Wigan 32 Salford 20 Match Report – David Clegg
A tremendous second half performance was the highlight of a fixture, which, in past seasons has proved to be a total mismatch, against the club which is able to cherry-pick from its locality, the top players, who then go on to join that conveyor belt of talent into the first team. Scores of seventy points, some of them without reply, have, not infrequently, been in evidence, at this level.
Last Saturday’s encounter, however, was different, as the young Red Devils locked horns with their illustrious hosts for the full eighty minutes, in conditions which tested the resilience, determination, and ability of every player who participated. With a second half completion rate of over eighty percent, whilst playing into the teeth of the elements, on a sodden pitch, and with a ball which must have felt like a bar of soap, the visitors were able to control the game, build pressure, and contain the Warriors in their own half for periods at a time.
In addition, with the game producing a total of only two penalties, the fact that both of these were awarded to Salford, in the second half, also benefitted their cause. A half time 26-10 deficit was, consequently, eroded, to bring the Devils to within twelve points, by the final whistle.
The first indications that this was not going to be the one way traffic of so many previous games came right from the kick-off with the Salford lads engaging in the arm-wrestle, set for set, over the first ten minutes, although with errors apiece to punctuate the initial, good endings to the sets.
It was from one such Salford error, on the first tackle, in their own 20m area, that the home side gained their first opportunity to attack, and they subsequently crossed in the right hand corner, even slotting the goal over from the touchline, into the wind, with seeming ease.
Far from being dispirited by this turn of events, the Red Devils took advantage of back to back sets by launching a promising attack of their own, unfortunately losing the slippery ball over the line, as a result of the attentions of a number of Wigan defenders.
Three minutes later, however, in similar circumstances to the first of their scores, the strength of the Wigan forwards took them over, between the posts, for a simple conversion to take the score to 12-0, and this was extended by a further four points, on 24 mins.
The ability to punish errors had been the difference between the sides, to this point, for while Wigan had made an equal number of errors of their own, it was the ones Salford had made, deep in their own half, which had led to the home tries.
This all changed from the restart, when the Warriors failed to field the kick-off, 10m from their line. A good kick-in-goal, after six tackles, brought about a repeat set, and, as the ball was moved along the line, scrum half, Lewis Fairhurst, foxed the defence to cut through for his side’s opening try, to the left of the post, from where he slotted over the conversion to reduce the arrears to 16-6.
Scoring back-to-back tries against Wigan is almost unheard of, but from the resumption, a great break by substitute, Jonny Scott, was continued by the supporting Lewis Hatton, and from his play the ball 10m out, the ball was moved out wide to the right, where winger Jack Thompson, got in at the corner, to put the Red Devils in contention, at 16-10, with ten minutes of the half remaining.
Had they been able to take that scoreline into half time, the result would have been quite different, but an immediate response by the Warriors, followed up by a further, injury time converted try, took them 16 points clear.
A twenty minute war of attrition marked the third quarter of the game, but with Salford showing a 100% completion rate for this spell, aided by those two penalties, and compounded by a number of handling errors from the Wigan side, it was the Red Devils who had by far the better of the exchanges. Indeed, the Warriors were forced to expend significant amounts of energy defending in their own half, and this was to have an effect in the later stages.
A mid-field, Wigan error, on 60 mins gave Salford possession, and fullback, Connor Williams, made a break down the left, before handing on to winger, Elliott Caine. Faced with a number of defenders, he chose to kick through, into the in-goal area, and Williams won the race to touch down. Fairhurst landed the goal from close to the touchline. 26-16
Their failure to take the ensuing kick-off, however, was to prove costly, as the home side took advantage of the position, and the possession, to cancel out that Devils’ score with what was to prove to be the last of their own, and also land the conversion.
Still the Red Devils were not finished, and, on 70 mins, they contrived to put Thompson in the clear down his right wing, and although he did not score at the time, he made sufficient progress to put his side on the attack. Two minutes later, the ball was moved along the Wigan try line, and despite receiving Ben Calland’s most unorthodox of passes (backwards through his legs), Thompson snapped up his second chance, to complete his brace of tries in the corner, and so conclude the scoring.
Connor Williams, Jack Thompson, Ben Calland, Alex Gaskell, Elliott Caine, Ben Hayes, Lewis Fairhurst, Jack Cottington, John Whittaker, Harry Maders, Lewis Hatton, Chris Worrall
Lawrence Okanga-Ajwang, Lewis Brown, Jonny Scott, Declan Hidden
Craig Mullen, Tom Davies (T), Jack Higginson (4G), James Worthington (T), Sam Grant (T), Olly Russell, Josh Woods (T), Ollie Partington, Josh Ganson (T), Sam Brady, Macauley Davies, Paddy Casey, Sammy Kibula
Ben Kilner, Caine Barnes, Sammy Adejumo, Liam Paisley
REFEREE – Mr A Haigh