RED DEVILS’ PROGRESS EVIDENT IN PLAY OFF SEMI-FINAL

Leigh 28  Salford 10                         Match Report

In what was undoubtedly the most keenly contested of the four encounters between the ladies of the Salford Red Devils and their near neighbours, the Leigh Leopards, the home side were made to battle for every point before eventually progressing through to the final of Super League 2’s end of season play-offs.

Indeed, it was a considerable achievement for the Salford players to have been making an appearance in this stage of the competition in their very first season in Super League, when many a side would, in such circumstances, have more than likely been battling to avoid relegation.  Not so, the Red Devils, who had finished a most creditable fourth to travel to third place Leigh, in this, the semi-final.

Each of the three previous encounters had seen a noticeable narrowing in the differential between the two sides, and although the scoreline failed to reflect this, the outcome, this time, was in the balance right through to the final fifteen minutes, when the home side managed to find a couple of holes in what had been a magnificent defensive effort by the visitors.

Just how tight the game was going to be was evident from the outset, with both sides locked in an arm wrestle – in which neither side could gain dominance – the like of which had not existed in either the pre-season friendly or the two, home and away league fixtures.

It was, however, Leigh who opened the scoring in the 15th minute, as a result of their gaining a penalty near their own line, followed by a set-restart inside the Salford half, before working an overlap on the left flank with an unconverted try in the corner.

Unfazed by this setback, the Reds continued to muscle up in defence, repelling every Leigh onslaught and setting up line-testing attacks of their own.  One magnificent tackle by centre, Alex Simpson, prevented a near certain try, on 23 mins, and six minutes later she was most unfortunate to be denied a try of her own, when a prior tackle on her winger, Lauren Ellison, was adjudged to have been completed.

As so often seems to happen these days, a disallowed try at one end of the field led to a recognised try at the other, once again coming after another set-restart, with the successful goal-kick giving the Leopards a 10-0 lead, on 32mins.

Once again, the Salford defence was called into action with one of the biggest hits of the afternoon being affected jointly by Player of the Year, Brogan Evans, and fullback, Sage Bannister, on 36mins.  It was that both were able to combine timing and targeted body areas with such precision that made this so impressive.

Efforts such as this can certainly give a team an uplift, and this proved to be the case on this occasion.  A high, end-of-set kick by Demi Jones was dropped, thus gaining the visitors further possession with which they set up, second rower, Viki Kini to force her way over, on 39 mins, enabling Jones to narrow the half time margin to 10-6.

The inspiration that the score had brought the Red Devils was carried through into the second half, and a Leigh error in their own half, early in the tackle count, gave away possession, which Salford were able to use to set up captain, Louise Fellingham, for a try on 43 mins, not only to level the score, but to rattle the home side at the loss of their lead.

The arm wrestle, which had been so tightly fought in the opening period, reappeared as both teams sought once again to gain dominance, but this time the Salford players had developed a confidence which continued to force the Leopards into uncharacteristic errors, by their defensive efforts.  Left winger, Ellison, was prominent in this, in the way she made excellent decisions when faced on a number of occasions with an overlap, which, each time, she unerringly snuffed out.

The introduction from the bench of Becki Davies, who had had to spend the whole of the season recovering from surgery on a serious leg injury, added a new dimension to the side in both attack and defence, as she performed most promisingly, throughout the rest of the match.

A Leigh penalty, on 55 mins, however, was to prove the turning point in the game, as a change of direction from a strike player got her through the consequential space to score by the post to re-establish the Leopards’ six-point lead.

The Salford defence, nevertheless, continued to work overtime as their hosts rediscovered their composure.  Another try-saving tackle, this time from hooker, Taz Corcoran, on 61 mins, temporarily, saved the day, but the Red Devils were beginning to show signs of tiredness, and a handling error gave the home side the opportunity to secure the win with another try under the posts.

A well-earned, goal-line drop-out to Salford, on 70 mins, was unfortunately mis-fielded, and, direct from the resultant scrum, the ball was collected by one of the Leigh speedsters, who sprinted the seventy metres to the other end of the field to give the score-line a somewhat one-sided impression of what had been a tough, and most enthralling encounter.

