Wakefield 20 Salford 32
Two tries in the final five minutes, in what turned out to be a keenly fought, and thrilling, encounter, sealed a third victory of the season, and their first against Super League opposition, for the Salford Red Devils. Having been in the lead for the majority of the game, after overcoming an early four point deficit, it was, on balance, a fair result, though the Wildcats will probably feel aggrieved that, after pulling back from being ten points adrift to draw level on 74 minutes, a foolish error, immediately upon the restart, gifted the initiative to their visitors, who took full advantage.
With a steadily growing injury list, Head Coach, Garreth Carvell, had the ideal opportunity, and reason, to bring in a number of players for their first outing of the season, including a couple of trialists. In the light of such significant changes, it was much to their credit that the players adapted quickly enough to be competitive throughout, following that early set back, to turn around 12-4 ahead at the interval, and that they then stuck manfully to their task to win the game, at the death.
The initial deadlock was broken as a result of a kick-in-goal, which bounced awkwardly for Salford’s fullback, Jack Thompson, and causing a penalty for offside. A cut out pass, provided an overlap on the Wakefield right, and winger Remy Gierson coasted in for the opening, unconverted, try.
The Red Devils did not allow themselves to be jolted out of their stride, and they continued to compete in the arm wrestle with possession becoming more equally shared, allowing them to assert themselves rather more, and coming close to scoring on a couple of occasions.
Eventually, on 23 mins, they gained possession in good field position, as a result of a Wakefield handling error. The ball was moved along the line to the right, where scrum half, Lewis Fairhurst, first dummied his way through the line before turning the fullback inside out with some quite spectacular footwork, to go over, between the posts. His conversion to his own try put the Red Devils in front.
Three back-to-back sets, resulting from a penalty followed by a kick-in-goal, on 30 mins, enabled the visitors to exert considerable pressure on the Wildcats’ line, and a clever, short pass, to Lawrence Okanga-Ajwang, younger brother of former Salford centre, Edwin, saw the second rower force his way over, to the left of the posts. Fairhurst was again successful with the conversion to put his side in the lead 12-4.
Tight as the first half had been, the second half was a see-saw of scoring opportunities which started as early as the 45th minute. The ball was passed along the Salford line from right to left, and just as his half back partner had done in the first half, so Aaron Moore repeated by dummying his way through the line, then accelerating, diagonally, towards the corner, to extend the Salford lead to 16-4.
So equally balanced were the teams that this in no way seemed a comfortable lead, and when they were awarded a couple of penalties of their own, the home side were able to apply significant pressure of their own, to their opponents’ line, until a switch of direction of the attack found prop, Aaron Gledhill, in sufficient space to go through for a try to the right of the posts, goaled by Tom Megretton, on 57 mins.
Three minutes later, though, that trademark, devastating high bomb of Fairhurst, which has spelled trouble for so many teams this season, did its job once more, as the Wildcats failed to deal with it. Salford recovered possession, and slick handling worked an overlap for right winger, Joel Verite, to score in the corner, and provide a ten point cushioning.
Far from being down and out, however, two tries, on 65 and 74 mins, brought Wakefield level. First, in similar circumstances to their previous score, loose forward Brown went in under the posts, to which Megretton added the extras, but It was when Megretton’s high kick was allowed to bounce and he regained possession to feed the supporting James Batchelor, that it really looked as though the Wildcats had done a smash and grab raid on their visitors.
Fortunately, Megretton failed to convert, so the scores for a couple of minutes remained level, but Wakefield then, having fielded the kick-off, promptly conceded a penalty for a hurried and incorrect play-the-ball. Salford gratefully accepted possession, and when substitute, Jack Cottington, came on the charge, not even a three man tackle could prevent him from reaching out and placing the ball over the line. Fairhurst goaled, and Salford were in the driving seat, once more.
It just remained for one final attack to bring its own reward, courtesy of Moore’s second, line-splitting dummy of the afternoon, this time from a play the ball, and accompanied with a short scoot over the line, for Fairhurst to conclude proceedings with another successful conversion.
Capless, Grierson, Lord, Senior, Grierson, Megretton, Ackroyd, Gledhill, Moules, Morris, Batchelor, Woofitt, Brown.
Subs: Blake, Yorke, Metcalfe, Dixon.
Thompson, Verite, Calland, Madders, Knox, Moore, Fairhurst, Bent, Gregory, Scott, Okanga-Ajwang, Hatton, Worrell.
Cottington, Brown, Brickhill, Cella
Match Report – David Clegg