Salford Red Devils star, Brogan Evans has topped two of the major Betfred Women’s Super League and Challenge Cup charts in 2023.

The loose forward has been a standout performer during her two years at the club and it will come as no surprise to her teammates or coaches that she is continuing to set the bar in her position.

These statistics are calculated across the top two divisions of women’s rugby league and do not include our final fixture of the season – the playoff semi-final against Leigh Leopards.

Powering her way to the top early in the campaign, Evans finished top of carries with 217 – ahead of multiple members of York Valkyrie’s Super League-winning side.

Evans – who has enjoyed previous Super League experience with Warrington Wolves – was also the top tackler, finishing on 374 over just ten games, with her nearest competitor finishing on 371 over 11 games.

Inclusive of our Challenge Cup group stage fixtures, Evan is still top of both charts – 499 for tackles and 287 for carries.

These landmarks come just weeks after Evans also picked-up Coaches’ Player AND Players’ Player of the Year at our 2023 awards evening.

On her 2023 season, Evans has said: “I 100% believe that you are a product of your environment.

“I’ve always been the same player; the difference this year was the teammates I surrounded myself with, the coaches who supported me and the badge on my chest – a club that backed me and believed in me.

“I hope that Salford can share in this success and as much as I am.”

Congratulations to Brogan on another outstanding season.

Salford Red Devils star, Brogan Evans has topped two of the major Betfred Women’s Super League and Challenge Cup charts in 2023.

The loose forward has been a standout performer during her two years at the club and it will come as no surprise to her teammates or coaches that she is continuing to set the bar in her position.

These statistics are calculated across the top two divisions of women’s rugby league and do not include our final fixture of the season – the playoff semi-final against Leigh Leopards.

Powering her way to the top early in the campaign, Evans finished top of carries with 217 – ahead of multiple members of York Valkyrie’s Super League-winning side.

Evans – who has enjoyed previous Super League experience with Warrington Wolves – was also the top tackler, finishing on 374 over just ten games, with her nearest competitor finishing on 371 over 11 games.

Inclusive of our Challenge Cup group stage fixtures, Evan is still top of both charts – 499 for tackles and 287 for carries.

These landmarks come just weeks after Evans also picked-up Coaches’ Player AND Players’ Player of the Year at our 2023 awards evening.

On her 2023 season, Evans has said: “I 100% believe that you are a product of your environment.

“I’ve always been the same player; the difference this year was the teammates I surrounded myself with, the coaches who supported me and the badge on my chest – a club that backed me and believed in me.

“I hope that Salford can share in this success and as much as I am.”

Congratulations to Brogan on another outstanding season.

Leigh 28  Salford 10                         Match Report

In what was undoubtedly the most keenly contested of the four encounters between the ladies of the Salford Red Devils and their near neighbours, the Leigh Leopards, the home side were made to battle for every point before eventually progressing through to the final of Super League 2’s end of season play-offs.

Indeed, it was a considerable achievement for the Salford players to have been making an appearance in this stage of the competition in their very first season in Super League, when many a side would, in such circumstances, have more than likely been battling to avoid relegation.  Not so, the Red Devils, who had finished a most creditable fourth to travel to third place Leigh, in this, the semi-final.

Each of the three previous encounters had seen a noticeable narrowing in the differential between the two sides, and although the scoreline failed to reflect this, the outcome, this time, was in the balance right through to the final fifteen minutes, when the home side managed to find a couple of holes in what had been a magnificent defensive effort by the visitors.

Just how tight the game was going to be was evident from the outset, with both sides locked in an arm wrestle – in which neither side could gain dominance – the like of which had not existed in either the pre-season friendly or the two, home and away league fixtures.

It was, however, Leigh who opened the scoring in the 15th minute, as a result of their gaining a penalty near their own line, followed by a set-restart inside the Salford half, before working an overlap on the left flank with an unconverted try in the corner.

Unfazed by this setback, the Reds continued to muscle up in defence, repelling every Leigh onslaught and setting up line-testing attacks of their own.  One magnificent tackle by centre, Alex Simpson, prevented a near certain try, on 23 mins, and six minutes later she was most unfortunate to be denied a try of her own, when a prior tackle on her winger, Lauren Ellison, was adjudged to have been completed.

As so often seems to happen these days, a disallowed try at one end of the field led to a recognised try at the other, once again coming after another set-restart, with the successful goal-kick giving the Leopards a 10-0 lead, on 32mins.

Once again, the Salford defence was called into action with one of the biggest hits of the afternoon being affected jointly by Player of the Year, Brogan Evans, and fullback, Sage Bannister, on 36mins.  It was that both were able to combine timing and targeted body areas with such precision that made this so impressive.

