RED DEVILS’ PROGRESS EVIDENT IN PLAY OFF SEMI-FINAL

Leigh 28  Salford 10                         Match Report

In what was undoubtedly the most keenly contested of the four encounters between the ladies of the Salford Red Devils and their near neighbours, the Leigh Leopards, the home side were made to battle for every point before eventually progressing through to the final of Super League 2’s end of season play-offs.

Indeed, it was a considerable achievement for the Salford players to have been making an appearance in this stage of the competition in their very first season in Super League, when many a side would, in such circumstances, have more than likely been battling to avoid relegation.  Not so, the Red Devils, who had finished a most creditable fourth to travel to third place Leigh, in this, the semi-final.

Each of the three previous encounters had seen a noticeable narrowing in the differential between the two sides, and although the scoreline failed to reflect this, the outcome, this time, was in the balance right through to the final fifteen minutes, when the home side managed to find a couple of holes in what had been a magnificent defensive effort by the visitors.

Just how tight the game was going to be was evident from the outset, with both sides locked in an arm wrestle in which neither side gaining dominance, the like of which had not existed in either the pre-season friendly or the two, home and away league fixtures.

It was, however, Leigh who opened the scoring in the 15th minute, as a result of their gaining a penalty near their own line, followed by a set-restart inside the Salford half, before working an overlap on the left flank with an unconverted try in the corner.

Unfazed by this setback, the Reds continued to muscle up in defence, repelling every Leigh onslaught and setting up line-testing attacks of their own.  One magnificent tackle by centre, Alex Simpson, prevented a near certain try, on 23 mins, and six minutes later she was most unfortunate to be denied a try of her own, when a prior tackle on her winger, Lauren Ellison, was adjudged to have been completed.

As so often seems to happen these days, a disallowed try at one end of the field leads to a recognised try at the other, once again coming after another set-restart, with the successful goal-kick giving the Leopards a 10-0 lead, on 32mins.

Once again, the Salford defence was called into action with one of the biggest hits of the afternoon being affected jointly by Player of the Year, Brogan Evans, and fullback, Sage Bannister, on 36mins.  It was that both were able to combine timing and targeted body areas with such precision that made this so impressive.

Efforts such as this can certainly give a team an uplift, and this proved to be the case on this occasion.  A high, end-of-set kick by Demi Jones was dropped, thus gaining the visitors further possession with which they set up, second rower, Viki Kini to force her way over, on 39 mins, enabling Jones to narrow the half time margin to 10-6.

The inspiration that the score had brought the Red Devils was carried through into the second half, and a Leigh error in their own half, early in the tackle count gave away possession, which Salford were able to use to set up captain, Louise Fellingham, for a try on 43 mins, not only to level the score, but to rattle the home side at the loss of their lead.

The arm wrestle, which had been so tightly fought in the opening period, reappeared as both teams sought once again to gain dominance, but this time the Salford players had developed a confidence which continued to force the Leopards into uncharacteristic errors, by their defensive efforts.  Left winger, Ellison, was prominent in this, in the way she made excellent decisions when faced on a number of occasions with an overlap, which, each time, she unerringly snuffed out.

The introduction from the bench of Becki Davies, who had had to spend the whole of the season recovering from surgery on a serious leg injury, added a new dimension to the side in both attack and defence, as she performed most promisingly, throughout the rest of the match.

A Leigh penalty, on 55 mins, however, was to prove the turning point in the game, as a change of direction from a strike player got hrt through the consequential space to score by the post to re-establish the Leopards’ six-point lead.

The Salford defence, nevertheless, continued to work overtime as their hosts rediscovered their composure.  Another try-saving tackle, this time from hooker, Taz Corcoran, on 61 mins, temporarily, saved the day, but the Red Devils were beginning to show signs of tiredness, and a handling error gave the home side the opportunity to secure the win with another try under the posts.

A well-earned, goal-line drop-out to Salford, on 70 mins, was unfortunately mis-fielded, and, direct from the resultant scrum, the ball was collected by one of the Leigh speedsters, who sprinted seventy metres to the line to give the score a somewhat one-sided impression of what had been a tough, and most enthralling encounter.

