RED DEVILS IN DEPTH: CASTLEFORD V SALFORD

It is the unpredictability in sport, especially the result, which makes it so enthralling for so many of us.  The fact that the underdog might just win is what sparks our interest, while to be there for the odd occasion when that actually happens is absolutely thrilling, as all our fans, who travelled to the Totally Wicked Stadium for our recent victory over St Helens, will testify.

Not so, however, when you happen to be the side which had been expected to win, as was the case for Salford’s fixture at the Mend-A- Hose Jungle, against Castleford, last Friday evening, which proved to be a disappointment not only for those who made the trip over, but also those who watched it on tv.

In fairness to all connected with the team, the very fact that they were actually expected to win the encounter is a great testament to the progress they have made in recent seasons.  It was not that long ago that the thought of winning any match in Yorkshire, let alone at Castleford, proved to be somewhat fruitless, but the more successful a team is the more that this sort of disappointment is likely to happen.  If it can happen to St Helens, it can happen to anyone.

There had been some little warning in the games in which the two sides were involved the previous round, but it can also be argued that the seeds for this outcome were sown back in Round 2, when an extremely similar encounter, which also saw the game swing back and forth between the two sides ended with the Red Devils running out 26-22 victors.

The Tigers had been really disappointed at this, feeling that they had done enough to have won it themselves, and probably consoled themselves by briefly earmarking the return fixture as one to look forward to.  Certainly, once they got in control in the last quarter, on Friday, they were always going to find enough energy and endeavour to try and hold on, which they managed to do.

Not that there was any sign of this through the opening fifteen minutes, when Salford swept to an eight-point lead, from Deon Cross’s try and two goals from Marc Sneyd, and they looked as though they were capable of scoring with regularity.  The sinbinning of Amir Bourouh was an impediment but could not be said to have been a turning point, as the Tigers had already given clear warning of their capability and determination, through the first of Ines Senior’s tries down the left wing.

By the time Bourouh returned, the home side, with numerical advantage, had taken charge, but there was still time for the Red Devils to hit back then and to narrow the half-time score to 14-18, with Tim Lafae’s converted try.

With the slope in their favour and a half-time discussion to spur them on, Salford really stepped up a gear with two excellent tries from Nene Macdonald and Ryan Brierley to take the score to 18-24.

Probably the really big turning point of the game was the over-ruling by both referee and video ref of Cade Cust’s attempted score on 53 mins, owing to a knock-forward in the contest for possession, prior to the grounding.  So often, we have seen in televised matches, teams, which regain possession in such circumstances, launch a counter-attack ending with a try at the other end of the pitch, and it was with Senior’s second score that Castleford started their come-back.

It was the confidence this rekindled in the home side, which was the most telling factor, allied to their sheer desperation for the win.  The difference from then on between the two sides was that Salford really wanted to win, but Castleford so badly needed it, and were determined not to let this one slip in the way that they felt they had done at Salford, back in February.

MARCH PLAYER OF THE MONTH NOMINEES REVEALED

It’s time to vote for your March Player of the Month.

It was another busy period for Paul Rowley’s side, with Salford Red Devils securing three wins from five games across all competitions.

The first of which came courtesy of a 17-10 home victory over Hull KR. Deon Cross and Chris Hankinson were on target, with Marc Sneyd’s kicking in-game, and from the tee proving a big difference.

Another was a memorable night at the Totally Wicked Stadium, where we recorded our first victory away at St Helens for over 44 years.

Deon Cross scored a 75th minute try to send the Salford faithful into raptures and complete a stunning, late fightback.

The task didn’t get any easier a week later, with recently-crowned world champions, Wigan Warriors in town for Round 5.

Putting together another fantastic team performance, the Red Devils were leading for a large portion of the contest, but two late efforts from Jake Wardle and Bevan French stole the points.

A week later, an off-night at Craven Park saw our Betfred Challenge Cup journey come to an end, but we soon bounced back with a solid Rivals Round display against Leigh Leopards.

Ryan Brierley, Ethan Ryan and Marc Sneyd were all scorers in a 32-22 victory.

