RED DEVILS IN DEPTH: WARRINGTON V SALFORD

With a first half performance that must have been their best forty minutes of the season so far, the Salford Red Devils put the Warrington Wolves to the sword, to complete their second double of the season, at the Halliwell-Jones, last Friday evening.

Yet, it had been expected by many that it would be Warrington who would have had so much to prove, following their Wembley defeat, that the Red Devils might well have had to contend with a considerable backlash, and indeed there was sufficient evidence, in periods, to show that the Wolves’ determination to do this had been there from the outset.  It just happened to be stymied by the visitors’ ability to conjure up the most thrilling of tries, out of nothing.

The first five sets saw the home side exerting their physical prowess having started the game on their own line, but then ending each set further and further into Salford territory, so much so that the fifth – Warrington’s third – ended with fullback, Chris Hankinson, catching the kick, virtually on his own line, and having to contend with the charging maraud of players intent on forcing a goal-line drop-out.

Secure in the knowledge that there was support at his side, he, most daringly, released the ball backwards over his own line, which was to change the course of the whole game, from thereon.  In fact, Hankinson himself, went on to have a most impressive game throughout, returning kicks into the very faces of the opposition, linking up with play, and making two outstanding try-saving tackles.

Salford, with the possession he had provided, in three tackles then went the length of the field to take the lead.  Sam Stone ran at a gap between two players, thereby drawing them both in and then slipping the ball in the tackle to Nene Macdonald, who successfully turned fullback, Matt Dufty, inside out, before crossing between the posts.

The inspiration this brought was more than evident seven minutes later when their line speed, at one play-the-ball, pushed the Wolves further and further back with each pass so that a rushed final one found the unintended mark of Tim Lafai, who came close to doubling the scoreline.  Instead, it was the reliable boot of Marc Sneyd, who increased Warrington’s woes, with a penalty.

If the Wolves’ confidence were beginning to creak a little by this time, it was surely cracked wide open, in the very next set, when slick hands combined to put Deon Cross down the left wing, and he also added to the Wolves’ fullback’s woes by selling a most outrageous of dummies to leave him flat on the ground, for Salford’s second try.

Kallum Watkins’s recovery of possession from a Warrington touch-in-flight saw him show the utmost composure to slip the ball out from a tackle to Ethan Ryan, whose own performance was as eye-catching as any, with his constant carries to the opposition, runs along the wing, and later in the game, his reliability in sweeping up the ball from kicks into his corner which he returned with interest.

On this occasion, he proved to be the link which put Sneyd away, to ground their third try, under the posts.  With the conversion and a last minute drop-goal, the Red Devils were in quite a commanding lead, as much due to their overall performance as to the 0-19 scoreline, at half time.

It would have been quite incredible had they managed to carry this on into the second half, but with Warrington gaining and maintaining much greater possession, it was the Reds’ defence which was to be their greatest asset.

 As many as five Warrington sets-of-six over a four-minute period at the start of the half, were soaked up and eventually brought to an end by Lafai’s interception, and even when the Wolves went over for their first try, thanks to Cross’s valiant effort to prevent it, it then took the video referee eight minutes to come to a decision, which was based solely on the call of the referee.

It was a handling error and not their defence, three minutes later, that gave Ashton a clear run to the line to put the Wolves, temporarily back into the game, but it was a moment of pure magic, from Man of the Match, Sneyd, to send a guided missile from his boot into the hands of Cross.

Much has been said, with considerable justification, about the strike power of Salford’s centres, but there is now a growing respect for the accomplishments of their two wingers.  Cross’s skill in taking that ball so cleanly as he was diving over the line was quite incredible.

Not to be forgotten, however, great praise should be heaped on the Salford forwards who shirked absolutely nothing against a much bigger and stronger pack, undertaking all the ‘in-between’ hard work that forwards have to do.  It was also good to welcome Loghan Lewis and Harvey Wilson on their debuts.  Lewis certainly added some considerable go-forward to the team, on his introduction, while Wilson can only be admired for his willingness to mix-it with individuals of far greater size than he.

