONSHIP

Salford Red Devils 14  Oulton Raidettes 33                            Match Report

After the most wonderful inaugural season for Salford Red Devils ladies’ side, their hopes of finishing as champions were dashed, at the Provident Stadium Odsal, on Sunday last, when, despite getting off to a dream start, they lost their way in a disappointing second half, to go down to a more spirited and composed Oulton Raidettes team.

No-one would have remotely expected that in the early stages, however, with the Red Devils getting off to a dream, early start to proceedings, notching up ten points in as many minutes to send hopes of victory sky-high.

They gained early territorial advantage, having received the kick-off and then being awarded a penalty, and Steph Gray, returning to the team for the first time since breaking her wrist back in June, looked to have scored with her first touch of the ball, in the third minute.  The luxury of having attendant touch judges, however, worked contrary to her hopes, with the near side official ruling a forward pass in the build-up.

This was to matter little, however, with the Raidettes coughing up possession on the second tackle, and a swift move of the ball to the right put winger Lauren Ellison clear in acres of space, to score close in, to which Demi Jones added the conversion.

It was a mere six minutes before Ellison had doubled her account, following a beautiful, flowing passing move along the line giving her enough room to get in towards the corner, too far out for Jones to improve upon.

Comfortable as this all appeared – and there will have been many Salford fans sitting back and anticipating a Salford onslaught of tries – Oulton had hardly touched the ball, and this had been instrumental in the game to this point.

That all changed on the resumption with a Salford handling error in the own half of the field giving the Raidettes their first opportunity to test the Reds’ defence.  Well as this stood up to the challenge on this occasion, their opponents were able to maintain their field dominance, and on 21mins an end-of-set cross-field kick with a rather awkward bounce caught the Red Devils out and Oulton took advantage to open their account, 10-6.

The first sense that this was not going to be Salford’s day came ten minutes afterwards, when they twice were prevented from scoring tries which would have restored their lead and dominance.  For a second time, only three minutes after, Gray, playing on the left wing was denied by a melee of defenders forcing her over the touchline before she could ground the ball.

This misfortune was replicated five minutes later.  Demi Jones was first to the ball, following a loose pass from Oulton on the half-way line, and she twice kicked ahead only to be thwarted by the bounce of the ball in the in-goal area.

A score on either of these occasions would have regained momentum for the Reds, but sadly, this was not the case and it was Oulton who drew level with the first of four tries coming down their right edge, thanks to some extremely well-angled running by their strike players.

Just as it looked as though the teams would be retiring to the dressing rooms level at half-time, events took a most surprising turn in the Red Devils’ favour.  With only three seconds remaining on the clock the ball emerged from the back of a scrum just inside the Salford half to Demi Jones, who fed it to stand-off, Louise Fellingham, by which time the hooter had sounded.  Fellingham responded with a marvellous kick which was hotly pursued by fullback, Alex Simpson, and several Oulton defenders, but Simpson’s pace got her to the ball first, which stood up nicely for her, and she crossed to put her side back in front, 14-10, at the interval.

The story of the second half was a quite different one, and one which was so completely foreign to the Salford Red Devils.  Careless handling coupled with a lack of concentration in defence crept in, and the Raidettes, who had quite clearly used their fortieth minute setback to motivate themselves further, took advantage of each Salford error, scoring a total of twenty-three points without reply, quite deservedly to take the spoils.

The seeds for this below par performance will probably have been sown in previous weeks, not least the one before, when they had suffered a number of injuries in the contest with an extremely physical Hull KR side.  Although there were not many who failed to make the squad this week, many will have been carrying considerable knocks, which inhibited them at times.

In addition, this encounter was the finale to a long and demanding season.  Indeed, our players had played more matches than any other side in the league, not just because of their winning run in the League Cup but also in being one of the very few sides to complete all their league fixtures.  Against a side high with the self-confidence in having been the only team in the league to have beaten Salford, it would seem that the Reds just had no more reserves of energy left to cope with the occasion.

Nevertheless, nothing, not even this disappointment, can take away the incredible success of the side, which has landed two of the three trophies – League Cup and League Leaders’ Shield – available and has provided such wonderful entertaining rugby, in the process.  They can, each and every one of them, hold their heads high and take pride in their totally unanticipated achievements, including participating in yesterday’s Final of this season’s play off competition.

