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