SALFORD:

Sage Bannister, Katie Garry, Sam Evans, Alex Simpson, Lauren Ellison, Louise Fellingham, Demi Jones, Megan Condliffe, Tamzin Corcoran, Summer Harris, Helena Walker, Victoria Kini, Brogan Evans

Substitute:

Sarina Tamou, Abi Collins, Hannah Wicks, Becki Davies

RED DEVILS RETAKE TOP SPOT

Salford Red Devils 20 Oulton 10                       Match Report

The eagerly awaited second versus first encounter, between Salford Red Devils’,  and Oulton’s, ladies’ teams, lived up to every expectation when the two met in last Saturday’s Double Header, providing the considerable number of spectators with an enthralling contest, which kept everyone rivetted, right through to the final whistle.

It was the visitors who were currently occupying top spot, as a consequence of their victory over the Red Devils back in April, when a number of Salford players had been unavailable, and the side had been further depleted by a number of injuries sustained during the course of the game.  Both teams had then gone undefeated, with Oulton’s solitary point having been dropped in an away fixture with Warrington.

Just as in that first match, the Yorkshire side got off to an exceptionally good start, opening the scoring on 45 seconds, which was not dissimilar to that earlier game. Their try came as a result of the Reds’ failure to take the ball from the kick-off, which, as a result, gave Oulton possession close to the Salford line, and they found a gap in the defence to go through, between the posts, for a converted score on only the second tackle of the game.

Even though they had gone on to win the previous match, they had, to a certain extent, been unable to sustain the surprising speed and dominance of the first five minutes, and so it proved to be the case once more with the Red Devils gradually forcing their way into the arm-wrestle, thanks to the stirring efforts of their forwards.

Throughout the match, this was certainly no place for the faint-hearted, with no quarter being asked nor given, and, on the bone-hard pitch, injuries were plentiful, with interchanges then being required at frequent intervals.

It took Salford just six minutes to open their account but when the try came it was well executed.  A rare Oulton error, with their fumbling the ball from a Salford end-of-set kick, gave the Red Devils possession forty metres out.  The ball was moved to the left, and a strong run from centre, Victoria Kini, sucked defenders towards her leaving space out wide for the rapidly improving, Katie Garry, who struck down the touchline in stylish manner to score in the corner.

The visitors, nevertheless, were able to hold on to their two-point lead right up to the 25th minute mark, when yet more slick handling sent the ball along, this time, to the right wing, where Lauren Ellison, took advantage of the space, which the cleverly timed passes had afforded her, to score out wide.

The tightness and toughness of the contest was unrelenting, and it was ten minutes into the second half before further points were accrued, once again by Salford.  On the back of a penalty, first Sade Rihari, and then Alex Simpson, made the running before the ball was passed to the left, and Kayleigh Bradshaw straightened up to score, with Demi Jones’s conversion taking the score to 14-6

There was no way that the Oulton outfit were not going to fight to the final whistle, and the set-by-set arm-wrestle continued, with the visitors briefly gaining superiority as a result of the Red Devils’ failing to complete several of their sets. So, when the visitors found a gap on their right-hand edge, on 65 mins, they were able to cut through and score, reducing their arears to four points only

Thankfully, the Red Devils were equal to the task.  They completely eradicated their handling errors, thereafter,  leaving their magnificent forwards to impose their dominance, keeping possession secure, and making hard yardage up field, thereby running down the clock.

It was less than five minutes from time when one such pack member, Casey Naylor, in similar vein to the visitors’ opener, forced her way over, despite the attention of at least three opponents, and grounded the ball to the right of the posts.  Another Salford kick had been fumbled by a tiring defender, and Rihari made the necessary progress up field to lay the platform.

The euphoria, with which this was greeted was a joy to behold, and evidence to all and sundry of how much the victory meant to the players, and just how hard the physical battle to achieve it had been.

There now remains just one last fixture, away at Stanningley, which the Reds will have to win in order to remain safely where they find themselves at the moment – at the top of the league.  Doing so will ensure pole position in the forthcoming top four play-offs, which commence on the weekend, 24/5th September.  Home advantage, in at least the first of these, will be most beneficial, with the likelihood of yet one further contest against the robust formation that is Oulton, being their opponents in the Final.