SALFORD

Alex Simpson, Lauren Ellison, Sade Rihari, , Brogan Evans, Steph Gray, Louise Fellingham, Demi Jones, Sarina Tamou, Tamzin Corcoran, Yasmin Parton-Sotomayor, Helena Walker, Victoria Kini, Megan Condliffe

Substitutes:

Luci McKeown, Darcey Price, Hannah Wickes, Abi Collins, Casey Naylor, Gabrielle Chaplin, Eponine Fletcher

RED DEVILS LADIES MAKE IT TO GRAND FINAL

Salford Red Devils 24  Hull KR 4                  Match Report

In less than twelve months from their formation, the Salford Red Devils ladies side have, sensationally, secured a place in the Championship Grand Final, at Odsal Stadium, home of the Bradford Bulls, this coming Sunday afternoon, in what will be a Double Header with the League 1 Grand Final, and in so doing have put themselves in line for the opportunity to take the Championship Treble, consisting of League Cup, League Leaders’ Trophy (both already in the bag), and Grand Final Champions.

With it, of course, goes promotion to Super League 2, which has been their objective throughout the season, and they could not have wished for a tougher match to prepare themselves for Sunday’s contest with Oulton – the one and only team to have taken points from the Red Devils all season – than this home semi-final against Hull KR.

From a team languishing in the bottom pair of the Championship table, and the side against whom Salford had twice ratcheted up over forty points, the Humbersiders had come with a sudden late rush to take fourth spot and thus earned the right to travel to the A J Bell to contest the one place available for the winners.

The side which turned out on Sunday afternoon, however, bore little resemblance to that which had been so heavily beaten, back in mid-July, in the Double Header prior to the men’s fixture with Catalans, resulting from what must have been an really intensive and successful recruitment drive, for which they deserve great credit.

From their sheer size alone, it was obvious that this was going to be an extremely tight, and keenly fought, encounter, with no second chances for the vanquished, and so it proved to be, with the visitors fired up to extract revenge for their pummellings in the league fixtures, and physicality being the means by which they intended to accomplish this.

It certainly appeared to take the home side by surprise, and they were almost immediately put on the back foot through the loss of fullback, Luci McKeown, from injury in one of the first tackles of the game.  That was to set the tenor for the rest of the game, and in the weeks and months to come this game will be remembered more for the number of lengthy stoppages, owing to injuries to players from both sides, than for anything else.

It was the visitors though who sustained the majority of these, but those to the Salford players were possibly the more serious, with Kayleigh Bradshaw having to be taken to hospital by ambulance with a bad knee injury, which will undoubtedly rule her out of the final on Sunday, alongside a number of others, who were forced to retire and take no further part in the action.

It took the Yorkshire side only a few minutes to take control of the game, with an abundance of possession and good field position, which saw their hosts securely penned in their own quarter for well over twenty minutes, and it was in the tenth minute that they opened the scoring with a try in the right-hand corner, from an end-of-set, cross-field kick from the left.

At the time, it looked to be only a matter of time before their four-point lead would be increased, but that was the crucial thing; despite continuing to dominate as they did, they were prevented from making any additions to the scoreboard, close as they came to doing so.

It was the Red Devils’ last ditch, desperate, but thoroughly effective goal line defence, which so thwarted them, and, as each scoring opportunity came to naught, they began to lose a little confidence.  Moreover, the Reds stepped up their own performance in possession, and slowly, at first, a swing in momentum began to emerge, albeit merely redressing to some extent the imbalance of that lengthy first period.

When the swing in dominance eventually did come, however, it came quite suddenly.  A Salford penalty for a Robins’ off-side at a play-the-ball in the 31st minute, led to their first clean break from Sade Rihari, which gave them their first opportunity to attack the Hull line.  It was then an individual run by Alex Simpson, now reverted to fullback, which saw her weave cross-field around several defenders until she ran out of anyone else to beat, crossed the try line and then ran back towards the posts to score between them.  Demi Jones’s conversion put them in front for the first time on 33 mins.

