Salford Red Devils were unable to finish the pre-season period with a victory as Warrington Wolves ran out 18-6 winners at the Halliwell Jones Stadium.
Rob Lui’s first-half effort wasn’t enough for Salford to win the contest as tries from Joe Philbin, Ryan Atkins and former Salford man Stefan Ratchford, clinched the win for Warrington.
The hosts made a bright start to the game and mounted serious pressure against the Salford back-line on numerous occasions. Nevertheless, the Reds defence remained resilient.
Salford were unfortunate not to have broken the deadlock inside the first ten minutes when Junior Sa’u broke from Wire’s 20m line, but the Samoan centre was stopped in his tracks by a fierce Warrington backline.
The Red Devils were finally rewarded for their efforts in the 23rd minute when Gareth O’Brien’s grubber kick ricocheted off the post before Lui pounced onto the loose ball and threw himself over the try line to open the scoring, O’Brien successfully converted the extras to extend Salford’s lead to 6-0.
Soon after, Salford missed a glorious opportunity to extend their lead as some quick hands from Weller Hauraki helped forge an opening for Derrell Olpherts, but the former Newcastle man was unable to capitalise and knocked the ball on.
Warrington responded well and were unfortunate not to have opened their points tally for the contest, a fantastic tackle from Junior Sa’u prevented Matty Russell from scoring in the right hand corner in what looked a certain try.
However, Wire’s pressure inevitably paid off in the 36th minute when former Salford forward Ben Murdoch-Masila cleverly offloaded the ball to the onrushing Philbin who effortlessly crossed the Devils line. Harvey Livett kicked the resulting goal to level the scoring at 6-6 in what was the final points of the half.
After the break, it took Wire just two minutes to pick up where they left off as Ratchford skipped through several tackles, before stretching over the line to give Warrington a 10-6 lead, Livett again converted the goal to extend the difference to six points.
Salford responded well and forced a Warrington goal-line drop out, the Red Devils bulldozed Mitch Brown into the in-goal area as the visitors began to grow in confidence.
Derrell Olpherts will feel aggrieved not to have scored for the second game in succession as Weller Hauraki’s pass was adjudged to have been forward before the back touched down in the corner.
Despite the promising response, Salford’s efforts ultimately amounted for nothing as Manu Vatuvei misjudged the flight of Kevin Brown’s high kick before Atkins crossed over. Livett maintained his 100% succession rate to give the hosts an 18-6 lead.
Salford struggled to build any real momentum throughout the second period, a combination of a determined Warrington back-line and numerous individual errors, thwarted the visitors from forging any major openings.
Reds boss Ian Watson will be pleased with Salford’s progress during pre-season, though he will hope his side can reduce the frequency of their mistakes before Wigan Warriors arrive at the AJ Bell for the opening fixture of the Super League, in just two weeks time.
Salford Lineup: Evalds, Olpherts, Bibby, Sa’u, Vatuvei, Lui, O’Brien, Mossop, Wood, Tasi, Jones, Hauraki, McCarthy Interchanges (All used): Welham, Littlejohn, Kopczak, Tomkins, Griffin, Flanagan, Burgess, Nakubuwai, Nzoungou, Murray, Bennion
Warrington Lineup: Ratchford, Russell, M Brown, Atkins, J Johnson, K Brown, Livett, Hill, Clark, Cooper, Currie, Hughes, Murdoch-Masila Interchanges: King, Pinder, Moran, Philbin, Prell, Smith, L Johnson
Salford Scorers: Tries- Lui (23’)
Goals- O’Brien (23’)
Warrington Scorers: Tries- Philbin (36’), Atkins (50’), Ratchford (42’)
Goals- Livett (37’, 43’, 51’)
Man of the Match: Josh Jones
Referee: C Kendall
Touch Judges: D Arnold and J Smith
By Ryan Booth