SALFORD

Alex Simpson, Lauren Ellison, Sade Rihari, Victoria Kini, Katie Garry, Louise Fellingham, Demi Jones, Abi Collins, Tamzin Corcoran, Yasmin Parton-Sotomayor, Sarina Tamou, Helena Walker, Megan Condliffe

Substitutes:

Darcey Price, Laura Bent, Casey Naylor, Gabrielle Chaplin, Kayleigh Bradshaw

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT:

Photograph: Steve McCormick

RED DEVILS BEAT THE CLOCK

Salford Red Devils 92 Widnes 0                   Match Report

Whatever way you look at it, scoring ninety-two points in a single match is an incredible achievement.  Even scoring eighty requires some doing.  This latter tally works out at a point a minute, or to put it another way, one converted try every six minutes or one uncoverted try every four minutes, and when you factor in that attempted goalkicks, whether successful or not, take between two and three minutes each, that leaves precious little time left in which to achieve the requisite number, not to mention the periods, brief as they might be, when the opposition have had the ball.

When, therefore, you take account of the two additional scores needed for the remaining twelve points our players’ achievement was quite exceptional.  True, the firm, dry conditions were favourable, but temperatures well over thirty degrees would have over-faced many a willing team.  You have to be totally resolute to keep going in such heat.

True, also, that Widnes were missing a number of regular players, and were thereby a weakened side from the one which the Red Devils faced at Widnes, at the back-end of June.  Not that you would have known that from their first foray into the Salford twenty area, shortly after Louise Fellingham had put Salford in front after collecting the ball on the bounce, from their first end-of-set kick, after only one minute, and then Demi Jones having kicked the goal.

For the next six minutes, though, the Reds were penned on their own line facing three full sets of six, as they were forced to concede two goal-line drop-outs, and if the visitors had been going to score a try, they needed to have done it at that point, because there were going to be few other opportinities.

Their kick over the try line, at the end of their third set was just a little too hard with the home side then regaining possession with a twenty-metre tap-restart, and almost immediately a clean break by centre Sade Rihari, who went just short of the remaining eighty before most unselfishly handing on to the supporting Taz Corcoran, who had been alongside her for the duration, to finish off the try, which Demi Jones again converted.

The fourth tackle of the next set saw Sarina Tamou break clear, slip the ball to Jones, who, in turn fed it to Brogan Evans, who scored wide out, but not too far out that Jones could not convert it to make the score 18-0, after only eleven minutes.

From that point on the floodgates opened, with tries coming thick and fast in the 21st, 24th, 28th, 33rd, and 37th minutes, to ring up a half time score of 50 points, and thereafter at fairly regular intervals throughout the second half.  In all a total of sixteen tries was scored.  Of those, two scores by Alex Simpson really stood out, the first being by means of a most classy run for a purely individual try, and then her finishing off some bewildering inter-passing with Rihari, in the build up to the second.

Jones, meanwhile, was in wonderful form with the boot, slotting the goalkicks over from all over the field to all but two attempts.

Far from being askance of such a high score, however, it is important not only to regard this as a victory over the opposition and the clock, but also a display of all the elements of character upon which the players had to draw in order to attain it: honesty, integrity, determination, resolve, dedication, commitment, togetherness, not to mention the talent of athleticism, all of which were prevalent throughout the encounter, and which are so abundant throughout the squad.

Now, they have a ten day break for them all to recuperate ahead of their home fixture against Hull FC, on Thurs 25th, prior to the equivalent men’s fixture later in the evening.