Four tackles on from the restart, and an incredible fifty metre break by dummy-half, Brogan Evans saw her dart through the line and then outpace every pursuing defender to score between the posts, and Jones’s conversion had then doubled the score, all within a mere three minutes.

One can only imagine how demoralising the visitors must have found this turn of events, while for the Salford players, they visibly rose to the opportunity, especially at the resumption for the second half, when they literally camped out in the Robins’ twenty metre area, adding their second sucker punch by means of Lauren Ellison’s 51st minute interception try, which took everyone, possibly even herself,  by surprise, but grounding as she did between the uprights, brought the score, with Jones’s conversion, to 18-4.

Things were looking considerably more comfortable from then on, and Louise Fellingham took the game completely beyond the opposition, seven minutes later, when the ball was moved along the line to the right and she cut through the line to score.  Jones, with her most challenging kick of the afternoon was equal to the task, and incredibly, successfully kicked her fourteenth, consecutive, kick-at-goal, over recent weeks.

It was not in the goalkicking duties alone that she was outstanding, for both she and halfback partner Fellingham had contributed so much to the victory throughout.  The latter had been involved in several crucial try-saving tackles, and had taken the ball up to the line on numerous occasions, before feeding it to her supporting teammates.

Jones had shown some quite remarkable touches, not least trapping an awkwardly bouncing ball from a kick-off, soccer-style, to secure possession for the Reds.  As always, she showed a canny eye for the right person in the line to pass to, and her end-of-set kicks had the opposition constantly rattled in having to deal with them.  Little wonder, therefore, that the pair were named jointly as Players of the Match.  Helena Walker, in the second row, meanwhile, had clearly had her best game of the season, and she too, along with so many others had contributed much to the victory..

So, it is onward to Bradford, this weekend, but with the job thus far, only half done.  Much depends not only on their performances, on Sunday afternoon, but also the efforts of the backroom staff to enable as many of the injured as possible to take the field on the day.  Good Luck to them all.  The deserve efery success, so let us just hope they get it!

SALFORD

Luci McKeown, Lauren Ellison, Sade Rihari, Alex Simpson, Katie Garry, Louise Fellingham, Demi Jones, Abi Collins, Brogan Evans, Megan Condliffe, Helena Walker, Victoria Kini, Sarina Tamou

Substitutes:

Hannah Wicks, Laura Bent, Casey Naylor, Gabrielle Chaplin, Eponine Fletcher, Kayleigh Bradshaw

Acknowledgement

Sean Monks Omaga Photography, for above photograph showing Victoria Kini making a hit-up, supported, from left to right, by Brogan Evans, Louise Fellingham, and Sade Rihari

RED DEVILS RETAKE TOP SPOT

Salford Red Devils 20 Oulton 10                       Match Report

The eagerly awaited second versus first encounter, between Salford Red Devils’,  and Oulton’s, ladies’ teams, lived up to every expectation when the two met in last Saturday’s Double Header, providing the considerable number of spectators with an enthralling contest, which kept everyone rivetted, right through to the final whistle.

It was the visitors who were currently occupying top spot, as a consequence of their victory over the Red Devils back in April, when a number of Salford players had been unavailable, and the side had been further depleted by a number of injuries sustained during the course of the game.  Both teams had then gone undefeated, with Oulton’s solitary point having been dropped in an away fixture with Warrington.

Just as in that first match, the Yorkshire side got off to an exceptionally good start, opening the scoring on 45 seconds, which was not dissimilar to that earlier game. Their try came as a result of the Reds’ failure to take the ball from the kick-off, which, as a result, gave Oulton possession close to the Salford line, and they found a gap in the defence to go through, between the posts, for a converted score on only the second tackle of the game.

Even though they had gone on to win the previous match, they had, to a certain extent, been unable to sustain the surprising speed and dominance of the first five minutes, and so it proved to be the case once more with the Red Devils gradually forcing their way into the arm-wrestle, thanks to the stirring efforts of their forwards.

Throughout the match, this was certainly no place for the faint-hearted, with no quarter being asked nor given, and, on the bone-hard pitch, injuries were plentiful, with interchanges then being required at frequent intervals.

