Salford U19s’ double header may not have elicited a great deal in terms of results, but, in terms of development and improvement, both games showed noticeable progress from their previous encounters against teams close to the top of their respective leagues.
The Red team probably had to perform in the worse of the conditions, with driving rain and gusting wind throughout the first match, while the Blacks had to take to a field that had already had to withstand eighty minutes of rugby, before they took to it.
Coach for the day, for both teams, Jay Boyd, however, did not feel that the conditions underfoot were anywhere near as bad as they might have been, for either side, although handling was quite difficult in such wet conditions.
“The ground did churn up a little bit for the second game, but nowhere as much as might have been the case.
Salford (Reds) 6 Halifax 24
Halifax have been a prominent side at this level for a number of seasons, as our Reds had discovered on their earlier visit there, and once again showed why, with their large, physical pack, many of which were up to two years older than the Salford players. That they were able to dominate, in the tricky conditions, with ease, was only to be expected, as these suited them extremely well.
“Our lads probably gave them too much respect, this time out. The game was there for us at one stage, but we failed to take the chances when they were available, and that proved decisive. Halifax’x cover tackling, though, was extremely good, and that helped them keep our score down.
The one successful foray into the visitors’ twenty metre area, however, produced a fine try from a splendidly judged kick by Keiran Prescot, to the right, which found Ben Gore, who leapt high into the air to pluck out the ball and ground it over the line.
“The lads have been practising this on their own after training, and they have taken ownership of the ploy, and produced it to good effect in the game.
“We did, though, turn the ball over too cheaply, and in crucial positions near our own line. In a wet weather game, ball security is paramount.”
The absence of hooker, Connor Aspey, following his impressive performance in the first team friendly, against Swinton, left his U19 colleagues, a little bit at sea, as he remains on standby for this coming Sunday’s second warm-up match against Wigan.
“Connor’s speed around the ruck was missed particularly, as was his ability to rush the opponents on attack by getting up among them as quickly as he can. He would have added to our performance, had he been playing.”
Salford (Blacks) 8 Winstanley College 34
As might be expected, Winstanley College, based in Wigan just round the corner from the DW Stadium, contains players dyed in the rugby league wool virtually from birth, who have experience in the game well beyond the average side in this competition.
“They had only fourteen players, but each and every one of them was a good solid rugby player who knew the ins and outs of the game, as a matter of course.”
Salford, by comparison, although they had a total of fifteen, had three who had had to double up and were, consequently playing their second match of the day.
“Will Mills, Will Timmins, and Josh Bentley had all started on the bench for the Reds, and then had to turn out in the second game. By the end they had probably played quite a few minutes over the eighty.”
Although Winstanley had swept to an early, commanding, 18-0 lead, Salford clawed four points back, through loose forward Josh Emery, on the back of some really good drives from the forwards, which put the team in good field position. From there, the ball went through a number of pairs of slick hands which put Emery in towards the left-hand corner.
They had to wait until the closing minutes of the game, however, before they were able to breach the opposition’s defence again but it proved to be a fine attack, with two wide passes, which ended up in the hands of Will Mills, who went through for the try. Conditions under foot, unfortunately, proved too tricky for kicker, Ellis Snelgrove, to land either of the conversion attempts.
“This was a tremendous improvement from the last time we had played them. They ran up fifty-six points against us then, so this was a much better defensive display. There were even a couple of good chances we missed out upon, which would have helped considerably, had we taken them.
“While there was improvement in our attack, there are still a couple of things which need further work on, particularly our ball retention, but all round it was a much better performance than we had put up against them in the away fixture.”
Sadly, the game saw an outstanding, but sad, farewell appearance from prop Will Pettigrew, who will shortly be returning to his native Australia. Our good wishes, and thanks, go to Will and his family, from everyone at the Salford Red Devils.