SALFORD:

Sage Bannister, Katie Garry, Sam Evans, Alex Simpson, Lauren Ellison, Louise Fellingham, Demi Jones, Megan Condliffe, Tamzin Corcoran, Summer Harris, Helena Walker, Victoria Kini, Brogan Evans

Substitute:

Sarina Tamou, Abi Collins, Hannah Wicks, Becki Davies

RED DEVILS SECURE THEIR FIRST SUPER LEAGUE DOUBLE

Salford 22  Castleford 10               Match Report

In the first of Sunday’s Double Headers, the Salford Red Devils’ Ladies Team celebrated their first fixture of the season on the main pitch by securing their first ever Super League double, beating the visiting Castleford Tigers.

The two teams had previously met at the Mend-a-Hose Jungle in the opening round, back in mid-April, with the Red Devils running out winners with a not dissimilar scoreline of 20-8, whilst on Sunday the Tigers were given no time to settle as the home side hit the straps in the opening exchanges with the first try coming in only the third minute.

A clever dummy by scrum half, Demi Jones, completely foxed the Castleford defence, with her pass to Sage Bannister putting her in the clear, and she romped over to open the team’s account.  Jones, unfortunately however, saw her attempted conversion strike the near upright and bounce out.

It was almost a quarter of an hour later before they were able to improve on that four-pointer, but when it came, it proved to be the try of the match, and once again it was Bannister who took the plaudits.  A Tigers’ end-of-set kick was well taken by hooker, Taz Corcoran, who fed it to the Salford speedster, who in turn raced seventy-five metres, outpacing every desperately pursuing defender to score between the posts.  This time, with the only straightforward, and successful, kick of the afternoon, Jones made no mistake in adding on the conversion to bring the score to 10-0.

Although the visitors had had a somewhat torrid opening period as they struggled to match Salford’s greater consistency of teamwork, they did, nevertheless, have a number of talented players, who, individually, posed a significant threat when given space in which to run.

As early as the eleventh minute, they had worked space onto their right flank and it was only down to excellent chasing back, by left centre, Steph Gray, that the threat was snuffed out by her over-hauling and bringing down the would-be scorer.

When, however, that self-same attacker was put, once again, into the clear, on 21 mins, she, this time, had too great a start on her opposing centre, and it was down to a last–ditch tackle by fullback, Bannister, here showing her sound defensive capabilities, which prevented a try.  Five minutes later, though, it proved to be third time lucky for the Tigers as they got onto the scoreboard tightening the score to 10-4.

It was, nevertheless, the Red Devils, who had the final say of the half, when recently introduced substitute, Yaz Parton-Sotomayor, who, in what is proving to be her best season so far, having laid on a try the week before via what has been described as a barnstorming run through the defence,  repeated that very act once again, only this time going over herself for an unconverted try in the left-hand corner to set up a 14-4 half-time score.

It was only a matter of a few minutes before the Reds improved further on that lead, thanks to their patience and unrelenting pressure to gain three back-to-back sets, including one from an enforced goal-line drop-out, and telling, well-timed passes, from Corcoran and Bannister, put Gray into space down the left flank to score in the corner.

An absolutely great break from another of the bench players, Abi Collins, on 55 mins set up the position for their final try, which came two minutes later, when right centre, Alex Simpson, who had earlier gone over the line but been prevented from grounding, had the satisfaction of going over successfully from Bannister’s pass.

Although, on 66 mins the Tigers pulled back another try, which they this time converted, the Red Devils were never in danger of losing their lead, which proved to be sufficiently comfortable to see out the remainder of the game..

The Reds now have a blank weekend, and opportunity to recharge batteries before making the return trip to Barrow in a fortnight’s time.

SALFORD

Sage Bannister, Hollie Jones, Alex Simpson, Steph Gray, Lauren Ellison, Louise Fellingham, Demi Jones, Megan Condliffe, Tamzin Corcoran, Emerald Hickey, Helena Walker, Phoebe Partington, Brogan Evans

Substitutes

Abi Collins, Yasmin Parton-Sotomayor, Hanna Wicks, Aoiefe McKenna

RED DEVILS REGROUP TO MATCH DOMINANT ROVERS

Salford 10  Featherstone 30                         Match Report

One of those purple patches, when a team gets on top and everything they attempt comes off almost spectacularly, came the way of Featherstone Rovers Ladies’ side, for a twenty minutes spell, around the middle of the first half of yesterday’s rearranged game at the Salford Stadium, enabling them to set their hosts a significant challenge for the remainder of the encounter.