Scorers

Tries: Ellison (4), Corcoran (3), Evans (2), Simpson (2), Fellingham, Kini, Rihari, Tamou, Jones

Goals: Jones (14)

SALFORD

Alex Simpson, Lauren Ellison, Sade Rihari, Brogan Evans, Eponine Fletcher, Louise Fellingham, Demi Jones, Megan Condliffe, Tamzin Corcoran, Darcey Price, Helena Walker, Viki Kini, Sarina Tamou

Substitutes:

Hannah Wicks, Abi Collins, Yasmin Parton-Sotomayor, Casey Naylor, Laura Bent, Gabrielle Chaplin

ACKNOWLDGEMENT

Sean Monks, Omaga Photography, for above photograph showing Alex Simpson in full flight for the first of her two tries

RED DEVILS SNUFF OUT DEWSBURY FIGHT BACK

Salford Red Devils 28  Dewsbury 16                          Match Report

A most spirited rally, in the final quarter of the game saw Salford’s women’s team continuing their successful start to the season, with a twelve-point victory, sealed by a brace of tries from full-back, Steph Gray, both of which were converted by Demi Jones.

With a number of their regular players missing, there was a slightly makeshift look about the team sheet, but, in fairness, every member of the side, whether newly in, or operating in a different position, came through with credit for their commitment to the cause, and for the way they all gelled together to secure the win.

It was a dream start to the game, for the Reds when first, the Dewsbury kick-off went straight into touch, and, from the ensuing penalty, Salford were well positioned to set up a series of attacks on the visitors’ line.  It took until the fourth minute, only, for them to open their account, with an excellent end-of-set cross-field kick finding the arms, of right centre, Lauren Ellison, who caught and grounded the ball in one single movement.

With a 4-0 advantage, and playing down the Schofield Rd slope, spectators eagerly awaited further tries to follow, but a combination of handling errors, which occurred whenever they got near to the Dewsbury line, compounded by a considerable number of penalties, primarily for offside and high tackles, let Dewsbury back into the game  It was from one such handling error, followed by two, late in set, penalties, that the visitors had sufficient possession to force an overlap, to draw level.

Buoyed by this success, the Yorkshire side continued to enjoy sufficient possession from further penalties to put Salford under significant pressure for several minutes, even forcing a goal-line drop-out, in the process.  What was significant, however, was that the magnificent Salford defence was able to soak up these continual assaults on their line, without conceding any further points.

Eventually, on 34 mins, they set up an attack which was not flawed by any errors, as the ball was moved, most tellingly, along the line to produce a three to one overlap, which provided left centre, Alex Simpson, with a try-scoring opportunity in the corner.  Most remarkably, Jones was successful with the conversion from the touchline, which sailed between the posts, to set up a 10-4, half-time scoreline.

The game really appeared to have swung in favour of the Red Devils, shortly after the restart, when cleverly- angled running by second rower, Viki Kini, opened up the defence on the right-hand side to set up Ellison, with her second try, goaled once again by Jones. 16-4

What had seemed to be a fairly comfortable lead at the time proved to be anything but, on 59 mins, when Dewsbury scored the second of two tries within three minutes of each other, and the successful conversions bringing the sides level.

Nothing can be more dispiriting than to see your lead eradicated completely, and the game was at the point at which it could have gone either way.  Dewsbury, with their tails up, and the benefit of the downward slope must have really fancied their chances, while the Red Devils were up against an uphill slog, in temperatures which had changed by a whole season, during the course of the afternoon, and in the hot sunshine they were finding the going most energy sapping.

This was when the team really showed its character, determination, and on the back of these, its confidence.  Alex Simpson, it was, who set the ball rolling, with a tremendous break from within her own twenty, to be tackled near to the half-way line, to the left of the field.  Taz Corcoran took up the baton from there, with a super scoot towards the visitors twenty, and a couple of tackles later Gray scythed through the middle for the first of her match-determining brace.

Every member of the side did their utmost to bring about the victory, and all can feel pride not just in the result but in their contribution in overcoming adversity at various stages of the match.  It is something they will be able to take into their next encounter, in the League Cup tie, away at Illingworth, next week.

SALFORD:

Steph Gray, Jenna Monks, Lauren Ellison, Alex Simpson, Eponine Fletcher, Louise Fellingham, Demi Jones, Casey Naylor, Tamzin Corcoran, Darcey Price, Kayleigh Bradshaw, Victoria Kini, Megan Condliffe, Hannah Wicks, Yasmin Parton-Sotomayor, Abi Collins, Laura Bent, Gabrielle Chaplin

PHOTOGRAPH: Courtesy of Sean Monks, with our thanks

Steph Gray grounding the ball firmly between the posts

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