If next weekend’s fixture is to produce another double, it will have to be over St Helens, our next opponents, and that is going to be a considerable ask of them, when you consider how few and far between victories over the Saints have been, even at home, over the decades.  Another performance along these lines, however, would certainly put the possibility of such very much into the frame.

TIM LAFAI AND MARC SNEYD NAMED IN ROUND 13 TEAM OF THE WEEK

Red Devils’ duo Marc Sneyd and Tim Lafai have been included in the Betfred Super League Team of the Week.

Paul Rowley’s side got back to winning ways against London Broncos and the aforementioned pair were instrumental in the Reds’ second-half rout.

Sneyd, like all season, was pinpoint from the boot, particularly on last plays, and notched a stunning four try assists across the contest.

A highlight of the four will likely be the lazar-like chip into the left corner for Deon Cross to score, early into the second-half.

He did also send two delicate grubber kicks for our second inclusion, Tim Lafai to ground on both occasions. The Samoan has been on top form all season long and adds another Team of the Week inclusion to his list of individual accolades.

We would like to congratulate both Marc and Tim on their well-deserved inclusions.

TIM LAFAI NOMINATED FOR SUPER LEAGUE PLAYER OF THE MONTH

Tim Lafai has been nominated for the Glen’s Vodka Super League Player of the Month for April.

Our super Samoan has been on top form in our last three Betfred Super League games; including important wins over London Broncos and Warrington Wolves.

A highlight of his month has to be a stunning, game-breaking try, where he fended-off defender after defender to open the scoring on Saturday afternoon.

Since joining the club in 2022, Lafai has transformed himself into one of the competition’s finest players.

We would like to congratulate Tim on a well-deserved nomination. Make sure you vote for him by clicking here to head to the Our League app.

RED DEVILS IN DEPTH: SALFORD V WARRINGTON

The Red Devils celebrated their return to the Salford Community Stadium for a home fixture, on Saturday, with a most impressive and much deserved victory over near neighbours, Warrington Wolves.

Almost as if to underline the unity which Paul Rowley has created within his group of players, he had provided them, in the form of a game plan, with a blueprint to put the Wolves to the sword, which they carried out, if not for the full eighty minutes, at the most crucial points of the game.

For the second week in succession, this was based on the domination of his pack over their opponents, and in this respect he must have been extremely pleased, and indeed proud, of the way they undertook this, from the very first carry, right through to the final whistle, with prop, Jack Ormondroyd leading the way, in what might be argued to have been his best performance in a Salford jersey.

His hit-ups were tremendous, and the last two of the first half were significant in themselves, with the first setting-up the position for Marc Sneyd’s drop-goal, and then after the restart, a strong carry forward in which, Warrington’s second rower, Joe Philbin received some collateral damage, which necessitated his brief withdrawal for attention.

Alongside him, mention must also be given to the rejuvenated Andrew Dixon, who appears to have made the move from second-row to prop in great style, but uses the running skills of his former position to great effect in the middle, whilst winger Ethan Ryan was positively involved throughout the game in both attack and defence.

What more can one say about Tim Lafai?  Every time he takes the field he pulls out something out of the ordinary, and Saturday was no exception, with his twice handing-off of opposite centre, Stefan Ratchford on his thirty metre race to the line, on nine minutes, for the opening try.

A second one, giving them back-to-back scores, might well have followed, when a change of tactics saw slick passing open up a gap for Ryan Brierley to go through from Kallum Watkins’s off-load, only for the fullback to be stopped ten metres from the line.

Not for the only time, however, the game was to swing away from them, a few minutes later, when Warrington had three back-to-back sets from a penalty and a touch-in-flight, leading to the son of former Salford Head Coach, Karl Harrison, James Harrison’s simple try by the posts, which put them ahead with their successful goal kick.

It was George Williams’s in-goal end-of-set kicks, however, on which the Wolves relied most, though with a somewhat checkered overall outcome.  There were four of them throughout the first half, with both first and last rolling dead, and giving Salford two seven-tackle sets from the twenty-metre restart.  The second, whilst being better in itself, brought no result as fullback, Matt Dufty, was unable to take advantage of the opportunity, giving the Reds another seven-tackle restart.