However, across the month, three candidates stood out above rest.

The first, of course, was Marc Sneyd – who picked up the Man of the Match medal in each of our Super League contests across March.

Influential every week with both ball in hand and flying off his left boot, our number seven is currently sitting top of the Steve Prescott Man of Steel charts.

The second candidate is Tim Lafai, who continues to show his brilliance week-on-week.

His consistency has been instrumental in our early-season form, but a standout moment has to be his magical assist to set-up Deon Cross’ winner against St Helens.

Receiving the ball in one hand, he moved it into the other and produced his trademark flick out the back to send Cross strolling over in the corner.

Nene Macdonald has also earned back-to-back nominations after a flying start to his career in red and white.

The PNG international has quickly became a fan favourite with his displays at centre, scoring his second try for the club in our match against Saints earlier this month.

So, who is your winner this month? Make sure to vote below and head to our social channels to give your reasons!

2024 MARCH PLAYER OF THE MONTH!

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MACDONALD: “IT FEELS LIKE A BROTHERHOOD”

Nene Macdonald has certainly felt the love since joining the club last October.

The PNG international has hit the ground running in a red shirt, scoring two tries in his opening five games; with one – an acrobatic finish against Castleford Tigers – winning the club’s Try of the Month for February.

“It’s been great,” Macdonald told our YouTube channel when asked what it’s been like fitting in at Salford Red Devils.

“Since I’ve been here, everyone has been so accommodating, everyone has been getting around me. It feels like a brotherhood here, it feels like I’ve joined and always been a part of this club, so it’s been great.”

It’s not just his teammates who have taken to his character and freakish ability. On a match day, you can often hear Macdonald’s name echoing around the stadium to the tune of Seven Nation Army by the White Stripes.

Macdonald tells us how much he appreciates the support, and always takes time out to go around after full-time and meet the Salford faithful.

“Coming in and going after the games I always make sure to go around and say hi to everyone because they’ve put their hard-earned money to watch us play.

“It’s good to see their support and hear them chant my name – I must be doing something right!” he joked.

Moving on to this weekend’s Rivals Round clash with a familiar foe, Macdonald was full of praise for his old boss, Adrian Lam, as his Leigh Leopards team roll into town.

“They’re a great team. Adrian (Lam) was a smart player when he played and a smart coach,” the centre continued.

“I think they’ll be doing their homework on us and it’ll be a great game. Watching last season’s Salford and Leigh games, it was a very skilful game, so it’ll be a good test for us.”

One of the star players of Leigh’s Betfred Challenge Cup winning team was halfback, Lachlan Lam, who slotted a drop-goal in golden point to take home the prize, and in the process, the coveted Lance Todd Trophy.

“I’ve played alongside him for 10 years with PNG now and he’s a gun player, very skilful,” Macdonald described a close-friend of his.

“I think taking time away from him is what we’ve got to do. He’s always going to do something spectacular in the game, he’s a good player like that, so we’ve just got to dim it down a bit and get on top of him.”

To hear our full chat with Nene, click here to head to our YouTube channel.

NENE MACDONALD’S SUBLIME EFFORT WINS FEBRUARY TRY OF THE MONTH

Nene Macdonald’s sublime effort against Castleford Tigers has been voted February’s Try of the Month.

At a pivotal point in the game, just before the half-time hooter, Marc Sneyd sent a kick swirling towards the retreating Luke Hooley.

The Cas fullback tried to catch the ball with one foot planted in the in-goal, but had his pockets-picked by Macdonald, who showed unbelievable athleticism to leap over Hooley and ground the ball.

After a quick video referee check, the try was awarded and the Red Devils went into the break with a commanding lead.

It’s beaten Cade Cust, Amir Bourouh and Sam Stone’s efforts to claim the first prize of the season.

Check it out below:

RED DEVILS IN DEPTH: ST HELENS V SALFORD

Whilst it might be true that ‘everything comes to those who wait’, it has to be said that forty-four years is a considerable length of time to have waited –  half a lifetime, in fact – for that it is how long it had been since a Salford team has won away, at St Helens. 