Efforts such as this can certainly give a team an uplift, and this proved to be the case on this occasion.  A high, end-of-set kick by Demi Jones was dropped, thus gaining the visitors further possession with which they set up, second rower, Viki Kini to force her way over, on 39 mins, enabling Jones to narrow the half time margin to 10-6.

The inspiration that the score had brought the Red Devils was carried through into the second half, and a Leigh error in their own half, early in the tackle count, gave away possession, which Salford were able to use to set up captain, Louise Fellingham, for a try on 43 mins, not only to level the score, but to rattle the home side at the loss of their lead.

The arm wrestle, which had been so tightly fought in the opening period, reappeared as both teams sought once again to gain dominance, but this time the Salford players had developed a confidence which continued to force the Leopards into uncharacteristic errors, by their defensive efforts.  Left winger, Ellison, was prominent in this, in the way she made excellent decisions when faced on a number of occasions with an overlap, which, each time, she unerringly snuffed out.

The introduction from the bench of Becki Davies, who had had to spend the whole of the season recovering from surgery on a serious leg injury, added a new dimension to the side in both attack and defence, as she performed most promisingly, throughout the rest of the match.

A Leigh penalty, on 55 mins, however, was to prove the turning point in the game, as a change of direction from a strike player got her through the consequential space to score by the post to re-establish the Leopards’ six-point lead.

The Salford defence, nevertheless, continued to work overtime as their hosts rediscovered their composure.  Another try-saving tackle, this time from hooker, Taz Corcoran, on 61 mins, temporarily, saved the day, but the Red Devils were beginning to show signs of tiredness, and a handling error gave the home side the opportunity to secure the win with another try under the posts.

A well-earned, goal-line drop-out to Salford, on 70 mins, was unfortunately mis-fielded, and, direct from the resultant scrum, the ball was collected by one of the Leigh speedsters, who sprinted the seventy metres to the other end of the field to give the score-line a somewhat one-sided impression of what had been a tough, and most enthralling encounter.

SALFORD:

Sage Bannister, Katie Garry, Sam Evans, Alex Simpson, Lauren Ellison, Louise Fellingham, Demi Jones, Megan Condliffe, Tamzin Corcoran, Summer Harris, Helena Walker, Victoria Kini, Brogan Evans

Substitute:

Sarina Tamou, Abi Collins, Hannah Wicks, Becki Davies

Salford Red Devils 12  Barrow Raiders 28          Match Report

Two tries to the visitors, in the last four minutes, gave the final score to this enthralling Super League 2 encounter a somewhat one-sided impression, with the Red Devils having had the better of the majority of the second half, though once again having to strive in order to affect this upon the scoreboard.

Evidence of the finely balanced way in which the game was to unfold was laid bare in the opening quarter, with both teams going set for set against each other, but with both defences competently coping with the questions being asked of them.

It was not until the seventeenth minute that the deadlock was broken, and it was in fact the Red Devils who opened the scoring with a converted try.  An interception by Taz Corcoran, in the Salford thirty, enabled them to make their way up field, and an excellent end-of-set kick from Louise Fellingham was regathered byPhoebe Partington, who sent the ball out to left winger Lauren Ellison who scored in the corner.  Demi Jones then did extremely well to land the goal from wide out.

It was a lead onto which the home side were able hold for ten minutes, until a sustained period of Raiders’ pressure from a number of repeat sets eventually brought about an equalising score.

The compounded energy expended in defence over the remainder of the half, with Barrow commanding possession for lengthy periods in such hot and sticky conditions, took its toll as the half wore on, and further converted tries, after relentless waves of attacks, brought further scores on 32 and 39 minutes, with the half time whistle coming immediately upon the conversion from in front of the posts, on the last of these.

The disappointment at the twelve point, 6-18, half time deficit, stirred the Red Devils to mount aan impressive opening to the second half.  A barnstorming thirty metre break by substitute Yaz Parton-Sotomayor was supported by the effervescent Brogan Evans to go over, between the posts, for a try once again converted by Jones.

Her try was only just and fitting reward for her efforts throughout the game, as indeed was the case with earlier scorer, Ellison.  With Evans, it was a case of probably the smallest forward in the league taking on the might of much bigger opponents with a gusto and bravery well beyond expectation. Ellison, for her part, made a contribution well in excess of that usually made by a winger, even in the modern game.

Equally so, Demi Jones, whose goal, and end-of-set, kicks regularly give so much to the side, was also involved in much of the work, both on, and off the ball, which so often goes unnoticed.

With their spirits therefore uplifted by being one converted try only, behind, the Salford players really got on top, and for at least half an hour not only held their own in defence, took the game to the visitors on attack, and did virtually everything other than register further points.  Steph Gray’s crossing the line but being prevented from grounding the ball, on 71 mins, was just one example of the pressure they brought to bear on the Raiders.

