It might not have been the result most Salford fans will have hoped for, but the purpose of pre-season friendlies is rather more wide-ranging than the final figures on the scoreboard. First and foremost, they are one of the concluding steps in the players’, and team’s, development on the road to Super League Round 1, which for Salford is less than two weeks away.
Trips to Wigan seldom bring victories for the visiting side, and the home advantage must certainly have given them a head start. In addition .there was also some added motivation for the Warriors from the fact that this was the testimonial game for their highly regarded half back-cum-hooker, Sam Powell. Their desire to do justice to their much-admired teammate, will have been increased their desire to do well, in itself.
There are some games, in which the final score does not totally reflect the game as a whole, and this was somewhat true of Sunday’s. The Red Devils’ many positives, unfortunately, were often over-shadowed by a disappointing outcome. Marc Sneyd’s great interception on eight minutes – only two minutes after Wigan had taken the lead – would, on most similar occasions, have brought a score, but unfortunately, on this occasion he lost his footing and the opportunity to draw level had gone.
Indeed, by half-time, there were many spectators with the view that a twelve all draw would have been a fairer reflection of the contest, with Rhys Williams having twice crossed in the left corner, but having been denied on the first occasion by last ditch defending, and on the second by an obstruction, in the build-up.
The opening stages of the encounter had seen a physically dominant Wigan, with the lion’s share of possession, totally controlling field-position. So many of the Red Devils’ sets were started in their own ten metre zone, and that is where the hard-yardage is really hard to come by, sapping energy and with end-of -sets kicks coming barely twenty-five metres out, meaning that the Warriors were regaining possession well away from their own line..
This, however, started to change midway through the half, with the visitors muscling up and matching their hosts physically, the pressure from which started to force errors from the Wigan players. It was from one such of these that some excellent attacking play, on 33 minutes, brought the Reds their try from Deon Cross in the right-hand corner, too far out for Sneyd to goal.
Holding out, thereafter, to half-time would have been most beneficial but an ill-judged pass went to ground, in the final minute of the half, only to be gathered by French, who had a clear run to the line, and the score at half-time stood at 18-4, which was a reflection, predominantly, of the chances each team taken.
The opening stages of the second half saw a much more aggressive Salford side forcing further Wigan errors, two of which led to fine breaks which had them on the back-foot. The first, on 49 mins, had the Warriors scrambling back after a final kick through, to hack the ball into the North Stand for a goal-line drop-out. Amir Burrough’s break from dummy-half, four minutes later, set up yet another scoring opportunity in the left-hand corner, which, with the odd, slightly different option, might have brought another four, or even six points.
A little more patience immediately afterwards might still have brought some further reward, but unfortunately, ill-discipline set in with a succession of penalties accruing against them, and the Warriors did not scorn the opportunities they then had, of putting the score beyond the visitors.
True it was a game, and everyone always wants to win no matter what, but, even more important, it was a dress rehearsal, and everyone knows that a great dress rehearsal does not always portend a great opening night, any more than the exact opposite portends the alternative outcome.