Salford Red Devils started their Super League career in style, in yesterday’s opening round visit to Castleford, with a reasonably comfortable victory over the Tigers, at the Mend-A-Hose Jungle. Any visit into Yorkshire which results in a win is most commendable, and their near total dominance throughout the first half was most impressive.
It was in only the second minute of the game that they went in front, following a Castleford handling error in their own half, and on the back of good carries on the first four tackles they were able to send the ball along the line to the left where fullback, Luci McKeown, cut through to score and open the Reds’ account.
Unfortunately, her attempted conversion hit the post.
Scoring tries, however, came rather more readily and it was only a matter of five minutes from the resumption that they went over again. A quite noteworthy set, in which the Red Devils, thanks to their forwards in particular, went a full seventy metres down field to force a goal-line drop-out, set up further possession in an ideal part of the field to attack again.
This time, it was second rower, Helena Walker who touched down in the right-hand corner to double the Salford lead, but sadly it was to turn out to be one of her last contributions to the match, as she was forced to leave the field a few minutes later after sustaining a leg injury in a tackle.
Completely against the run of play, in the 16th minute, Cas, on one of their first forays into their visitors’ twenty-metre area, caught out the right edge defence, working an overlap on the wing for a try in the corner, thereby narrowing the score to 4-8.
The truly decisive period of the game, let alone the half, came in a ten-minute period, in the run up to the half hour mark, in which the Salford players took the score to 4-16, with two further tries. The first of these came direct from a scrum on the Tigers’ twenty metre line, with the ball being moved to the right. On arrival in right centre Alex Simpson’s hands, she cut back inside, wrongfooting the Castleford defence, and enabling her to score by the posts.
That dummy-half, Taz Corcoran, was able to score her try merely by picking up the ball and taking only a couple of steps forward to place it over the line, was almost unbelievable, but there had been a speedy play-the-ball, and she had spotted the opportunity well. Thankfully, the 4-16 half-time lead it opened up gave the team some cushioning for the second half.
Indeed, the lead might well have been even greater, when, in the final minute of the half, centre, Steph Gray went over in the left-hand corner, only for the wide pass to her to be judged to be forward.
This cushioning they had given themselves was to be needed, however, during the second half, when forms and fortunes were, surprisingly, reversed, and the early warning of this came within ten minutes of the resumption, when Castleford put together their best move of the game, to score, once again, in the left corner.
That it took Salford almost twenty minutes to eradicate that score was something of a surprise, but, in fairness, their second-half performance was well below that of the first forty, with a number of wayward passes going to ground and each error returning possession to their opponents. The longer this went on the more the Tigers grew in confidence, and the more frustrated Salford seemed to become.
One element of the performance which really helped their cause though, was Sam Evans’s penalty kicks to touch, which gained remarkable distance with the two opportunities she was given, putting the team on the attack, when they had been unable to gain the position by other means.
A one-on-one ball-steal by Alex Simpson, early in a Cas set, regained the Reds possession, and this time the ball was moved accurately and effectively to the left, where, to recompense her for her earlier disappointment, Gray straightened up the line to go over towards the left-hand corner, on 67 minutes, to calm any mounting nerves.
It still, nevertheless, required some determined and impressive defensive work for much of the remaining time, not least in the minutes leading up to the 73rd, when they had to defend no less than five repeat sets, mainly caused by penalties against over-eager defenders running offside.
Survive it all they did, though, and with a twelve-point winning margin, and their first ever two Super League points to bring back over the Pennines, it was a result to be celebrated, and will hopefully set them up for next week’s Women’s Challenge Cup tie against Featherstone Rovers. Please note that the kick off for this game as been changed 12.00.
Luci McKeown, Katie Garry, Alex Simpson, Steph Gray, Lauren Ellison, Louise Fellingham, Sam Evans, Megan Condliffe, Tamzin Corcoran, Sarina Tamou, Helena Walker, Victoria Kini, Brogan Evans
Abi Collin, Hannah Wicks, Summer Harris, Emerald Hickey