It took Salford just six minutes to open their account but when the try came it was well executed.  A rare Oulton error, with their fumbling the ball from a Salford end-of-set kick, gave the Red Devils possession forty metres out.  The ball was moved to the left, and a strong run from centre, Victoria Kini, sucked defenders towards her leaving space out wide for the rapidly improving, Katie Garry, who struck down the touchline in stylish manner to score in the corner.

The visitors, nevertheless, were able to hold on to their two-point lead right up to the 25th minute mark, when yet more slick handling sent the ball along, this time, to the right wing, where Lauren Ellison, took advantage of the space, which the cleverly timed passes had afforded her, to score out wide.

The tightness and toughness of the contest was unrelenting, and it was ten minutes into the second half before further points were accrued, once again by Salford.  On the back of a penalty, first Sade Rihari, and then Alex Simpson, made the running before the ball was passed to the left, and Kayleigh Bradshaw straightened up to score, with Demi Jones’s conversion taking the score to 14-6

There was no way that the Oulton outfit were not going to fight to the final whistle, and the set-by-set arm-wrestle continued, with the visitors briefly gaining superiority as a result of the Red Devils’ failing to complete several of their sets. So, when the visitors found a gap on their right-hand edge, on 65 mins, they were able to cut through and score, reducing their arears to four points only

Thankfully, the Red Devils were equal to the task.  They completely eradicated their handling errors, thereafter,  leaving their magnificent forwards to impose their dominance, keeping possession secure, and making hard yardage up field, thereby running down the clock.

It was less than five minutes from time when one such pack member, Casey Naylor, in similar vein to the visitors’ opener, forced her way over, despite the attention of at least three opponents, and grounded the ball to the right of the posts.  Another Salford kick had been fumbled by a tiring defender, and Rihari made the necessary progress up field to lay the platform.

The euphoria, with which this was greeted was a joy to behold, and evidence to all and sundry of how much the victory meant to the players, and just how hard the physical battle to achieve it had been.

There now remains just one last fixture, away at Stanningley, which the Reds will have to win in order to remain safely where they find themselves at the moment – at the top of the league.  Doing so will ensure pole position in the forthcoming top four play-offs, which commence on the weekend, 24/5th September.  Home advantage, in at least the first of these, will be most beneficial, with the likelihood of yet one further contest against the robust formation that is Oulton, being their opponents in the Final.

SALFORD

Alex Simpson, Lauren Ellison, Sade Rihari, Victoria Kini, Katie Garry, Louise Fellingham, Demi Jones, Abi Collins, Tamzin Corcoran, Yasmin Parton-Sotomayor, Sarina Tamou, Helena Walker, Megan Condliffe

Substitutes:

Darcey Price, Laura Bent, Casey Naylor, Gabrielle Chaplin, Kayleigh Bradshaw

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT:

Photograph: Steve McCormick

RED DEVILS SHOW THEIR CLASS

Salford Red Devils 28  Warrington Wolves Luna 14                     Match Report

In front of what was by far the largest home crowd of the season, the Salford Red Devils ladies’ team, winners of the League Cup only ten days earlier, put on a display of skilled open rugby, which must have delighted the contingent of Salford supporters who had turned out to cheer them on.

It had been back in late March when these two sides had first clashed in what had been the Reds’ opening fixture of the season, and how rewarding it must have been, last night for everyone to reflect on their performance in that first encounter, compared with the slickness of their performance, this time around.

In fairness, both sides had made considerable progress over the season, and the visitors showed their quality in the opening stages, crossing for the first score, after only four minutes, and then regaining a 6-8 lead, on 18 mins, after centre, Sade Rihari had, together with Demi Jones’s conversion, given the home side a slight advantage, on seven minutes.

The game changed remarkably, and from the visitors’ perspective, most cruelly, on the restart, when the kick-off saw the ball put into space in the Warrington twenty where at least three unpredictable bounces, saw Salford fullback, Luci McKeown, first onto it, with a second kick to knock it over the try line, where she grounded it, for Salford’s second score.

Going up in sixes, whilst the opposition are doing so in fours, is most helpful, and Jones’s second conversion emphasised her superiority in this department.  Relinquishing their briefly restored lead so promptly, must have been quite sickening for the Warrington players, and indeed the remainder of the first half saw Salford in total command, building on their now increased advantage on the score board.

