RED DEVILS IN DEPTH: SALFORD V WARRINGTON

It might have taken up to eighty-three minutes to get a result, but when it came the celebrations throughout the Salford stadium were comparable with having won a major trophy, as the Red Devils gained the two league points at the expense of the visiting Warrington Wolves, to go level with them on points, with only two games remaining.

Such was the importance of this particular fixture that the tension and intensity, prevalent throughout the match, led to rather more errors than might be expected at Super League level, yet on this occasion so closely matched were the two sides that these merely added to the excitement as to how the game would continue to unfold.  Twists and turns really do keep your concentration, and nerves, keyed up to the final whistle.

And when it eventually did come, what a tremendous way to secure the win – not with the anticipated drop-goal, but through a near length of the field, try of the match, which capped everything that had gone before, in terms of quality.  Slick hands moved the ball swiftly to the left wing, to put Joe Burgess in the clear.  That he was backed up the whole of the way by Sam Stone, a second row forward, was quite remarkable taking into account both the energy and pace needed to be in position to take the inside pass to score.

That it was the home side which had eventually taken the game was, in some respects, justice, for they had, on the whole, been the better of the two teams throughout, showing more ideas and organisation on attack, whilst defending their line, in particular, to greater effect.

This was evidenced in the three tries each team scored during the regular eighty minutes.  Warrington’s first two came from individual errors from our wingers, usually so reliable under the high ball, each dropping a keenly contested bomb giving the Wolves a dream start to each half.

Williams’s score between the posts, on 68 mins, was the one time they did successfully breech Salford’s goal-line defence, though, in fairness, there had been three occasions in the first half when their efforts were chalked off, the most noticeable being on the stroke of half time, when the video referee overturned the on-field decision to Thewlis’s grounding, in Salford’s favour.

In contrast, however, Ben Hellewell’s 22nd minute try came as a result of his beating his marker, in one of the quite few, man-on-man, line breeches in the whole game.  Then there was Brodie Croft, now coming back into the form he had shown to such dazzling effect last season.  His first, on 29 mins, followed two tremendous tackles, the first from Ryan Brierley on his opposite number Dufty, and then from the magnificent King Vuniyayawa and Chris Atkin which forced the ball out of the grasp of Ratchford.  Andy Ackers was on hand to collect it with next Atkin then sending out a wide pass to Croft in acres of space to score unopposed.

There was much more to his second, on 62 mins, than just a lucky ricochet.  Twice he put in short, low, end-of-set kicks to the Wolves’ line, the first of which forced a goal-line drop-out for a repeat set.  The second hit an opponent’s leg with Croft being easily the most alert person on the field to react by turning back on himself collecting the loose ball, and going over by the right-hand upright.

Salford too, had had a couple of disappointments, the first coming as early as the seventh minute, when a good attacking move to the right enabled Deon Cross to straighten up and go for the line, only for a first attempted tackle to be adjudged by the video referee as effective, owing to the fact that there was still contact between the defender’s hand and Cross’s foot as his ball carrying arm touched the ground.

All of which combined to make this a most riveting contest, of which both sides seemed to make heavy weather, in their endeavours to secure the points.  In the considerable heat of the day, however, it was the Salford players who always showed the greater desire and determination throughout and the fact that they had already had successful experience of Golden Point extra time, in their first home fixture with Wakefield, stood them in good stead for the final culmination.

Having to play extra time in the run up before another do-or-die encounter the following week, away at Hull KR, who had already had an extra two days’ recovery from their visit to Huddersfield, does not seem at all helpful, but such was the euphoria from, and the manner of, this win, that the boost it will have given the players, both jointly and individually, might just be enough to carry them through despite the adversities they face in the run-up to the game.  The fabulous support of our travelling fans will undoubtedly be a vital factor in keeping their spirits up throughout the encounter, so please all do get yourselves over there and make yourselves known, throughout.

RED DEVILS IN DEPTH: SALFORD V WAKEFIELD

Although there may have been recent games in which the Salford Red Devils have put in better performances than the one last Friday evening against Wakefield Trinity, the outcome in those was far less satisfactory than that of this one.  We would however all have given a great deal, on those occasions, to have been coming away with two more league points, as we were able to do, this time.

