RED DEVILS HOLD OFF DEWSBURY THREAT

Salford Red Devils 14  Dewsbury Moor 12                  Match Report

A magnificent, last minute, try saving tackle, by Salford fullback, Alex Simpson, put paid to the last gasp chance for visitors, Dewsbury, as their right winger, swept away and into the clear from within her own half then on to the home twenty metre line, in the ladies’ game, which was the first of last Sunday’s Double Header.

She had reckoned without the determination, however, of the Salford skipper, who had produced a real captain’s performance throughout the encounter, with her leadership skills clearly evident, alongside  her ability to deal with end-of-set kicks and high bombs, returning each with far greater yardage than anyone could ever have expected, whilst picking appropriate moments to join the attacking line, and invariably to be found in the midst of any defending which needed to be done.

How fitting, therefore, that it should be she, who was to deliver that bone crunching crash tackle which saw the pair of them taken completely over the touch line, fifty seconds before the final whistle.

That the result was to hinge on that, however, would have seemed most surprising to anyone at the start of the game, with the Red Devils taking control from the outset, and it was as early as the third minute that prop Emily Bagguley powered over the Dewsbury line, only to lose the ball in the midst of defenders, in her attempt to ground it.  Indeed, she was to prove to be a tower of strength in the Salford pack right through both her stints. with some tremendous hit-ups, not to mention her contribution to the defence.

She was more than ably supported by second rower, Jadine McVernon, who has always made notable contributions to games, even when helping out the team by moving to play centre.  Last Sunday, she really did herself proud, particularly in the opening stages, when, on numerous occasions, the angles and lines, she chose to run, saw her then surging through gaps that had been hardly noticeable before, and then making fine progress up-field.

As for scoring potency, this was provided by the Salford right edge, comprising of Michelle Davis, Grace Wray, and Marnie-Lee Kelly, with all three Salford tries coming from various combinations of those players.

The opening score came in the eleventh minute, when, with the Reds in possession twenty metres out, Davis got the ball at first receiver, fed Simpson who had joined the line to provide the extra player, and she then put Wray through, with the centre having the composure to go round to score between the posts ensuring a straight forward conversion for Sam Evans who completed the acquisition of the full six points.

Even though the home side continued to dominate, they could not find their way to extending their lead further, and surprisingly enough it turned out to be the visitors, on 18 mins, who ended up drawing level as a result of gaining three repeat sets, and finally working an overlap on their right, to which they added the conversion.

Five minutes from half time, however, slick handling from a scrum, via Evans, Davis, and Wray, effectively put winger Kelly in at the corner, to restore the Salford lead, and produce a10-6 half-time score.

If there were one aspect of Red Devils performance which had really let them down throughout the first forty mins, it had been their propensity to concede penalties in abundance, and this continued at the start of the second half with Yorkshire side being awarded no less than four back-to-back penalties giving them five consecutive sets-of-six.

Nevertheless, it was Salford who were next to score.  That prolific, individual try scoring machine, which is Michelle Davis, had hitherto had, for her, a relatively quiet game, contenting herself with organising and controlling events, alongside instigating, or involving herself, in the two moves which had brought the tries. 

All that changed on 55 mins, when she positioned herself behind the line at the final play-the-ball of a set to shoot through a small gap she had espied, catching the defence out cold, and fending off the one sole attempt to tackle her, with a force that floored the defender, before she romped over in the corner to extend the score to 14-6.

This proved to be an absolutely vital four points, with Dewsbury’s narrowing of the gap to a mere two points, fifteen minutes from the end, motivating the whole Salford team, which had worked together so effectively on defence for the previous 65 minutes, to continue to stand shoulder to shoulder with one another, thereby keeping their line intact, right through to Alex Simpson’s final, telling intervention.

SALFORD

Alex Simpson, Marnie-Lee Kelly, Grace Wray, Becki Davies, Lily Gray, Michelle Davis, Sam Evans, Summer Harris, Alice Connolly, Emily Bagguley, Tina Millan, Jadine McVernon, Sophie Morris

Interchanges

Abi Collins, Emerald Hickey, Darcy Price, Lydia Egan

RED DEVILS MAKE IT THREE WINS IN A ROW

Salford 16  Oulton 14 Match Report

Salford Red Devils ladies continued their winning ways, last Sunday, with a hard-fought win over the visiting Oulton side, from the Wakefield area. 

Since returning to league fixtures following the completion of their Challenge Cup matches against three Super League sides, the Red Devils had already notched relatively comfortable wins against Bradford Bulls and Stanningley, but this Oulton formation provided a much sterner test.

This is hardly surprising as this was the club which had prevented the Reds from winning the Grand Final, two years ago.

The home side could not have got off to a better start, though, with a great kick-off finding open ground, and the bounce then finding touch to give the Red Devils possession for an equally fine first set. Lily Gray and Emily Webb must be the two smallest wingers in the league, but what they lack in size, they more than make up for with courage.

Consequently, when, at the end of that first set, the ball was moved to the right, it was only defensive numbers which, not for only this occasion, prevented Gray from going in at the corner, to complete a dream start.

Salford, nevertheless, continued to command the upper hand, and on nine minutes forced a goal line drop-out from a kick-in-goal.  Five minutes later, Summer Harris, deputising in the centre rather than occupying her usual second-row berth, was held up over the line, whilst stand-off, Michelle Davis, came close to grounding her own kick-in-goal, shortly after.

So much pressure was eventually going to bring its rewards, however, and on twenty minutes fullback, Alex Simpson raced twenty-five metres to beat the opposition to retrieve Davis’s high end-of-set bomb, to score an unconverted try in the left corner.

Just as it was beginning to look as though this would give them a 4-0 half time lead, the game swung dramatically in the visitors’ favour, on 36 mins, when they gained two back-to-back sets in the Salford twenty metre area from penalties, and let the visitors in at the corner to open their account.

They not only opened their account, they did so with interest, doubling their score direct from the kick-off to go in at half time with the four point lead the Salford players had believed would be theirs.

If the start of the first half had been particularly good for the Red Devils, the start to the second half was even better, with Davis, at the end of the first set, darting through the initial line of defence and then rounding in and out between three others to cross between the posts, giving Sam Evans a straightforward kick to restore the lead at 10-8.

The Oulton players were not to be outdone, this time, however, and started to mount pressure of their own, and it took an interception by Webb, on her own line to prevent their crossing again in the corner.  Not so, on 49 mins, when they were first to get to a kick-in-goal and score behind the posts to give themselves a 10-14 lead, which they were to hold until five minutes from the end.

Second-rower, Emily Bagguley, it was, who brought home the spoils for Salford with an absolutely class try, running onto Davis’s pass with spot-on timing, and at a great angle, all of which took her half-way through the line of defence.  

Even though her progress was halted by a couple of defenders, she showed incredible composure as she was brought down just short of the line by reaching out to place the ball firmly over the line, towards the left-hand touchline, converted by Davis.

So with league fixtures taking a break this week, all eyes will be turning to the Nines tournament at Warrington. With the individual talent there is within the squad, it could be a most enjoyable and entertaining event for Salford fans.

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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