The third, however, was absolutely on target, giving the impression of rolling dead but holding up long enough for the kicker to get around Brierley to register their second try for a 4-10 lead. 

Something as simple as a penalty from the subsequent kick-off, though, brought another swing in momentum, with the Red Devils gaining chance to attack the visitors’ line, thereby giving Joe Mellor his first try for Salford, under the posts direct from a play-the-ball, with Sneyd’s kick thus bringing the scores level, for a brief ten minutes.

Despite early Salford pressure, it was the visitors who opened the second half scoring with a penalty goal, which swung the single-point lead in their favour.  Credit to the Salford players, they promptly refocused themselves upon putting matters to rights.

Probably the most overworked official for the match was the video referee, who was brought into action on no less than five occasions, each time confirming the on-field decision of the referee.  Consequently, the game’s final and decisive try, which came on 71 mins, did just that.

Three times Brierley came close to scoring throughout the game, and three times he was thwarted – the third time by an off-the-ball tackle as it rolled around in the in-goal area.  The video ref has only two buttons as options to press – TRY & NO TRY, which relate as to whether a try has been scored or not.  Because there had been no try actually scored on the field, the big screen indicated that, but verbally it was confirmed to the referee that Brierley should be awarded a penalty try.

With a five point lead then to protect, Salford most effectively managed the game for the remaining seven minutes, just as they had done for twenty-five, at London, the week before, to become only the second team to have inflicted defeat on this high-flying Warrington side.

RED DEVILS IN DEPTH: LONDON V SALFORD

It might not have been an all-singing all-dancing performance from the Salford Red Devils, on their visit to London, last Saturday, but in terms of efficiency in getting the job done and securing the important two league points, there can be no complaints at all.

Following the disappointment in their last outing, at Castleford, the players were all too well-aware that teams at the foot of the table can present as great a danger, particularly when they are at home, as teams at or near the top, and had clearly determined to ensure that that did not happen again.

To this end, therefore, priority had clearly been given to defence, and keeping their try line intact, in which they not only proved to be sufficiently able, but also had made a most accurate pre-match assessment.

Fixtureless weekends, although helpful in the medium and long term, bringing respite from the weekly hurly-burly of Super League and an opportunity for recovery from minor injuries, can, however, in the short term bring its own problems, with a certain small degree of ring-rustiness creeping in.

This, to a certain extent, seemed to be the case for Salford on attack, particularly in the first half, with timings of supporting runs and passes slightly below their norm, so that a number of scoring chances went begging. 

Two breaks down the left flank, both came to nothing when a score seemed imminent.  The first by Deon Cross was well supported by Marc Sneyd, but, unfortunately, he overran his winger, whose pass would have had to have gone forward in order to have been taken, while Shane Wright’s break ended with his having to take the fullback’s tackle as he had no-one close enough to pass to.

In order to break down the eager, hard-working defence of London they needed especially to build prolonged pressure, but errors prevented this, with dropped passes and end-of-set kicks going over the dead-ball line, the latter of which had the double whammy of presenting the Broncos with seven-tackle sets from the twenty-metre restarts.

What was needed above all was a consecutive number of back-to-back sets to wear down the opposition, but in fact it was London who were first to benefit from this with the opening try of the game coming from four such sets as a result of a Salford touch-in-flight, a penalty, and a forward pass on the Reds’ one extremely brief possession of the ball.  The resultant scrum from that last, gave them numerical advantage on their left edge to go in at the corner, in the 19th minute.

Realising that trying to go wide around the Broncos defence was not paying dividends Salford turned to what had shown to be a simpler and more effective process – that of strong forward drives up-field.  One, in the 25th minute started with Ryan Brierley taking the ball five metres out from his posts.  His forward carry was then followed by five drives up-field, aided by a set-restart on the third, and finished by Brierley’s half break to the line with his offload to Kallum Watkins for his first try of the season.  The first of Sneyd’s two successful conversions gave Salford the small but extremely important two-point half-time lead.