The acquisition of these two, on Friday, to go alongside the pair achieved the previous weekend at Huddersfield, could prove vital in building future momentum, and ultimately gaining a position in the top six play-offs.

And there were certain aspects of this game, which were quite noteworthy in themselves, not least the Salford defence.  The greatest ignominy one can inflict upon a team is to keep them totally scoreless, and this, the Red Devils achieved with some distinction.

There will be some discussion within the Wakefield ranks about the number of handling errors in their approach work, which spoiled their chances, but these were predominantly in the second half, as a consequence of the pressure the Reds had exerted upon them earlier, thereby unsettling their attacking rhythm and their nerves, as the game wore on.

The opening exchanges were, in stark contrast, most intensely fought with both sides going set for set in a quite fierce arm-wrestle for the first ten minutes, with the only break in play coming with Salford’s opening try.  Indeed, this apart, it had been proving to be the visitors who were getting the upper hand, pushing the Red Devils further and further to their own line, thanks to the power of their forward drives and long raking end-of-set kicks.

If there were one moment which typified the strength and resilience of the Salford defence, however, it came in the twenty-first minute, with a four-man, gang-tackle, by Sam Stone, Kallum Watkins Andy Ackers, and King Vuniyayawa on the mountain of a man which is David Fifita, driving him back. 

Of course, four men are always going to prove too much for any one person – including David Fifita – but it is the ability to get the four men in there, all together at the same time, which is the real achievement.  It was this and many other such defensive efforts which eventually led to the lacklustre Trinity attack, later in the game.

Scores, though, were at a premium to both sides.  Indeed, there seemed to be something of good fortune about each of the Reds’ trio of tries.  In tight games, it often proves to be the mis-pass which breaks a team’s defensive line as the players get sucked out of position so leaving gaps, and that is exactly what happened with Salford’s first. 

An intended pass went to ground but then stood up neatly into Kallum Watkins’s hands enabling him to go straight through the gap in front of him, and, with support on either side of him, he chose Ryan Brierley on his inside, who went the remaining distance to the posts.

How important taking every point was proving to be led to Marc Sneyd improving upon his three successful conversions to tries the last of which was from the touchline, with a penalty goal, on 28 mins.

Ackers probably felt most thankful to the Wakefield player who palmed the ball back to him, unmarked, from a short goal-line drop-out, for his 49th minute try.  The real credit for that, though, should go to the outstanding Vuniyayawa for his ferocious crash-tackle on a Wakefield ball-carrier, to force the drop-out, and even prior to that to the Salford kick-chasers for tying the Trinity onto their own line, for the start of their set.

The culminating, final, ninety metre, try of the match came as a result of Ken Sio’s getting in the way of a Wakefield pass and setting off on the journey to the other try-line, before selecting Brierley, yet again, to go over, this time, in the corner, with less than three minutes left.

A twenty-point victory is, in itself, impressive, but what was somewhat frustrating was the number of other opportunities which could have counted, but on this occasion evaded them, not least the wet ball squeezing out of Brodie Croft’s grasp as he sought to take control of it, over the try line, from a short kick.  On another night, many of these chances would probably have combined to go some way towards doubling their final tally.

RED DEVILS IN DEPTH: HUDDERSFIELD V SALFORD

A magnificent second half performance proved to be decisive in the Red Devils registering their first win since their victory over Castleford, back in early June, when they proved far too strong and, equally so, able to adapt in defeating the Huddersfield Giants.

So often in recent weeks fans have left games feeling a little disappointed after slender half time leads have been eroded by opponents as the second forty minutes has passed.  Not so on this occasion, however, with the visitors going from strength to strength, as the game unfolded.

There will have been little surprise, one would suspect, in the Salford ranks at this, with the strongest starting seventeen they have been able to field since the early rounds of the season, and only long-term absentee, Shane Wright, who would undoubtedly have claimed a spot in the team if fit, missing out.