On a total of forty-one occasions (the numerical discrepancy attributable to the Reds’ seasons out of the top flight and the pandemic on the one hand, and loop fixtures, cup ties if any, and play off games on the other) their fans have turned up at, first, Knowsley Rd, and later the Totally Wicked Stadium, with at least some measure of hope that their favourites would come up with a win, all to no avail as, on each of those occasions, the Saints extended their winning run with another victory.

Until last Friday, that is, when, at long last, it all came to an end.  Certainly, the travelling fans will have, once again, had some cause for optimism, with the Saints having produced a less than stellar performance, the previous week against Leigh, whilst Salford seem to have gelled together as a team far more quickly than many other Super League sides.

 That latter undoubtedly needed to be the case as the home side set to, to gain the ascendency from the outset, and the Red Devils needed all their defensive expertise to keep their line intact as wave after wave of onslaught was thrown at them.  On 6 mins, great tackling on Sironen succeeded in holding him up over the line, and then three minutes later, forced a Saints’ mid-set error, close to the Salford line.

Defending the line from a scrum, however, is much more problematic, with so few players in so much space, and in the tenth minute the Saints exploited that to send Welsby over for a crucially-unconverted try, with Dodd adding a second, eight minutes later.

Their ascendency was broken, almost immediately, thereupon,  by Marc Sneyd’s using the wind to hang the ball in the air from the kick-off, thereby causing havoc in the St Helens ranks and the Red Devils’ gaining some much-needed possession in good field position.

It was Salford’s turn now to turn on the pressure, and if there were evidence that they might, at any stage, steal the win, it was the way they then put the home defence to the sword testing it throughout the following ten minutes.  Three times they went close, once in the left-hand corner, immediately followed likewise by Kallum Watkins towards the right, both on 22 mins, and then two minutes later, a collision, which would have stood further video-referee scrutiny, with Walmsley denying Ryan Brierley the chance to get to the ball from a kick into the in-goal area.

Nevertheless, they got their just rewards on 24 mins, when Deon Cross scored in the left-hand corner to open the visitors’ account.  Saints might have had difficulty with their goalkicking, but with yet another one hundred percent record – three from the touchline – on its way, Sneyd reduced the arears to a mere two points.

Even so, Saints were to have the final say of the half, capitalising on a couple of Salford errors, to send Percival in under the posts, for a try which he then converted to restore the home lead to eight points.

It has been said that the 43rd minute dismissal of Percival was the turning point of the game, but that might be rather too simplistic, because little in the way of outcomes on the field actually changed, for a while.

Players are so used to temporary, ten-minute sin-binnings of opponents, which require them to make that period really count in terms of points on the board, but total dismissal is quite different enabling patience, composure, and pressure building, over a protracted period of time.

For the following fifteen minutes, however, the Salford players threw caution to the wind in their endeavours to score at virtually every play, and consequently rather than scores it was errors only, which accrued.

The actual turning point came, when, against all expectations, Dodd scored his second try, which this time he converted to open up a 20-6 lead.  This seemed to act as a wake-up call to Salford, and from the restart there appeared to be the determination to be error-free from that point on, and a focus on the aforementioned patience and composure saw them building up the most concerted pressure of the game.

Although St Helens were able to deal with this in the short term, so relentless did it become that it was only a matter of time before their line was to be breached, and it was the strength of Nene Macdonald which enabled him, on 65 mins, to twist round in a tackle on the try line to ground the ball, and restore the long-standing, yet overturn-able, eight-point margin.

Next, a touch-in-flight by Saints winger Bennison, gave the Reds a set restart, and after Salford been endeavouring to outflank their opponents on the edges throughout the game, St Helens were caught completely unawares, by Chris Atkin’s step back inside from first receiver, to go over between the posts, on 67 mins, and all but eliminate the St Helens lead.

Not quite, though, and it required one piece of absolutely brilliant handling by Tim Lafai, followed by equally clinical finishing by Cross for his second of the evening, to put the Red Devils ahead, for the first time in the game, on 74 mins.