Eventually, however, energy supplies once again began to run out, and, just as in the closing stages of the first half, Barrow took command with two tries, the second of which was converted, to extend their lead by ten points, on the 75th and 78th minutes.

Despite the disappointment of the loss, our players can take some satisfaction for having kept in the game for by far the majority of it, which, with steadier finishing could have been mush closer still, in spite of those two half-closing lapses.  With Castleford as the next visitors to the Salford Stadium, next Sunday, the Red Devils have the opportunity to build on the foundations they laid this week, and hopefully earn themselves another win.

SALFORD

Hollie Jones, Liana Loleta, Alexandra Simpson, Stephanie Gray, Louise Fellingham, Demi Jones, Megan Condliffe, Tamzin Corcoran, Emerald Hickey, Phoebe Partington, Helena Walker, Brogan Evans

Sunstitutes

Casey Naylor, Jessica Panayiotou, Darcey Price, Yasmin Parton-Sotomayor

Having gained the coveted promotion they so much desired to Super League 2, the Red Devils will get their much deserved opportunity to open their season at this new elevated level, with a trip across the Pennines to Castleford, this coming Sunday.

Not that this will be the first time that they will be facing Super League opponents, having already had a taster of this in two pre-season friendlies, against Wigan Warriors and Leigh Leopards.  The more relevant of these, probably, was the more recent, against the Leopards, since Wigan, as might be expected, occupy a place in Super League 1, while Leigh will be one of the teams our players will be facing during the course of the season.

For a variety of reasons, one should never read too much into the outcomes of friendly games, as the context to these are, by definition, completely different to league encounters, with coaches keen to suss out new combinations and introduce new additions to the squad, while the players have the opportunity to try executing new moves.

It was, however, a totally different context altogether for the Red Devils when they took on the Leopards, with the playing squad considerably reduced to the basic seventeen, by a combination of work, personal, and family commitments to several players alongside a number of injuries, unlike their opponents who had reserves in abundance.

This, therefore, gave head coach, Chris Bates, the opportunity to blood many of his new signings, alongside the remainder of his squad from 2022.  Ideally, this would have taken place with just one or two at a time, taking the field just to get the feel of things, with the experienced players providing the stiffening needed to overcome the opposition.

On this occasion, the majority of them were playing alongside one another, throughout, which set them a much greater challenge than would normally be the case.  The situation was further compounded by the fact that each of the newcomers was also new to rugby league, with their playing either their first or second, only, game of rugby league.

 They did, nevertheless, individually, acquit themselves very well, and every one of them showed considerable promise with talent and skills that will undoubtedly become invaluable to the squad, as they integrate themselves into the side over the coming weeks.

Sam Evans, coming in at such a pivotal position as half back on her rugby league debut, grew confidently throughout the game into the role.  Sage Bannister, at fullback, had already shown her considerable defensive abilities in the match with Wigan, and she, once again, showed these, when, on 25 mins, she combined with loose forward, Brogan Evans, to pull off yet another try saving tackle when the visitors were only six points ahead.

For sheer commitment to the Salford cause, however, prop, Summer Harris  deserves accolades for having been prepared to occupy a berth on the wing, of all places, while substitute Emerald Hickey was called into action as early as the second minute, as a result of the temporary loss of Sarina Tamou injured in one of the first tackles of the game.

An unsurprising 4-26 reversal was therefore the final result, with Salford’s try coming from left winger, Lauren Ellison, after 52 minutes to narrow Leigh’s 0-10, half time, lead.  Indeed, having had time to take stock of the situation during the interval, the first fifteen-minute spell of the second half proved to be the Red Devils’ strongest period during which they dominated possession and were able to keep play in the visitors’ thirty metre area and launch several attacks on their line, leading up to their try.

Sheer fatigue, owing to the shortage of bodies on the bench to enable further interchanges, however, eventually caught up with the Salford players, and the comparatively fresh-legged Leopards were able to take control in the later stages to run in three further tries.

SALFORD

Sage Bannister, Lauren Ellison, Alex Simpson, Victoria Kini, Summer Harris, Louise Fellingham, Sam Evans, Megan Condliffe, Tamzin Corcoran, Sarina Tamou, Helena Walker, Abi Collins, Brogan Evans

REPLACEMENTS

Darcey Price, Laura Bent, Hannah Wicks, Emerald Hickey, Katie Garry

Salford Red Devils 24  Hull KR 4                  Match Report

In less than twelve months from their formation, the Salford Red Devils ladies side have, sensationally, secured a place in the Championship Grand Final, at Odsal Stadium, home of the Bradford Bulls, this coming Sunday afternoon, in what will be a Double Header with the League 1 Grand Final, and in so doing have put themselves in line for the opportunity to take the Championship Treble, consisting of League Cup, League Leaders’ Trophy (both already in the bag), and Grand Final Champions.