From the very outset there was a sheer determination evident throughout the visitors’ ranks and they totally dominated the opening exchanges, with Huddersfield being put on the back foot throughout this period.  Indeed, Salford did cross for a couple of would-be tries, both of which were chalked off by referee, Liam Moore, and much against the run of play, it was the Giants who opened the scoring on 17 minutes, with a converted try.

This merely served to stiffen the Reds’ resolve, and, within three minute, they had erased it by means of Ryan Brierley’s steaming onto Brodie Croft’s impeccably delayed/timed pass to go over to the right of the posts, and although Huddersfield restored their lead by two points, it was incredible footwork from Sam Stone, following a great break by Andy Ackers, that put the Red Devils in front for the first time, on 32 minutes.

No-one was getting overly optimistic at half time, with the score line being one of the slenderest of recent weeks.  But the mood of the Salford players was unmistakable as they resumed for the second half, and with good reason: that fifteen minutes in the dressing room had determined a total change of tactics, which was to prove to be the undoing of their hosts, who had clearly done their homework on how to defend against Salford’s wide expansive handling moves.

This had proved to be quite effective in the first half, limiting the Reds to only their two tries.  The second half was to be quite different, however, with the boot of Marc Sneyd taking over.  Not only did he succeed with converting all of their five try total together with a late penalty after the hooter had gone, his tactical kicking opened up the home defence again and again.

The first came as early as the 42nd minute when a high kick was allowed to bounce and resulted in Ackers adding a second kick overhead for Stone to completely rock the Giants by grounding the ball a split second before it would have gone dead.

Not every kick brought a try but invariably brought rewards of a different variety, such as goal-line drop-outs, knock ons, and good field position.  One further one, though, did, with Ken Sio grounding in the corner for his long-awaited hundredth Super League try, while Chris Atkin put the icing on the cake after Kallum Watkins and Deon Cross had reminded us of just how good the Reds can be with ball in hand.

What will probably have pleased the coaching staff particularly was the fact that they conceded not a single point after the interval and the Giants had to be content with their one solitary try and couple of goals from the first forty.  Not that they did not come close on a couple of occasions, but the Salford defence was equal to each, with last ditch tackles denying them when it looked for all the world that they would score.

So the drought of league points has been brought to an end, and this could be just the victory that will ultimately prove to be the one which turns the season around.  It was certainly one of their best all round performances and for the full eighty minutes.

SAM STONE – “WE PLAYED REALLY WELL, COLLECTIVELY!”


Sam Stone gave his reaction to our 8-32 victory over Huddersfield Giants.

The Red Devils moved back into the top six on points difference, with five crucial fixtures remaining of the 2023 Betfred Super League season.

Our left-edge was on fire, but it was the Aussie who took a lot of the plaudits with his stellar performance in both defence and attack.

Hear from our two-try hero by clicking below!

REDS DEVILS IN DEPTH: LEEDS V SALFORD

In what was only the club’s fifth victory over Leeds at Headingley in seventy-eight years, the Salford Red Devils last Friday night, put that spectre to bed with an outstanding, winning performance, to take the spoils in an increasingly tightly fought battle to cement places in the Super League top six.

There had been an air of confidence and enthusiasm for the encounter, throughout the camp during the week, and on the night the players executed a game plan which drew on every strength within the side, leaving nothing to chance, and exposing any deficiency within their hosts’ ranks.

Whilst their attacking flair, as we knew it from last season, still lies awaiting the dry grounds, they have replaced it with an efficiency in defence of which Salford fans have not had experience for many a long year, and thereby rests a significant factor in the reasons for the paucity in post-war wins over there.

Looking back over the game without the anxieties which must have occasionally surfaced in some, whilst watching on the night, we can all appreciate just how good a game it was throughout, with both sides having their periods of ascendency.

Salford’s were probably the more prolonged, and certainly the more effective, because it was in these spells of dominance, with more than adequate possession in the Rhinos’ red zone, that their match winning twenty-two points were scored.  The effect on the home side of all this pressure was to force errors, particularly errors of discipline, leading to penalties and, consequently, even more pressure. 

The first of these came in the twelfth minute, when after an opening ten-minute arm wrestle, in which flaws in the home side’s handling started to become evident, Salford won, forcing a goal-line drop-out and a subsequent repeat set.