By half time, that advantage had further increased by ten points, courtesy of right winger, Lauren Ellison, who crossed for two tries.  The first came directly from a scrum, twenty metres from the Warrington line.  The initial running was done by Taz Corcoran, who had packed down at the back of the scrum, from where she collected the ball taking it to the right, whilst also drawing defenders in, so that when Ellison received the ball she had a free run to the corner.

Five minutes from the interval, fine defensive work by Alex Simpson forced a knock on, thereby providing further possession for the Reds.  The ball was moved slickly along the line, until it arrived in McKeown’s hands, and she momentarily held onto it thus attracting attention her way before sending it on to Ellison.  A slightly easier kick at goal than the previous attempt was slotted over by Demi Jones, to bring the half-time score of 22-8 – a comfortable, though not commanding lead.

The visitors, as any reasonably good team would do, used the interval to regroup, determine what had gone wrong, and then address the issues on the field during the second half.  The outcome of this was that the second half was a much more tightly fought battle, with both teams keeping each other scoreless, for over twenty minutes.

Salford did have a few opportunities to go further ahead, but were denied either by a well-organised defence, or by handling errors close to the line.  The real heroes of the half were the forwards who took on the visiting pack with a ferocious determination to make every metre they could.

Player of the Match, Darcey Price set an excellent example, which was replicated by many others, including, Abi Collins, Casey Naylor, Sarina Tamou, Megan Condliffe, Yasmin Parton-Sotomayer, Vikki Kini, Kayleigh Bradshaw, and the unlikeliest of forward of all, Brogan Evans.  These players just simply ate up the metres as they sought, each set, to put the Red Devils back in striking distance.

The finest piece of rugby in the whole match came on the sixtieth minute, and remarkably did not end in a try, but that in no way diminishes the quality of the rugby which was served up.  It started thirty metres out, with McKeown, under considerable pressure from opponents, managing to slip out a pass to Rihari, who then surged through the line at a great angle, before sending out the classiest of passes to Ellison, who race for the corner, only to be tackled into touch by excellent scrambling defence from Warrington.  No try, but attacking play right out of the top drawer.

Respite for the visitors was short-lived, for two minutes later McKeown broke through to score under the posts, giving Jones a fourth successful conversion.  That the visitors later caught the Salford defence somewhat lacking in concentration, and went through to level up the scores for the second half was probably a fitting end to the game, because they had hey contributed much to the encounter, even though, on the day, the Red Devils showed their superiority thus rewarding their home fans, who had come to lend their support.

SALFORD

Luci McKeown, Lauren Ellison, Sade Rihari, Alex Simpson, Jena Monks , Louise Fellingham, Demi Jones, Megan Condliffe, Tamzin Corcoran, Abi Collins, Kayleigh Bradshaw, Vikki Kini, Sarina Tamou

Substitutes:

Brogan Evans, Hannah Wicks, Helena Walker, Darcey Price, Yasmin Parton-Sotomayor, Casey Naylor, Eponine Fletcher

ACKNOWLDGEMENT

Steve McCormick – Photograph showing Lauren Ellison scorer of two tries

RED DEVILS LIFT SILVERWARE IN INAUGURAL SEASON

RED DEVILS LIFT SILVERWARE IN INAUGURAL SEASON

Orrell St James’s 8  Salford Red Devils 20                                Match Report

Salford Red Devils ladies team defied all the odds that must have been stacked against their doing so, at the start of the season, by winning the League Cup, in this, their very first year, a mere eight months after their inception.

What an absolute triumph this is for a group who were still getting to know one another when the season kicked off, a mere five months ago, but in that time they have gelled together perfectly and developed into an almost unstoppable attacking force, seemingly against all opponents within their league.

How fitting it was, therefore, that their incredible accomplishment should have been achieved on the very day that the much-celebrated Lionesses put the whole concept of women’s sport into a far greater spotlight than it has ever been before.  They just happened to have been beaten to the punch by the Red Devils.

