Wigan & Leigh College Academy 22   Salford Red Devils College Academy 42
Salford Red Devils U19s College Academy followed up their great home victory over Wigan Warriors Education Academy, with a tremendous second half fightback over Wigan & Leigh College, yesterday afternoon, in their return away fixture, following their season- opening, home draw with them, back in September.
Trailing by 18-6, at the interval, at the end of a rather indifferent first half, the young Red Devils cut loose to rack a total of thirty-six second half points, and restrict their hosts to one solitary, unconverted try.
That, though, looked most unlikely as Wigan & Leigh shot into a 12-0 lead in the opening ten minutes, but a long distance, individual try from fullback Jack Ratcliffe, gave the visitors some hope and inspiration.  It was a tremendous bone-jarring tackle by right edge defenders Dane Wakefield and Oreofe Animashaun, in the last five minutes of the half, however, that held sway in the thoughts of players of both sides, as they gathered over half time.
The turnaround in fortunes for the second forty, though, was something that took most casual spectators completely by surprise.  Only those closely involved with the team were expectant that this was within the players’ capabilities, as Team Manager, Neil Blackburn explains.
“It came as a result of their confidence in their own ability,” he declares.  “We weren’t quite at the races in the first half, but gathered our thoughts together over half time, and then started playing to the game plan, applying the pressure, which errors in the first half had prevented us from doing.”
He also attributes some of the first half difficulties to a few nerves triggered by the large number of parents in attendance.
“The lads wanted to impress by showing just how good they are, and it needed Danny Barton to calm them down at half time, and set them on the right road,” is his considered opinion.
This it certainly did, with the Red Devils getting themselves back within striking distance within five minutes of the resumption, courtesy the first of Dane Wakefield’s scores with an unconverted try.  The fact that this was answered, in kind, by their opponents was something of a shock to them, however, coming as it did from a missed tackle.
“It really impressed upon them that they absolutely had to dig in deep and not allow any further errors to creep in,” Neil recounts.  “From that point on it was all Salford; we absolutely bossed it from then on.”
And the tries flowed – from Matthew Jones, Sam Bardsley,  Ellis-Jay Banks-Clarke, Dane Wakefield’s second, and Oreofe Animashaun (2).  Tom Farr was successful with a total of five conversions, whilst the Man of the Match award went to Liam Walker.
When a team gets onto a roll, it is often as a result of back-to-back tries coming without the opposition laying hand on the ball, which was one of the elements which assisted the Salford lads on this occasion, much to the delight of Coach, Danny Barton, who assessed the performance, thus.
“We seem to have suffered all season by getting off to slow starts, and this was yet another of those occasions.  It also wasn’t helped by the penalties we gave away in this period,” he ruefully reflects, “so there are a lot of things we can learn from that first half.
“What I will say is that the lads are now learning quickly, as we put new attacking structures in place at half time, and they delivered these to the letter.  There was never a moment throughout that game when I was in any respect worried.  Even when we were 18-6 down, I was fairly comfortable about it, because I knew that we would work hard to help each other out, and it was that that wore the other team down in the end.”
Well placed faith indeed, and with an away trip to current league leaders, Cowley Sixth Form, next week, that faith in his squad, and the hope that they can get off to a better start, will certainly help them in their quest to triumph in such a longstanding hotbed of rugby league.