RED DEVILS START SUPER LEAGUE WITH A WIN

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.

SALFORD:

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

REPLACEMENTS

Abi Collin, Hannah Wicks, Summer Harris, Emerald Hickey

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

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