It was in a quite different manner, however, from virtually all their previous victories, to which the players had to adapt, in order to ensure they secured their just desserts.  Not on this occasion, then, was there to be any high-scoring, lavish, breath-taking attacking play; it was far too close for that, and closer even than the scoreline would suggest.  No, this was, foremost, a victory of character over adversity.

No-one can ever predict how a game will unfold, but just one look at the pitch was enough to portend that this would undoubtedly be a game of two halves, with an incline from end to end comparable with that at the infamous Mount Pleasant, Batley.

Having the advantage of the slope for the first half, the Salford players had the clear task of setting as high a score as possible in the hope of putting themselves out of sight by the turnaround – something which they had had plenty of practice of doing, over the course of the season.  To that end, the fact that it was they who kicked off down the slope, was extremely helpful, with the Orrell defenders losing the ball early in the first set, and consequently setting up the Reds with possession in great field position.

Indeed, the game was less than two minutes old when fullback, Luci McKeown, performed a timely pirouette, close to the line, to foil a couple of defenders to go over on the right-hand side, and that was even after Brogan Evans had been held up, under the posts.  As far as the goal kick was concerned, though, it mattered not that the kick was further out than it might have been, as Demi Jones was on target to turn the four into six.

Four minutes later, and with the Orrell team still having hardly touched the ball, a superb, wide pass by Taz Corcoran found the unmarked Alex Simpson, and the centre went through for the second score, this time too far out on the left for a successful conversion attempt.

Whether it was carelessness, or over-confidence, at this point, the ball was lost quite quickly after the resumption, and the opposition’s dearth of possession started to be balanced out, so it was not until the 23rd minute that the Red Devils were able to extend their lead.  Kayleigh Bradshaw was tackled virtually on the Orrell try-line, and her quick play the ball caught the defence out by the ball being moved to the blindside, where right centre, Sade Rihari, used her power and pace to get over for what was to be the final score of the half, extending their lead to sixteen points by Jones’s second conversion.

We have often said that a half time lead of eighteen points is quite overturnable, and there will have been many who had been hoping for rather more cushioning by further points, as the teams resumed for the second forty.  This, however, had been recognised by coach, Chris Bates, who had instilled upon is charges, that the fate of the trophy would now rest with the quality of their defence.

How right he was.  The Orrell St James players were completely familiar with the exigencies of their pitch, and how to use the slope to their advantage – only one of the adversities Salford were to face, and thankfully overcome, during the following forty, with the Reds pinned down in their own twenty metre area, for lengthy periods, desperately endeavouring to repulse the waves of attack hurled at them.

They had had a foretaste of this in the closing stages of the first half when they had been tirelessly, but unsuccessfully, tested by their opponents, who did, though, go close on a number of occasions.  Easy to do when your line speed is aided by a slope, but much more challenging to have to keep doing, up a hill.

Yet, with Bates’s instructions still ringing their ears, that is exactly what they did.  If it moved, it was tackled, and after an early foray with an attack of their own, they certainly had plenty of tackling to do.  Eight minutes of exceptional defence was eventually broken by Orrell’s first try, bringing the score to 16-4.

Fortunately, the Salford players still had enough energy left to launch a counter attack, and on 56 mins, Player of the Match, Riahari, cut through, drew the defence before sending out an excellently timed pass to her winger, Lauren Ellison, who crossed in the corner, restoring the 16 point advantage.

The remainder of the game was merely one set of Orrell attacks after another, as with so little ball, the Salford players appeared a little nervous on the few occasions it came their way, and consequently lost it, often, quite early in the tackle count.

So, ultimately, it was all down to the quality of the defence, thereafter, with Salford forwards as, always, having bearing the brunt of the work, as the Orrell forwards kept up constant drives at the Salford line.  Although they had their line breached on one further occasion, on 64 mins, and the final fifteen minutes  peppered with a few close shaves, time was gradually moving in favour of the Red Devils side, and indeed those sixteen points did prove to be unoverturnable.

So, the ladies got to bring back to Salford the first piece of silverware since they won the Championship Treble in 2008, and doing so in what was, for them, a most novel and unfamiliar manner.  Whole-hearted congratulations to them, and all those connected with the team, who have performed so marvellously, each in their own particular way.  Having won one trophy now, there is always the up-coming Championship Play Offs, in which to test themselves, later in the year.