It was, however, the sin-binning in the 18th minute, of Leeds’s stand-off, Austin, for an obstruction on Kallum Watkins, which brought things to a head, with the Red Devils then tearing their opponents defence to shreds to notch two converted tries, through first, Rhys Williams, after they had got their attacking line in full flow, and then, five minutes later, the ball being moved to the left and Sam Stone showing great skill to avoid attempted tackles before going over to the left of the posts.

Their second period of dominance came in the third quarter, when they increased a six-point, half-time lead to what was to be a match-determining sixteen, courtesy of a converted try and two penalty goals.

The Rhinos, nevertheless, had their moments, though for somewhat shorter spells.  Their first came in the final ten minutes of the first half when they changed tactics by reverting to some daring, and some risky, offloads, which on the night stuck, none more than in the run up to their 38th minute try, under the posts.

Similarly, the Yorkshiremen gained the ascendency for the concluding fifteen minutes, when they were rejuvenated by a further six-pointer in the corner by getting on the end of a cross-field kick to set up, though as it turned out to be, an unnecessary nail-biting conclusion to the encounter – unnecessary, of course, because the Salford defence was equal to anything the Rhinos could thereafter muster to throw at it.

And that defence is now becoming a weapon in their armoury that no-one, outside the group, had probably expected.  It has, though,  been increasingly evident over a number of matches, culminating in that home victory over Catalans, which will have stood them in great stead in readiness for this encounter, for yet again the pack had to contend with, and actually subdue, a much larger and powerful opposing set.

Led by their opening middles, King Vuniyayawa, who must have relished every moment of facing up to his former club, Ollie Partington, who so noticeably showed the knack of putting himself in the right position to dictate plays, and Tyler Dupree, fresh from international duty.  They were ably replicated by the trustworthy Jack Ormondroyd, and Shane Wright, whose form this season has been absolute revelation.

Kallun Watkins made a captain’s contribution showing such strength and determination in his running, but mention also has to be made of the contribution of Ellis Longstaff, who had to be drafted into the unfamiliar role of centre, and acquitted himself well throughout, even going over the third of the visitors’ three tries.

Finally, it would be remiss not to mention the significant role of Marc Sneyd, whose kicking, especially goal-kicking, week after week, can so significantly make the difference between winning and losing.  It seems now to be even falling into the dim and distant past, at Leigh actually, since he last missed a goalkick, and his two penalty successes against the Rhinos, were, points-wise, the equivalent of an additional try.

So, it is onwards, next week, to the Totally Wicked Stadium, where against the World Club Champions it will require everything on view from the Reds at Leeds, and who knows what more besides, to overcome the Saints.  After this latest victory, their fourth in a row, however, they certainly will not be short on confidence.

RED DEVILS IN DEPTH: SALFORD V CASTLEFORD

Despite another short turn around after their victory over Leigh, the previous Saturday, Salford Red Devils, yet again in front of the television cameras, on Thursday evening, cemented their place in the current top six, with a hard-fought victory over the improving Castleford Tigers.

It is a notable tribute to the team that on the back of their tremendous performances in the later stages of last season, the SKY Sports team have targeted showing the Red Devils’ matches with some quite considerable regularity over the start of this season, and although it was an evening with both defences on top, the team did not disappoint in terms of dedication, effort, and, above all, winning.

True, the scoreline was on the low side, but on a cold evening, in a biting wind, the players did extremely well to produce a performance full of attacking ideas and handling ploys, which on a summer’s day may well have brought about a rather higher return in terms of points.  No-one could deny the quality of their slick inter-passing, which tested the Castleford defence, time and again. They just needed to have retained possession in attack for longer than the solitary sets they produced in order to wear the Tigers’ defence down.

It was therefore down to their defensive effort of limiting the visitors to a solitary try in the third minute and thereafter holding them pointless for the remaining seventy-seven, which brought them the two league points.  It was not necessarily their midfield line-defence which was most noteworthy, more their scrambling defence which brought some absolutely valiant efforts from a number of individuals. 