Signs that the half-time interval had been well spent came as early as three minutes after the restart, when a second set of possession was gained from a forced goal-line drop-out and an excellent cut-out pass from Sneyd to Cross put him in at the corner, similar in some respects to the Broncos’ opener.

The crucial incident of the second half, however, was the dismissal of King Vuniyayawa for what was deemed by the video referee to have been a dangerous tackle.  One can only praise, thereafter, the tactics and game management of the Salford players.  Slender as an eight-point lead might be, it was all they had, and they were totally committed to retaining it.

From that point onwards, the Broncos had barely a sniff at the Salford line.  They were almost totally contained in their own half, often starting their sets in the tightest of corners and barely being able to get past the twenty-metre line before having to take their end-of-set kicks.

Adding further to their score, whilst highly desirable was not absolutely essential, and retaining possession for each full set took priority with any chance of a repeat set being taken.  Sneyd’s, now impeccable, high kicks to the exceptional Nene Macdonald, caused panic within the home ranks on numerous occasions, and the centre’s pats backwards invariably found a Salford player.

The overturning of the on-field decision by the video referee, on Tim Lafai’s try, five minutes from the end, came as a complete surprise to everyone on the field, all of whom had taken up positions for its subsequent conversion attempt .Had it been allowed, it would have been some reward for the Red Devils’ valiant efforts in retaining their lead in such a convincing manner, in such adversity as they had found themselves.

MARCH PLAYER OF THE MONTH NOMINEES REVEALED

It’s time to vote for your March Player of the Month.

It was another busy period for Paul Rowley’s side, with Salford Red Devils securing three wins from five games across all competitions.

The first of which came courtesy of a 17-10 home victory over Hull KR. Deon Cross and Chris Hankinson were on target, with Marc Sneyd’s kicking in-game, and from the tee proving a big difference.

Another was a memorable night at the Totally Wicked Stadium, where we recorded our first victory away at St Helens for over 44 years.

Deon Cross scored a 75th minute try to send the Salford faithful into raptures and complete a stunning, late fightback.

The task didn’t get any easier a week later, with recently-crowned world champions, Wigan Warriors in town for Round 5.

Putting together another fantastic team performance, the Red Devils were leading for a large portion of the contest, but two late efforts from Jake Wardle and Bevan French stole the points.

A week later, an off-night at Craven Park saw our Betfred Challenge Cup journey come to an end, but we soon bounced back with a solid Rivals Round display against Leigh Leopards.

Ryan Brierley, Ethan Ryan and Marc Sneyd were all scorers in a 32-22 victory.

However, across the month, three candidates stood out above rest.

The first, of course, was Marc Sneyd – who picked up the Man of the Match medal in each of our Super League contests across March.

Influential every week with both ball in hand and flying off his left boot, our number seven is currently sitting top of the Steve Prescott Man of Steel charts.

The second candidate is Tim Lafai, who continues to show his brilliance week-on-week.

His consistency has been instrumental in our early-season form, but a standout moment has to be his magical assist to set-up Deon Cross’ winner against St Helens.

Receiving the ball in one hand, he moved it into the other and produced his trademark flick out the back to send Cross strolling over in the corner.

Nene Macdonald has also earned back-to-back nominations after a flying start to his career in red and white.

The PNG international has quickly became a fan favourite with his displays at centre, scoring his second try for the club in our match against Saints earlier this month.

So, who is your winner this month? Make sure to vote below and head to our social channels to give your reasons!

2024 MARCH PLAYER OF THE MONTH!

March's Player of the Month is:*
This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

MARC SNEYD AND TIM LAFAI NAMED IN ROUND 4 TEAM OF THE WEEK

Red Devils’ duo Marc Sneyd and Tim Lafai have been named in the Betfred Super League Team of the Week.

Paul Rowley’s side pulled-off a memorable comeback on Friday night, ending a 44-year winless run away at St Helens.

Deon Cross scored a brace, with Chris Atkin and Nene Macdonald the other scorers in a nail-biting contest, with some brave defence keeping out a late barrage from the hosts.

After his third consecutive Man of the Match performance, Marc Sneyd has another inclusion this week.

