David Clegg Meets With U19s Assistant Coach, Lee Connelly, Ahead Of Friday’s Curtain Raiser At St Helens
Salford Red Devils’ U19s travel, this Friday, to St Helens for their away fixture, on the back of a most impressive home victory over the City of Hull, last Thursday, particularly, after a layoff of three weeks, and the extremely difficult context for the players, surrounding the game.  In the event, however, circumstances conspired to enable them to show their considerable strength of character, and their undoubted skill and talent to race into what was to prove to be an unassailable 24-0 lead, early in the second half.
Assistant Coach, Lee Connelly, was keen to acknowledge all these aspects of the team.
“For me, personally, one of the initial key factors was when, having won the toss, skipper, Liam Bent, chose to receive the ball from the kick-off, so that the lads were not immediately into the task of tackling,” he reflects.  “A good first set, followed by a fine kick, got them back into things in a positive way.  That was a very mature decision from Liam.”
From thereon, the game unfolded in an extremely helpful way, with first Connor Williams following up his own clean break down the left flank, by popping up on the right edge to score from Aaron Moore’s pass from dummy half.  Not only that, the charge down of Lewis Fairhurst’s end of set kick rebounded in front of him, and having snapped it up he was able, by means of his pace and clever footwork, to double the score almost immediately after the restart.
“Connor was absolutely fantastic for us, throughout,” Lee enthuses.  “He hadn’t been available to us so far this season, owing to injury, but he gave us an extra dimension out on the edges, whenever he joined the line, creating opportunities on each occasion.
“It was he, who scored the third try from John Whittaker’s beautifully floated kick-in-goal.  John has clearly benefitted from Michael Dobson having come down to training and giving John some guidance and advice.
“Lewis does have a really good step, and good pace too.  He has been training with the first team for the last six or seven weeks, and that has helped him considerably.  Having a dominant half-back is important for any team, and hopefully Lewis, now he has the chance, will make the next step up.”
Overall, the only downside of the whole game was the enormous number of penalties conceded in the second half, which then deprived them of possession for long periods of that second forty.
“To be fair, it would be difficult to argue with many of them,” Lee concedes, “but the lads showed great strength as a unit to continue to stand up to the onslaught that this evoked.  There were periods of five, and even six, back to back sets they had to defend against, and then when they did eventually concede a try, they were prepared to dig deep and defend further.”
With Friday’s game being a curtain raiser to the Saints v Widnes Super League game, there will be the further complication of a somewhat partisan crowd, which will be hopefully roaring their own youngsters on to a home victory.
“We have already played in a few Super League stadia, so the lads will have become used to the environment,” he explains, “but there is also the distraction of having people shouting and commenting, with which our players will have to cope.  It is also likely that the noise will prevent their being able to communicate effectively with one another, especially when they are closer to the touch or try lines.
The two sides have met already, here at the A J Bell Stadium, in early March, when the Saints ran out 30-16 winners, but Lee felt that the Red Devils had been a little unfortunate in the way things had developed, on that occasion.  Certainly, it was early in the season, and their only previous encounters had been against development areas, such as the North East, and Cumbria.
“The way we have been playing of late should enable us to be competitive throughout, this time,” he judges.
With three senior players, in Chris Worrall, Lewis Fairhurst, and Lewis Hatton, who until this season had been with the Saints’ Academy, not to mention a number of younger lads who had been with their Scholarship, the team will be certainly well motivated, and completely familiar with their surroundings, when they take to the field at Langtree Park, KO 5.30pm.
“The thing about rugby league players is getting the better of your opposite number,” he explains, “and these particular lads will be keen to do just that.”
Surprisingly, the size of the pitch is not an issue.
“The Langtree Park pitch is exactly the same size as our own field we play on,” he informs me, “and that in itself will be helpful because everything around our positioning and spacing will also be familiar for everyone.”
Match Officials:
Referee – Mr P Marklove
Touch Judges – C Griffiths, K Murphy

Thurs 14th July Widnes Home 7.00pm
Sun 24th July Cumbria Copeland Athletic Club 2.00pm
Sun 7th August City of Hull Bishop Burton College 12.00pm
Sat 20th August Wigan Edge Hall Rd 2.00pm
Thurs 1st Sept Wakefield Home 7.00pm