In The Company Of David Clegg, Head Coach, Ian Watson, Reflects On A Highly Successful Weekend, And Looks Forward To The Visit Of Wakefield
A second round of double fixtures, following only a few weeks after the Easter Weekend, was not highly relished within most rugby league circles, but proved to be highly profitable, in terms of points accrued, for the Salford Red Devils, with a runaway victory over Catalans Dragons, and a most impressive win away at Warrington Wolves.
For Head Coach, Ian Watson, both sets of winning points were as welcome as each other, but it was the professional performance at Warrington, which was, for him, the more gratifying.
“In terms of points, it was a really good weekend for us,” he agrees, “and we played really well in both matches, especially with it being over such a short period.
“The Warrington game was probably the pick of the pair, with Catalans being depleted through injuries, though we did show, against them, that we were able to be ruthless when the situation required this.
“Warrington, on the other hand, was a different challenge at a different level, because they have a very good squad.  Not only that, they had had a run of good result, so it was important that we showed that, even away from home, we can compete with one of the most talented teams in the league.”
The fact that this was done with a number of personnel changes from recent weeks, enabling the inclusion of some of our younger players, made it all the more impressive.
“They are all first team players, and are treated as such so that they can come in, take over the role, and perform in similar vein to whoever they are replacing,” Ian insists.
“People like Jake Bibby and Josh Wood have been doing that, on occasions, throughout the season, but the stand out player was definitely Todd Carney, in the way he controlled the game.  I thought he gave an exceptional performance, out there.”
Magnificent as Todd was, his performance now presents Ian with something of a problem, in terms of selection for the coming games.
“It’s a great headache to have,” he counters, “and it’s what I had asked for at the beginning of the season, because it is good to have such intense competition for places with everyone vying with each other to be selected.  So Todd has just put his hand up and let everyone know he is here, and ready to play.  That now provides competition to both Michael Dobson and Rob Lui, which is all to the good, going forward.”
Credit should also go to Ian, on a great piece of man-management with the inclusion of former Warrington Youth prop, Dan Murray, who will have relished playing against his former club and appreciated the opportunity to have done so.
“Dan will be with us next year, and it’s now down to him playing games,” Ian considers.  “He has played a lot of U19s and reserve team rugby, over the seasons, but this is the first time he has been consistently playing against grown men.  He has shown that he is more than capable of playing at that level, and we knew he could step in and take over.
“It’s now a case of developing him further over the rest of the season, by means of mixing a few Super League games in with Championship games, so that he is ready for greater involvement with us next year, just as the likes of Ryan Lannon have done this year.
“We are going through a similar process with Connor Williams, at the moment, and it is important that we invest in these lads, so that we are strong going into the future
The visit of Wakefield Trinity, this coming Sunday, brings something of a change in the present status of our opponents.  Most of the teams we have played in recent weeks have been mainly from the lower reaches of the competition, whereas Wakefield, somewhat like ourselves and Castleford, are on the up and flying high, having recently gained a foothold in the top four.
“It’s all down to teams going out there, and each of them endeavouring to perform to the best of their ability.  Wakefield, just like Castleford and ourselves have been doing that, and coming out on top.  It’s up to us to pose problems for them, this week,” he claims.
In addition to this is the knowledge that the same two teams will lock horns in the quarter final of the Challenge Cup, and there is always the possibility that the two fixtures could impact one upon the other.  Ian, however, is firmly of the opinion that the games should be taken one at a time.
“We will in no way be thinking about the Challenge Cup, when we play them on Sunday,” he maintains.  “In fact we have two really important league games before that, with this Sunday’s game, and then against Hull, the following week.
“Challenge Cup games are one-off games, anyway, so that second one is something we need to focus upon only when we have got through these two Super League fixtures.  Much as it has the prospect of being a great game, at the moment it is not even in our thoughts.”
MATCH OFFICIALS                                                                                                                      
Referee – Mr R Hicks
Touch Judges – A Martin, D Sharpe
In-Goal Judges – N Woodward, S Houghton
Reserve Ref –  K Murphy