Our number seven has been flawless with the boot so far and has a 100% conversion rate from the tee – including a sublime, curving effort from the touchline against Saints.

Capping his all-round stellar performance with a memorable assist, Tim Lafai is also included at centre.

Congratulations to both Tim and Sneydy on their inclusions!

RED DEVILS IN DEPTH: SALFORD V WIGAN

After a month’s absence from their home venue at the Salford Stadium, the Red Devils returned from their travels, on Sunday last, to entertain the Wigan Warriors, in what turned out to be, since their move there, a record attendance of spectators, for this Round 16 encounter.

It must have felt like an extremely bold step for the Directors to target, publicly, the breaking of the previously existing record, but by so doing it pioneered the way for the newly publicly owned club to draw on its resources of bodies around the town to rally round and help drive up the numbers to ensure a successful outcome in this respect.

It was not only the attendance, however, which marked the occasion, as a whole-day event had been planned to celebrate both the first home fixture under the new ownership and also Armed Forces Day, which culminated with a triple shot from a cannon at the northwest corner of the ground, thereby rousing the assembled multitude to greater excitement than ever.

And so, even before a ball had been kicked, the day had proved to be a considerable success and significant occasion for all those present, for which every single person involved in its inception and organisation deserves the utmost praise and gratitude.

For a game against such a side as the mighty Warriors and on such a special occasion, however, the side would really have preferred not to have had two members of its spine missing through injury, as was the case with both Andy Ackers and Brodie Croft.  Not that that reflects in any way upon their replacements, Amir Bourouh and the versatile Chris Atkin, who both slotted in smoothly at hooker and half back, respectively.

To then lose a third member of that crucial spine, in Ryan Brierley from the fullback role, on 35 mins, however, was a blow which really took its toll alongside the others, and it was probably as a result of the reorganization necessitated by this that led to the visitors snatching a half time lead from the grasp of the reshuffled Salford side, three minutes from the interval.

Every minute of that first half, though, had been keenly contested, set-for-set, throughout the full forty-minutes, with the Red Devils standing up magnificently to the Wiganers throughout the first quarter of the game, with solid defence and strong carries forward.

It was, therefore, as late as the 21st minute, before the Warriors opened the scoring with an unconverted try, after a sustained period of pressure brought about by repeat sets on the back of goal-line drop-outs and occasional Salford touches of the ball.  It is testament to the Salford players that they were able to repel the attack for as long as they had done.

Despite having had some early pressure of their own, though, the Red Devils had not really had sufficient field position to ask many questions of the Wigan defence, but then produced their best attack of the half when fine interplay down the left between Joe Burgess, Brierley, and Tim Lafai, took them into their opponents twenty metre area. 

An obliging penalty helped them remain a little bit longer down there, and after Ken Sio had gone close to scoring, the ever-improving Ben Helliwell put himself in a great position to receive Marc Sneyd’s slick pass and go over for their one try of the game, which, with Sneyd’s conversion, put them in front.

Having had the half-time break in which to restructure and regalvanise the side after the loss of Brierley, the Reds went straight into the attack, and good handling forced a most promising-looking overlap, on 43 mins, only for a rather wild pass into touch to scupper the opportunity, when simple one-to-on passing might well have turned the game in their favour.

As it was, a Salford handling error, three minutes later saw Wigan draw further ahead with a try direct from the ensuing scrum, with two more scores coming at ten to twelve minute intervals, to stretch the score beyond the hopes of the Red Devils.

They nevertheless still continued to take the game to Wigan in the last ten minutes but so well-drilled is the Warriors’ defence that they were prepared to concede set-restarts, which would once have brought a penalty, right throughout the game, thus nullifying the Salford attack, until six minutes from the end, when another missed opportunity, this time on the left, was lost with a poor final pass to Burgess, who would have had a walk in.

Looking back on the second half, unlike the visitors who were clinical in their finishing, it was the Reds’ failure to capitalise on those two scoring opportunities which gave the final score such a significant difference.  Even had only one of them brought a try it would have put them into double figures, whilst scoring both and with conversions would have put them within a somewhat more creditable eight points.