As early as the 17th minute a magnificent triple effort, started by Sam Stone, and quickly supported by Andy Ackers and Ryan Brierley, prevented a Cas try being scored by Milner thanks to their holding him back, a whisker from the line.  Two minutes from the interval the timely arrival of Tyler Dupree, at full pace, was enough to force Eden onto the touchline, thereby making his considerable athleticism in the subsequent grounding, irrelevant.

Similar efforts continued into the second half, when first, Marc Sneyd’s last ditch tackle on Evalds caused the fullback to lose control of the ball has he sought to ground it between the posts on 49 mins, followed up some 14 mins later by another tackle on Milner just short of the line, this time by Wright, followed by the intervention again of Brierley to prevent his endeavours to roll over and ground the ball over the line.  

There were also some significant pieces of individual skill, which might on occasions go unnoticed, or which we sometimes take for granted.  Joe Burgess’s 8th minute, high level take of the ball in the air, which, on landing, he followed up with a half break through the visitors’ defence to clear the danger, was one such of these, likewise, Kallum Watkins’s midfield sideways run and offload, under pressure, to free up Brierley to continue the build up to Brodie Croft’s try under the posts, on 36 minutes.

Probably most eye-catching of all however was Brierley’s feat of collecting the ball on 52 minutes, behind his own line, to then turn the speedy Eden inside out with some incredible footwork and then cap it all with an offload to Ken Sio, as another Castleford player bore down on him.   Everything about it had the hallmarks of absolute class.

Even Salford’s two-try total could well have been double that, had they been just a little more fortunate.  The referral of Sneyd’s 23rd minute grounding to the video-ref saw it disallowed as it became apparent that, after his short kick through, the ball had bounced up to touch his arm, thus being adjudged as a knock on.  Similarly, 44 minutes into the second half, Sam Stone was denied a try with, this time, Chris Atkin having fumbled a loose ball forward in his attempt to gather it up.

Nevertheless, there was to be no denying the Red Devils for the two tries which were to count.  In what had been their best period that far, spanning the second quarter, it culminated in Brierley racing down the right wing, from Watkins’s pass, to put in the best, and most rewarding, kick of the half, for Croft to take a grasp of it as it stood up beautifully for him to go over for his team’s opener.

Shane Wright has been growing in notoriety over recent weeks having already notched up three tries against Hull (2) and Leigh.  With 56 minutes on the clock, he latched onto Sneyd’s beautifully timed short pass to surge over the line, between the posts and with Sneyd then having converted both tries, he had the opportunity to open up a two score, eight-point, match-winning lead, when Milner was penalised for tackling Ollie Partington without the ball, ten minutes from the end.

RED DEVILS IN DEPTH:  LEIGH V SALFORD (2)

Even with a fully fit squad from which to select, it would have been regarded as a considerable achievement for the Salford Red Devils to have gone to the Leigh Sports Village for the second time in only two months, and come back with a victory, for, in the meantime, their hosts have been busily building up quite a reputation for themselves throughout Super League, with impressive victories over a number of sides including current Super League, and World Club, Champions, St Helens.

That, however, was far from the case, since the Red Devils’ squad had been so decimated over the interim period that, to an extent, the team had virtually picked itself, primarily on grounds of availability, thus making this Rivals Round success all the more impressive, and the sweeter.

Even the manner in which the game unfolded presented a number of significant adversities for them, not least the sin-binning of fullback, Ryan Brierley, on 48 mins, and it could not have come at a worse time with the Leopards having returned to the fray, following the half time interval, refreshed and ready to take the game to the Reds, at full steam.

So, as Brierly reluctantly trekked his way across the width of the field, there must have been many hearts in mouths, among the Salford Faithful, many of whom must have been expecting the very worst.  Damage limitation was about as much as one could expect, with the home side’s job having been made all the simpler, with the Reds, as a result, having to hold out for as long as possible against the numerical superiority facing them.

Yet, when the Salford fullback eventually returned to contest it was to an actually increased lead of two extra points, at 10-22, having eradicated Briscoe’s 53rd minute try, and expanded upon it with a Tyler Dupree special under the posts on 58 mins, from Marc Sneyd’s shrewd short pass, which he then converted.