By the time the teams had lined for the short kick-off, which was taken by St Helens, there was still three minutes remaining.  Salford fans’ thoughts might well have then wandered back to other such occasions when their hosts had snatched the game, at the death – most recently from Matty Smith’s post-hooter drop-goal, Regan Grace’s last minute try in the corner, and a controversial video-refereeing call of a try, which many thought might have been overturned for a double movement.

Not this time, however.  Try as they did to force their way over St Helens were held short on each occasion – Walmsley losing the ball in the tackle which halted their closest call –  and for the first time since 12th January, 1980, the Red Devils held on to win a game, which will stand proudly alongside their 1996 second round Challenge Cup victory over Wigan, in the minds of all Salford fans.

NENE MACDONALD NOMINATED FOR FEBRUARY TRY OF THE MONTH

Nene Macdonald’s acrobatic effort against Castleford Tigers has been nominated for the Betfred Super League Try of the Month.

The PNG international was at his thrilling best in Round 2, producing a MOTM performance to secure Salford’s first two points of 2024.

His try – just before half-time – was by far the games’ highlight. Chasing a pinpoint Marc Sneyd high bomb, Macdonald leapt high, above Cas full-back, Luke Hooley to slam down and extend our advantage.

Alongside Nene, the contenders are Jon Bennison (St Helens), Ash Handley (Leeds Rhinos) – who is featured on two occasions – Arron Lindop (Warrington Wolves) and Robbie Storey (London Broncos).

Voting is open from 8pm this evening and will close at 8pm on Tuesday (5th March) evening. 

The poll to vote is available on Our League here.

Check out his incredible effort below:

RED DEVILS IN DEPTH: SALFORD V CASTLEFORD

‘It’s not how you start but how you finish’ is what we are so often told, but in last Sunday afternoon’s opening home fixture with Castleford, the Red Devils wrote their own variation to that mantra. And why shouldn’t they, for after all, players and coaches will often say that they need to get off to a good start.

This, though, was not a good start – it was an incredible start, with Salford camping out in the visitors’ thirty metre area for a full ten minutes of the game, during which time they enjoyed no less than nine consecutive sets of six. Penalties, opposition touches, goal-line drop outs forced from shrewd in-goal kicks and excellent kick chases, set restarts, and tries, all combined to give the Reds the impression that they could dominate the game from start to finish.

Perhaps the most praise-worthy aspect of all this, though, was their patience. The eagerness to turn possession and position into points can so often be the cause of over-ambitious or rushed passes, which let the opposition off the hook. Not on this occasion, however, as the Red Devils started their seventh set-of-six, and this time completed it by Sam Stone going over towards the left hand corner.

Nor did the onslaught end there. Another try – this time his first in a Salford shirt to Amir Bourouh from Brad Singleton’s great offload – brought their score to twelve points in as many minutes, courtesy Marc Sneyd’s conversions, which, in fairness, were only another facet of his exceptional overall kicking game, thus far.

Although there were still another two sets started, the interception of Sone’s well intended pass inside, brought that opening tirade to a conclusion. For the team on the receiving end of such ball deprivation, all they can do is just hope that, over the forty minutes, possession evens itself, or at least they get sufficient to get back into the game. Much to Salford’s surprise the Tigers did and shortly before half time the Red Devils’ twelve point lead had been cut to two.

If you are going to score an eye-catching try, two minutes before halftime is the time to do so. It not only demoralises your opponents going into the interval, it also changes significantly the mood of discussion in each dressing-room. Nene Macdonald’s highly discussed and viewed feat of athleticism was not only incredibly well executed, it was also timed superbly.

And the impact does not end there. The start of the second half consequently found both teams in much the same mindset as had been the case in that initial first half stanza, and it really came as no surprise when, after a period of intensive pressure, a beautifully weighted kick over the line by Sneyd was latched onto by Stone for his second try of the afternoon.

At 24-10 it seemed all over bar the shouting but this game did not pan out that way and much to many a spectator’s astonishment, it was the Tigers who took much of the spoils later on pulling back to 24-16.