Disappointing a result as it was, though, it could in no way detract from the impressive event the club had turned the day into being.  It is an occasion when everyone could feel proud to have been involved with the club and to have been in attendance to savour and enjoy it.

RED DEVILS IN DEPTH: CASTLEFORD V SALFORD

Fresh from their somewhat unexpected victory over Leeds Rhinos, the Castleford Tigers must have felt quite confident at delivering a repeat performance and result, when they entertained our in-form Salford Red Devils in Friday night’s Round 15 fixture, especially after having run their visitors extremely close on their visit to the Salford Stadium back in mid-April.

Certainly, the opening stanza seemed to reflect that as the Tigers, having received the ball from the kick-off promptly acquired four back-to-back sets, from a penalty early in the first set, and then head and feed at a scrum following a Salford forward touch of the ball, and finally a second penalty, to take them the full length of the remarkably short Mend-a-Hose Jungle field to apply strong pressure on the Red Devils’ goal-line defence.

Indeed, when the Reds went in front, from Rhys Williams’s score under the posts, in the eleventh minute, having secured the ball from an end-of-set kick along his wing, it was very much against the run of play, underlined by Castleford’s cancelling out four of the points he had gained them in less than a minute of the restart.

From that point onwards, however, the Tigers were barely in the hunt, as the slick, fast, entertaining handling of the Salford players opened up the home side’s defence time and again, with comparative ease, to take as 4-24 points lead going up to the half-time mark.

Probably because of their dominance for, by far, the majority of the game, many might be surprised at their conceding as many as ten points, all of them in the first half, even though their defence, in general, was well in control for almost the whole match.

There were, however, some rather unusual circumstances around the tries which the Tigers did manage to score.  The first was the one mentioned above, which might well have levelled the points at 6-6, but for Widdop missing the conversion.

One moment Tim Lafai was in possession of the ball on a clearing run towards the forty-metre line, when he lost control of it, and the next it was in the hands of Castleford’s, Quarequare, who had a clear run to the Salford try-line. In fact, the Salford players scrambled extremely well to prevent him going round to the posts, thus limiting the damage by two points.

The second came as much because of the hooter than any great fault with the Red Devils’ goal-line defence, with their backs to the actual clock.  With two tackles still to go in the set, the sound of the hooter coincided with the ball being in the hands of Miller, whose quick thinking saw him put in an unexpected short, overhead kick for it to be collected by Edwards with yet another clear run to the line.

Far more representative of the Salford defence, however, was the fact that it stood unbreeched by any planned move Cas’s attack could muster.  On the only other time they managed to cross the line, in the later stages of the second half, they were held up by a swarm of willing defenders.

The Salford attack, as far as entertainment was concerned, was probably, alongside the sixty pointer at Hull, and the similar forty-two against Huddersfield in the Cup, among their best of the season, which is unsurprising given the ideal, dry conditions.

The tries when they came were all thrilling to watch as the Reds clinically ripped open the home defence, and their variations made for all the more enjoyment.  The one which possibly caught most people’s eye was their third, when Brodie Croft took the ball to the line before feeding Deon Cross, whose combination of speed, clever swerved running, and dummy was good enough to take him the forty-five metres to the line.

Two rather surprising absentees in their armoury, though, was the lack of any set moves from the scrums, from which they preferred to rely on Lafai’s strong runs into the Tiger’s defence.

Other than those, there seemed a little less physicality than usual which was more than likely because it was not needed.  The one which really stood out was Jack Ormondroyd’s thirty metre charge downfield, direct from a Cas goal-line drop-out, midway through the second half.

With a massively important Challenge Cup quarter-final at Hull KR, next week, on their minds, though, it may be that they had decided that discretion was the most appropriate strategy for then, and if they were to come back from there still in the draw for the semi-final, any shortfalls from this particular game would be long forgotten.

RED DEVILS IN DEPTH: WIGAN V SALFORD

Many have been the times in the past when Salford fans, making their homeward journey from the DW Stadium, would have embraced a scoreline of only a four points deficit, as a considerable success, in comparison with the hefty defeats of yester-year.  How times have changed in the fortunes of the Red Devils, and the expectations we fans now have of them, when so many of us will, last Friday, have travelled home feeling disappointed at not having won.