SALFORD

Luci McKeown, Lauren Ellison, Sade Riahari, Alex Simpson, Katie Garry, Louise Fellingham, Demi Jones, Megan Condliffe, Tamzin Corcoran, Abi Collins, Helena Walker,  Kayleigh Bradshaw, Brogan Evans

Substitutes:

Hannah Wicks, Jena Monks, Darcey Price, Yasmin Parton-Sotomayor, Laura Bent, Casey Naylor, Gabrielle Chaplin

ACKNOWLDGEMENT

Steve McCormick – Headline photograph showing quality of Salford’s defence from Helena Walker, Darcey Price, and Brogan Evans

RED DEVILS REPEAT HUMBERSIDE ROMP

On the back of their magnificent victory at Hull KR, a month ago, the Red Devils returned to Humberside, yesterday, to chalk up an equally impressive result, this time on the western side of the River Hull, against the black & whites of Hull FC.

As has been the case with a number of their outings, the Salford players were a little slow in getting into their stride, and it was the home side which had the better of the early exchanges, having ample possession, with which to challenge the visitors’ defence, over the first ten to fifteen minutes.

The Red Devils were, nevertheless, able to keep their opponents at bay, although not without the adversity of losing their highly-rated fullback, Luci McKeown, quite early in the proceedings, with a leg injury, from which she did not return.  As a consequence, some hasty rearrangements to the line-up needed to be made, with her replacement, Brogan Evans coming on as hooker, Taz Corcoran moving to loose forward, both of whom made considerable impact on the game, and centre, Alex Simpson, taking over at fullback, from where she scored a most spectacular try.

The team had spent the week’s training sessions undertaking work to increase the intensity of both their attack and defence, particularly, but not exclusively, among the forwards, who were also buoyed by the return of Megan Condliffe, who had missed the last two matches.  The considerable success of all this became evident as the game progressed, with the pack laying the foundations of the victory with their strong drives up the field, and the hard tackles with which they hit their opponents.

It was as a consequence of this that almost all of their eight tries came initially from those hard metres they made in the early parts of sets, which sucked the Hull players into the middle of the field, whereupon the Reds were able to send the ball out wide to the backs, who then had sufficient room to combine with one another to produce the collection of tries, which ensued.

One in the first half, which was slightly different from the others, however, was their second, which came as a result of slick, left to right, cross-field, handling, which eventually produced an overlap for right wing Lauren Ellison to go over.

The one drawback from their overall style of play on the day, was that not a single try was scored near the posts, making the possibility of a conversion somewhat remote, and indeed they were successful in only two of their kicks, one each from Kayleigh Bradshaw and Demi Jones, both of which were in the first half, to ring up a 20-0 half time score alongside tries from Louise Fellingham (2), Sarina Tamou, and Ellison’s above mentioned score.

With Salford’s first touch of the ball in the second half, Alex Simpson went much of the length of the field, after taking the ball from Hull’s end-of-set kick, to continue the succession.  To complement their earlier successful goalkicks, Jones and Bradshaw also crossed, followed by Steph Gray to complete the set.

With the Yorkshire side still without a point, hopes were high that the Reds could return home having secured their first nilling of an opposition.  To their credit, however, Hull regrouped for one last minute assault on the Salford line, and succeeded in going over for a try close enough to the posts for it to be turned into a six-pointer, which meant that the nilling would have to wait ‘til another day.  That, though, certainly did not detract from the most impressive, and highly entertaining, performance of the Salford side, who will now travel to Widnes, next Sunday, for what is expected to be one of the most keenly fought encounters of the season.

SALFORD:

Luci McKeown, Lauren Ellison, Steph Gray, Alex Simpson, Eponine Fletcher, Louise Fellingham, Demi Jones, Megan Condliffe, Tamzin Corcoran, Darcey Price, Sarina Tamou, Kayleigh Bradshaw, Vanessa Hadley

Substitutes:

Laura Bent, Brogan Evans, Casey Naylor, Abi Collins, Helena Walker

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

Sean Lunt, Omaga Photography, for above photograph showing, from left to right, Salford’s Demi Jones, Brogan Evans, and Abi Collins

Media Consultant – Gabby Chaplin

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