The sin-binning of Jack Ormandroyd for much of the last ten minutes, did not help the Salford cause, but, as always when in difficulty Marc Sneyd can be relied upon to kick you out of trouble as he did on Sunday, slotting over a penalty kick at goal to pull his team further away – a wise move as Horne’s concluding Cas try was then too late to impact on the result.

NENE MACDONALD: THE STORY SO FAR!

It’s official – Nene Macdonald is a Salford Red Devils player.

Putting pen to paper, the Papua New Guinea international is an exciting addition to our side; with the ability to play at fullback, centre, or on the wing.

Macdonald began his career at Sydney Roosters’ NYC team in 2012, where he began to show glimpses of quality.

Producing performances way beyond his age, Macdonald received an early call-up to Papua New Guinea’s World Cup squad in 2013, where he made three appearances, scoring one try.

It was not long after that he made his NRL debut; scoring one try in a 32-12 victory against the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs, in 2014.

He finished the campaign with three tries in seven appearances and made a mid-season switch to the Gold Coast Titans in 2015.

Starting to find more regular game-time, Macdonald made 34 appearance in his two-year spell, scoring 14 tries.

St George Illawarra spotted his blossoming talent and managed to secure a two-year deal in 2017, where Macdonald would go on to make 46 appearances, scoring 16 tries.

Short spells at North Queensland Cowboys and Cronulla Sharks proceeded a successful 2021 at the Norths Devils, where he helped the Queensland-based club win the Intrust Super Cup by beating WM Seagulls 16-10 in the Grand Final.

After making 98 NRL appearances for five different clubs, Macdonald made the move over to join international Head Coach, Adrian Lam in England.

Spending only one season at the then-Leigh Centurions, Macdonald scored a remarkable 27 tries in 27 appearances and helped the Leythers earn promotion back to the Betfred Super League.

There was then a reunion with Head Coach, Rohan Smith at Leeds Rhinos, who secured his signature on a two-year deal, in 2022.

He also represented his country in the recent Rugby League World Cup held in England.

Twenty appearances for the Rhinos and two tries later, he will be linking up with his new teammates at the Salford Stadium in pre-season and adding some serious quality to Paul Rowley’s squad.

SALFORD RED DEVILS SIGN NENE MACDONALD

We are delighted to reveal the signing of Papua New Guinea international, Nene Macdonald on a four-year deal.

The 29-year-old can operate at centre or winger and becomes our first signing of 2024 after being released from his contract at Leeds Rhinos earlier this month – remaining a Red Devil until the end of 2027.

In reaction to joining the club, Macdonald has said: “Firstly, thank you to the coaching staff and everyone behind the scenes that helped me get this deal over the line.

“It is an exciting time for me to start a new chapter in my life, with a great team.

“I am excited to get out there for 2024 and the style of footy Salford play really suits me.

“It’s a great team that can push to play in finals and win some trophies.

“Thanks to a good friend of mine, Krisnan Inu for putting in a good word and letting me know nothing but good things about the club.

“I am excited to get in front of the Salford fans, play some good footy and earn their respect!”

Head Coach, Paul Rowley has added: “Nene is a very significant addition to our team and I am looking forward to seeing him entertain our fans in 2024.

“I wanted to sign Nene two years ago – as he is very much my kind of athlete – so to eventually land him is fantastic.

“Massive credit goes to Krisnan Inu for bringing this deal from start to finish to our table, materialising from the friendship and respect he has with Nene and his advisors.

“Myself, Kurt and Kris are looking forward to welcoming Nene to our group and helping him show his best in a Salford shirt!”

Director of Rugby & Operations, Ian Blease has added: “Nene is a very exciting signing for our club.

“He is a player who knows exactly what it is like to play on the big occasions and will add some serious quality to the squad in 2024.

“I am sure he will excite the fans on a weekly basis. He is highly-skilled, intelligent and definitely the right fit for this team.

“I would like to welcome Nene to Salford and look forward to seeing what we can achieve together!”

Everyone at Salford Red Devils would like to welcome Nene to the club and look forward to seeing him in action very soon.

Our first signing of 2024 is locked-in – are you? Purchase your 2024 season ticket HERE.

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