Hopwood Hall 4 Salford Red Devils 34 Match Report
Salford U 19s College Academy secured their third consecutive in this their first away match of the season, with a hard-fought, but comprehensive, victory over Hopwood Hall College. A first glance at the scoreline might give the impression of an easy ride for the Red Devils, but, in fact, this was far from the case with the home side providing the most physical opponents the Reds have encountered so far this season.
Indeed, for the opening ten minutes, the visitors were put under considerable pressure with Hopwood commanding possession with a number of back-to-back sets as a result of goal-line drop-outs, set restarts, and Salford handling errors. This, consequently, led to superior field position, which enabled them to launch onslaught after onslaught on the Red Devils’ try-line.
Nevertheless, the line remained intact for the duration of this period, and, in fact, right through to the half time interval, thanks to some magnificent defensive work, during which all the players put their heart and soul into supporting each other throughout.
It is often said that defence wins games, and this is because after forging wave after wave of attacks, the opposition begin to run out of ideas, and frustration sets in, which is exactly what happened on Wednesday. Although they played the game in the most robust manner, Hopwood were not an overly big side, which enabled the Salford pack to soak up the pressure, and then, when the opportunity presented itself, to turn the tables with a score themselves.
Nothing can be more disheartening than, after ten minutes complete dominance but with nothing to show for it, to go behind with a try on the first foray into your twenty-metre area, which is how the Salford side responded, and thereby turn the game on its head.
It was prop, Euan Haynes, who, on this occasion, did the honours, charging over between the posts giving Jack Stevens a straightforward conversion attempt and putting the visitors six points ahead. They did not leave it at that, however, backing it up with two more converted scores following quickly on.
In an almost carbon copy of his break in their last outing against Hull, scrum half, Jack Stevens, made a tremendous break through the middle, to set up the supporting Nathan Connell for the second of the afternoon, with Stevens, himself, dummying his way through from close range, for the third.
That, however, was to be his last involvement in the game, as a knock to his shoulder, in the act of scoring, prompted his withdrawal from the field, leaving Jack Kenway to take over the kicking duties for the rest of the match. The loss of such an influential organiser and incisive attacker was, understandably, a considerable setback to the Reds’ attacking play, which brought an abrupt end to their scoring for the remainder of the half.
Almost as if with second sight that this would happen, coach, Danny Barton, had included no less than three halfbacks, Henry Moran, Adam Tierney, and Billy Wadeson, on the bench, and although it took each of them some little time to adjust to the role Stevens had vacated, they each grew in confidence, as the game progressed, and eventually acquitted themselves with increasing aptitude.
An eighteen-point lead, whilst being quite commanding, is not a winning margin until late on, and so it was all to the good that the next team to score was Salford, which they did on three further occasions, with Haynes and Connell doubling their half time tallies, and winger Myles Paul getting over in the corner shortly before the end.
The game resilience, which their hosts had mustered throughout the entire encounter, was deservedly rewarded with a score of their own, when they opened up the Salford right edge to score too far out for a successful conversion.
It was the calibre of his players’ character and determination, throughout the game as a whole, which most delighted Danny Barton.
“Despite scoring six tries, we were never going to run away with this game,” he remarked, “and any slight let up in our intensity or concentration would have let Hopwood back into it, because they competed all the way through. As it was, we kept out focus and just stood up to whatever was thrown at us, whilst overcoming setbacks and then taking our opportunities, when they presented themselves.”
Next Week’s Fixture v Barrow Away (Craven Park) KO Time To Be Confirmed