But rise to that challenge they did, despite having fallen behind by twenty points, by 27 minutes, and the longer the game went on, the more they managed to get on a par, and at times beyond, their opponents.

There had been little to indicate any of this in the opening minutes, with both teams, settling into an arm wrestle, which seemed to favour neither side, but then suddenly, in the ninth minute three telling passes opened up an overlap on the Fev right wing, and inside support of the break   enabled them to cross for the first score of the afternoon.

It did not remain the only try for very long, with their pressing home their advantage to register back-to-back tries, with, this time, a converted try, on twelve minutes to take their advantage to ten points.

Whilst the somewhat stunned Salford players were then able to stem the tide temporarily, they struggled to match the strength and physicality of the Yorkshire side, who really bossed the show, though the Reds did have the satisfaction, on one occasion, of pushing the much bigger Featherstone pack off the ball, at a set scrum close to the Rovers line, giving them a rare opportunity to test the visitors’ goal-line defence.

It was, nevertheless, they, who were next to score, once again, capitalising, on twenty minutes, from a Salford error in taking an end-of-set kick, and then stretched their lead even further, seven minutes later, to 0-20.

With the writing on the wall, and a long afternoon imminent, it needed something quite special to stem the flow and turn things around.  Step forward Sage Bannister, one of Salford’s close season recruits, who has settled extremely well into the club, despite having come from a rugby union background.  The change to league though has certainly suited her, and her name has been mentioned in other previous reports, primarily for her defensive feats, at fullback.

On this occasion, however, it was her capacity to attack from deep, in the thirty-sixth minute, which was to be so significant.  Receiving the ball from a scrum twenty-five metres from the Salford line, she spotted a gap in the Fev defence, through which she shot and then outpaced all attempts to halt her over seventy-five metres, including those coming from defenders cutting cross field at her, to round the try line and score between the posts, for what was undoubtedly the try of the game, easily converted by Demi Jones.

It was just what was needed to rally the Salford troops, and the second half was a much more evenly fought encounter as a result, with the whole team picking themselves and breaking the stranglehold the Rovers had had on the game.   From that point on they gave as good as they got, and although the rewards came predominantly through near misses, they did add to their tally with a further try.

A clever, low, end-of-set kick through the line, by Louise Fellingham, stood up nicely for centre Alex Simpson, invariably among the try scorers, to take the ball and cross, on 66 mins, to take the Reds into double figures.

It almost led to back-to-back tries, two minutes later, when a tremendous break by prop, Darcey Price, set up good position for Steph Gray to go over, only for her to prevented from grounding the ball correctly, which, unfortunately, was also what had happened in the right-hand corner to winger Liana Leota, nine minutes after the restart.

Although the visitors were rather more clinical in their grounding, they were limited to only two further scores, which was half the number from the first half, and they were made to work much harder for their points as the Salford forwards increasingly matched their domination.

 The outstanding performance of second rower, Helena Walker, with what must surely have been her best performance of the season so far, was the highlight of the home pack’s endeavours.  Despite not having the physical attributes of size and power of the Rovers, she stood up to the might of them from the very outset making really strong carries, and mustering up, relentlessly, on defence with determined tackling on any opponent.

As the players continue to develop in their adapting to the significantly increased demands of life in Super League, this game might well turn out to be a point in the season when they learned how to deal with, and overcome, bigger and stronger opponents.

SALFORD

Sage Bannister, Liana Leota, Alexandra Simpson, Stephanie Gray, Lauren Ellison, Louise Fellingham, Demi-Lea Jones, Abigail Collins, Brogan Evans, Emerald Hickey, Victoria Kini, Helena Walker, Megan Condliffe

Substitutes

Yasmin Parton Sotomayor, Aoife McKenna, Phoebe Partington, Tamzin Corcoran, Darcey Price

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

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