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 REACH LEAGUE CUP FINAL

Salford Red Devis 18  Dewsbury Rams 8                 Match Report

In their very first season in the game, Salford’s women’s side defied all the odds by reaching the final of the League Cup, by defeating Dewsbury Rams, in the semi-final at Salford Roosters ground, yesterday.

Hopes had always been high that this might prove to be the case, particularly with home advantage and the knowledge that they had already beaten the visitors in an earlier league encounter, when a number of senior Salford players had been missing.  It still proved, however, as with most semi-finals, to be an extremely tightly fought game, with long spells when the two teams were locked in arm wrestles with each other.

It was, in fact, the visitors, who opened the scoring, crossing out wide for an unconverted try, but the Red Devils were quick to counter with a try, converted by Demi Jones.  Those Taz Corcoran diagonal scoots are becoming most adept in throwing opposition defences into some confusion as each one attracts the attention of the defenders before a neat pass is given, this time to Steph Gray, who glided through to score, putting the home team into a lead which they never lost thereafter.

Five minutes later, a break by fullback, Luci McKeown was well supported by Alex Simpson, also playing in the centre, for her to go over towards the left corner, giving Jones the hardest by far of her kicks, which she did with impeccable accuracy, to ring up a 12-4 lead.

That they were unable to build further on this, during the remainder of the half, was testament to the determination of their visitors, coupled with some little misfortune – Lorraine Ellison had a try ruled out for a forward pass, and McKeown was tackled into touch just short of the try line, after a fine break on fielding an end of set kick – and extremely wearing conditions in the heat with water breaks midway through each half, and a bone hard pitch which sent up clouds of dust, on impact.

It was greatly in contrast to this, therefore, that they opened the second half with a try direct from the restart.  Player of the Match, Louise Fellingham, who as captain had led her team by example yet with support and encouragement throughout the game, received the ball from the kick and then, from a sideways run, layed it off to McKeown, who raced through to score between the posts.  After having landed one from close to the touchline. Jones had no difficulty in keeping her hundred percent success rate with the boot to take the score to 18-6.

Although this concluded Salford’s scoring for the afternoon, the two sides continued to battle it out in an arm-wrestle, and indeed the Red Devils were made to fight every minute of the way to retain their hold on the game.

Being put under considerable pressure, when in possession, they were forced into an above average number of handling errors, which promptly brought even more defensive work, while the intense heat was most energy sapping.  Nevertheless, their defence on so many occasions proved equal to the challenge, succumbing only in the final minute of play to the Rams’ late consolation try.

Nothing, however, could dent the euphoria with which the team greeted the final whistle, and it would be nigh on impossible to overstate their outstanding achievement of progressing into the final, on 31st July.  For a group of individuals to come together, many of them as strangers to one another, and then to be successful in such a high-pressured situation as a cup semi-final, is most remarkable.

Their opponents in the final will be the winners of the other semi-final between Hull KR and Orrel St James.  That is for later, however.  For now, let us all just enjoy their wonderful achievement, and celebrate this, their most recent success.

SALFORD:

Luci McKeown, Lauren Ellison, Steph Gray, Alex Simpson, Katie Garry, Louise Fellingham, Demi Jones, Abi Collins, Tamzin Corcoran, Darcey Price, Viki, Kayleigh Bradshaw, Megan Condliffe

Substitutes:

Hannah Wicks, Yasmin Parton-Sotomayor, Brogan Evans, Casey Naylor, Jenna Monks, Eponine Fletcher, Helena Walker

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

Sean Monks, Omaga Photography, for above photograph

Media Consultant – Gabby Chaplin

RED DEVILS SNUFF OUT DEWSBURY FIGHT BACK

Salford Red Devils 28  Dewsbury 16                          Match Report

A most spirited rally, in the final quarter of the game saw Salford’s women’s team continuing their successful start to the season, with a twelve-point victory, sealed by a brace of tries from full-back, Steph Gray, both of which were converted by Demi Jones.

With a number of their regular players missing, there was a slightly makeshift look about the team sheet, but, in fairness, every member of the side, whether newly in, or operating in a different position, came through with credit for their commitment to the cause, and for the way they all gelled together to secure the win.

It was a dream start to the game, for the Reds when first, the Dewsbury kick-off went straight into touch, and, from the ensuing penalty, Salford were well positioned to set up a series of attacks on the visitors’ line.  It took until the fourth minute, only, for them to open their account, with an excellent end-of-set cross-field kick finding the arms, of right centre, Lauren Ellison, who caught and grounded the ball in one single movement.

With a 4-0 advantage, and playing down the Schofield Rd slope, spectators eagerly awaited further tries to follow, but a combination of handling errors, which occurred whenever they got near to the Dewsbury line, compounded by a considerable number of penalties, primarily for offside and high tackles, let Dewsbury back into the game  It was from one such handling error, followed by two, late in set, penalties, that the visitors had sufficient possession to force an overlap, to draw level.

Buoyed by this success, the Yorkshire side continued to enjoy sufficient possession from further penalties to put Salford under significant pressure for several minutes, even forcing a goal-line drop-out, in the process.  What was significant, however, was that the magnificent Salford defence was able to soak up these continual assaults on their line, without conceding any further points.

Eventually, on 34 mins, they set up an attack which was not flawed by any errors, as the ball was moved, most tellingly, along the line to produce a three to one overlap, which provided left centre, Alex Simpson, with a try-scoring opportunity in the corner.  Most remarkably, Jones was successful with the conversion from the touchline, which sailed between the posts, to set up a 10-4, half-time scoreline.

The game really appeared to have swung in favour of the Red Devils, shortly after the restart, when cleverly- angled running by second rower, Viki Kini, opened up the defence on the right-hand side to set up Ellison, with her second try, goaled once again by Jones. 16-4

What had seemed to be a fairly comfortable lead at the time proved to be anything but, on 59 mins, when Dewsbury scored the second of two tries within three minutes of each other, and the successful conversions bringing the sides level.

Nothing can be more dispiriting than to see your lead eradicated completely, and the game was at the point at which it could have gone either way.  Dewsbury, with their tails up, and the benefit of the downward slope must have really fancied their chances, while the Red Devils were up against an uphill slog, in temperatures which had changed by a whole season, during the course of the afternoon, and in the hot sunshine they were finding the going most energy sapping.

This was when the team really showed its character, determination, and on the back of these, its confidence.  Alex Simpson, it was, who set the ball rolling, with a tremendous break from within her own twenty, to be tackled near to the half-way line, to the left of the field.  Taz Corcoran took up the baton from there, with a super scoot towards the visitors twenty, and a couple of tackles later Gray scythed through the middle for the first of her match-determining brace.

Every member of the side did their utmost to bring about the victory, and all can feel pride not just in the result but in their contribution in overcoming adversity at various stages of the match.  It is something they will be able to take into their next encounter, in the League Cup tie, away at Illingworth, next week.

SALFORD:

Steph Gray, Jenna Monks, Lauren Ellison, Alex Simpson, Eponine Fletcher, Louise Fellingham, Demi Jones, Casey Naylor, Tamzin Corcoran, Darcey Price, Kayleigh Bradshaw, Victoria Kini, Megan Condliffe, Hannah Wicks, Yasmin Parton-Sotomayor, Abi Collins, Laura Bent, Gabrielle Chaplin

PHOTOGRAPH: Courtesy of Sean Monks, with our thanks

Steph Gray grounding the ball firmly between the posts

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