The playing surface may have been wet and slippery, the ball may have been difficult to handle, and the dogged determination of the Leeds Rhinos defence somewhat frustrating, but it was costly errors which resulted in Wednesday afternoon’s home match reversal for Salford U19s Red Team .
For a full thirty minutes, they took complete control of proceedings with their overall physical supremacy in the forwards, coupled with assured confident handling in the tricky conditions giving them a dominance that promised so much, but with only Callum Hughes’s solitary try, converted by Charlie McManus, midway through the half, to show for it all.
With the pressure they exerted on the Rhinos from that point on, it seemed only a matter of time before the lead would be extended, not once but two or three times more. A combination of wrong decision-making, poor finishing, and then resilient Rhinos’ tackling, thwarted chance after chance leaving just that 6-0 lead gradually appearing less and less sufficient.
Probably the most pivotal moment of the whole game came five minutes from half time, when a kick down field early in the tackle count, gifted possession to the visitors, and they were able to capitalise on this to score a breakaway try, which, with its conversion, brought the half-time score to 6-6.
The effects of that score were quite significant as it roused the flagging hopes of the Rhinos who must have, up to then, have felt completely under the cosh, and simultaneously deflated the confidence of the Salford players, and this was underlined early in the second-half when the visitors deservedly took a twelve point lead, with two further converted tries to bring the score to 6-18.
For one brief moment, the Red Devils found that missing touch, with the forwards, as they had done all afternoon, marching the side down the field and onto the attack. Will Toone’s try between the posts, converted again by McManus, appeared to look so much simpler than it actually was, that hopes were high that the game would then swing in Salford’s favour.
Three minutes later, however, those hopes had all but disappeared when the tiring home defence was caught napping and Leeds’ twelve point lead was restored, and then shortly afterwards improved upon.
Understandably, coach Danny Barton was extremely disappointed, but pleased with the performance of his forwards.
Barton said: “It was not that we weren’t creating the chances, it was that our execution was off. We worked really hard to get into the position to score but then did not have the clinical finishing that we needed on the day.
“We did show some good resilience in our defence, but once we got to sixty minutes we rather fell apart, particularly with Leeds growing more and more in confidence, and the game just went away from us.
“It eventually proved to be a bad day at the office for us, and we now need to learn the lessons from this.”