Indeed, apart from hitting the post with his first, touchline attempt, Sneyd’s goalkicking was to prove crucial in the final result, and had they chosen to do so, they could have made their winning margin somewhat greater, with them deciding to run the ball on two late penalties close to the posts, rather than electing to take the kicks.

As might have been expected the Leigh side to took the field, most determined in manner, and although the Red Devils matched them in the opening arm wrestle, a misunderstanding between Danny Addy and King Vuniyayawa presented Leigh with their first attacking opportunity, which they clinically took by opening up an overlap on the left flank for Charnley to cross in the corner for a try, which was eventually increased to six points, five minutes later, with a penalty goal.

As was later to happen on a number of occasions, however, the game began to swing to the opposition, this time towards the Reds with their gaining three back-to-back sets from a combination of a Leigh handling error, penalty, and set restart giving them great field position and ample possession to attack the home line, culminating with a try from Ken Sio, from a typical Brierley kick into the corner.

That proved to herald one of those attacking purple patches which Salford fans had come to enjoy so frequently at the climax to last season, with the Red Devils enjoying plenty more possession to tease Leigh’s line-defence, before some fabulous footwork from second rower, Sam Stone, put him through to score his first points for Salford, against his former club. 

So often, in those halcyon days of summer 2022, it was the back-to-back tries, which sorely hurt opponents back then, and that is just what they served up on this occasion, with what certainly many Salford fans will have thought to be the try of the match.  

It started with man-of-the-match, Chris Atkin, not for the first time this season filling in at three separate positions over his time on field, dummying his way through a gap before handing on to the supporting Shane Wright, who went thirty metres up the field to set up Brodie Croft to sprint the remaining twenty to the posts, with his outpacing all despairing attempts to overhaul him.

Leigh’s second half recovery did narrow their deficit first to 10-16, and later 14-22, and kept them in the game, but the ascendency was, in the main, with the Red Devils, who, with a two-score winning margin could afford to keep their calm, run the clock down and keep the pressure on the Leopards.

Leigh’s final, last minute try, came far too late for it to make any difference to the outcome, with a mere eleven seconds left, at the final restart.  They had, nevertheless, contributed to an enthralling contest, which had ebbed and flowed from one to the other, and there is clearly little between the two sides, as the results of both encounters show. This is all to the good for both clubs and their fans, engendering a greater interest, and degree of competitiveness, in the locality, which will be continued once more, as the intensity of the competition for top six places hots up, just in time for their visit to the Salford Stadium, in mid-July.

SAM STONE SIGNS FOR SALFORD RED DEVILS

We’re delighted to announce Sam Stone has signed for Salford Red Devils on a two-year deal from Leigh Leopards.

The 25-year-old was born in Queensland, Australia and represented two clubs in the NRL – Newcastle Knights and Gold Coast Titans – before he decided to join Leigh.

Across the 2022 season, Stone made 28 appearances in the Betfred Championship, scoring eight tries and played a major role in the Leopards’ promotion to the Betfred Super League.

Stone operates in the second-row and will add quality to the already established players in that area of the field. Kallum Watkins was a shining light for the Red Devils last season, but Stone joins Andrew Dixon as the two new signings that will add quality and depth to Paul Rowley’s squad.

Talking about the acquisition of Stone, Head Coach, Paul Rowley said: “On behalf of all the players and staff I am delighted to welcome Sam to Salford. I’ve admired Sam’s work ethic and attitude from the moment he came over to England and these attributes were very evident in his performances throughout last season.

“Kurt has worked with Sam and as always been very complimentary in his admiration of him. A player with his work ethic and character is exactly the type of player we want in our group.”

Director of Rugby and Operations, Ian Blease added: “It’s really exciting that Sam has decided to join Salford Red Devils and begin his Super League journey.

“He is a young player we’re really excited to develop and we know he’ll fit into an already highly-skilled group seamlessly. Under the coaching of Paul and Kurt, we’ve already seen various players improve tremendously over the last 12 months and we hope he can join that long list during 2023.”

Find us on twitter

Load More...

Find us on Instagram

Sign up to the official newsletter