For make no mistake, this was a game that was within the team’s grasp of victory, during which they challenged and contested their hosts in every quarter, taking charge of proceedings after the first ten minutes, to go in at the interval, somewhat unrepresentatively, level at 8-8.  And they then went on to take something of a stranglehold on the game as they built up a 16-8 lead over the mighty home-side, until a combination injured and fatigued bodies were unable to up muster sufficient resistance to cling onto that lead.

Salford fans’ disappointment can only be with the result, for in every other aspect of the game they can have nothing but pride in their side’s commitment, dedication, and performance throughout the encounter, for the teams were so evenly balanced that they went head-to-head with each other throughout, in a battle of great intensity and tremendous speed.  Fast, furious, and even, at times, frantic was how it had developed by half time.

It was the home side, as one might expect, who were first to settle, after gaining possession from the kick-off, but for all their retaining of it for the greater part of the opening ten minutes had only a fifth minute penalty goal to show for it.

Having therefore soaked up all the pressure thrown at them to that point, the Red Devils found the opportunity to turn defence into attack, in the 14th minute, when good progress down the left flank ended with their forcing a goal-line drop-out which gave them the opportunity to set up the opening try of the game for Ken Sio.

Great credit has justifiably been given to the individual prowess of French, on Wigan’s right flank, and indeed his two-try contribution proved to be a key factor in the result, but equally so were the skills shown by the two Salford players who proved so key in the visitors’ scores.  In this one it was fullback, Ryan Brierley, who put in a neat little kick into the corner for Sio,  while, unbelievably, in the act of being tackled and totally off-balance, before ending up lengthways along the ground.

The about-turn in fortunes certainly had a positive effect on the Salford players, who continued to muscle up against their hosts’ efforts to regain control, but it was not until nearly on the half hour that French’s slick dummy opened up the first crack in the Salford defence to put them back in front.

Five minutes later, the Reds came oh-so-close to eradicating this score, when Joe Burgess was put in the clear down the left wing, only to be thwarted by a tremendous cover tackle by Field, which possibly could be claimed to have saved the game for Wigan, for normally we would have backed Burgess to have got round to grounding under the posts.

One most surprising aspect of the game, far more prevalent than usual throughout the half, was the number of ball steals, normally limited to around one per game, but which on this occasion, mounted up to four in the one half alone, three of which were won by the Reds.  Joe Burgess and Tim Lafai did well to effect theirs but that of King Vuniyayawa, on Field, was so deft and swift that spectators were left wondering how on earth he had managed it, but with all three giving the team much extra possession.

Points-wise though it was a case of having to be satisfied with a successful Marc Sneyd penalty goal to tie the score 8-8, at half time, with even his last-minute drop-goal attempt drifting wide.  Usually, a draw at half-time feels satisfying to both sides, but, on balance of play, field position, and possession, the Salford fans could have been forgiven in feeling that their favourites really deserved to be in front.

This confidence throughout the team was still quite evident on the restart, as they continued to apply pressure, and it was Brodie Croft, this time, who supplied that mark of genius to deliver the most outstanding pass of the game for Sio’s second try.  Sneyd’s excellent goal-kicking, two of which were from the touchline, increased their lead to eight points, by 55 mins.

The aforementioned combination of mounting injuries, which consequently prevented further adequate interchanges,  and fatigue caused by increasingly limited possession, saw momentum swing to the opposition not from set-restarts, as so often happens, but from a mix of four penalties, two touched-in-flights, and started by a French’s interception of a Salford pass.

Suddenly, the Warriors had an abundance of possession and the remainder of the game was spent largely with them on the attack in the Salford half, and the Red Devils forced solely into one-up carries as they endeavoured to lay, in vain, the basis for on attack of their own.

The outcome of a second show-and-go by French, followed by the final decisive try from King, brought the points to the home-side, but they had had to battle the whole game before eventually gaining the upper hand.

Sign up to the official newsletter