With it, of course, goes promotion to Super League 2, which has been their objective throughout the season, and they could not have wished for a tougher match to prepare themselves for Sunday’s contest with Oulton – the one and only team to have taken points from the Red Devils all season – than this home semi-final against Hull KR.

From a team languishing in the bottom pair of the Championship table, and the side against whom Salford had twice ratcheted up over forty points, the Humbersiders had come with a sudden late rush to take fourth spot and thus earned the right to travel to the A J Bell to contest the one place available for the winners.

The side which turned out on Sunday afternoon, however, bore little resemblance to that which had been so heavily beaten, back in mid-July, in the Double Header prior to the men’s fixture with Catalans, resulting from what must have been an really intensive and successful recruitment drive, for which they deserve great credit.

From their sheer size alone, it was obvious that this was going to be an extremely tight, and keenly fought, encounter, with no second chances for the vanquished, and so it proved to be, with the visitors fired up to extract revenge for their pummellings in the league fixtures, and physicality being the means by which they intended to accomplish this.

It certainly appeared to take the home side by surprise, and they were almost immediately put on the back foot through the loss of fullback, Luci McKeown, from injury in one of the first tackles of the game.  That was to set the tenor for the rest of the game, and in the weeks and months to come this game will be remembered more for the number of lengthy stoppages, owing to injuries to players from both sides, than for anything else.

It was the visitors though who sustained the majority of these, but those to the Salford players were possibly the more serious, with Kayleigh Bradshaw having to be taken to hospital by ambulance with a bad knee injury, which will undoubtedly rule her out of the final on Sunday, alongside a number of others, who were forced to retire and take no further part in the action.

It took the Yorkshire side only a few minutes to take control of the game, with an abundance of possession and good field position, which saw their hosts securely penned in their own quarter for well over twenty minutes, and it was in the tenth minute that they opened the scoring with a try in the right-hand corner, from an end-of-set, cross-field kick from the left.

At the time, it looked to be only a matter of time before their four-point lead would be increased, but that was the crucial thing; despite continuing to dominate as they did, they were prevented from making any additions to the scoreboard, close as they came to doing so.

It was the Red Devils’ last ditch, desperate, but thoroughly effective goal line defence, which so thwarted them, and, as each scoring opportunity came to naught, they began to lose a little confidence.  Moreover, the Reds stepped up their own performance in possession, and slowly, at first, a swing in momentum began to emerge, albeit merely redressing to some extent the imbalance of that lengthy first period.

When the swing in dominance eventually did come, however, it came quite suddenly.  A Salford penalty for a Robins’ off-side at a play-the-ball in the 31st minute, led to their first clean break from Sade Rihari, which gave them their first opportunity to attack the Hull line.  It was then an individual run by Alex Simpson, now reverted to fullback, which saw her weave cross-field around several defenders until she ran out of anyone else to beat, crossed the try line and then ran back towards the posts to score between them.  Demi Jones’s conversion put them in front for the first time on 33 mins.

Four tackles on from the restart, and an incredible fifty metre break by dummy-half, Brogan Evans saw her dart through the line and then outpace every pursuing defender to score between the posts, and Jones’s conversion had then doubled the score, all within a mere three minutes.

One can only imagine how demoralising the visitors must have found this turn of events, while for the Salford players, they visibly rose to the opportunity, especially at the resumption for the second half, when they literally camped out in the Robins’ twenty metre area, adding their second sucker punch by means of Lauren Ellison’s 51st minute interception try, which took everyone, possibly even herself,  by surprise, but grounding as she did between the uprights, brought the score, with Jones’s conversion, to 18-4.

Things were looking considerably more comfortable from then on, and Louise Fellingham took the game completely beyond the opposition, seven minutes later, when the ball was moved along the line to the right and she cut through the line to score.  Jones, with her most challenging kick of the afternoon was equal to the task, and incredibly, successfully kicked her fourteenth, consecutive, kick-at-goal, over recent weeks.

It was not in the goalkicking duties alone that she was outstanding, for both she and halfback partner Fellingham had contributed so much to the victory throughout.  The latter had been involved in several crucial try-saving tackles, and had taken the ball up to the line on numerous occasions, before feeding it to her supporting teammates.

Jones had shown some quite remarkable touches, not least trapping an awkwardly bouncing ball from a kick-off, soccer-style, to secure possession for the Reds.  As always, she showed a canny eye for the right person in the line to pass to, and her end-of-set kicks had the opposition constantly rattled in having to deal with them.  Little wonder, therefore, that the pair were named jointly as Players of the Match.  Helena Walker, in the second row, meanwhile, had clearly had her best game of the season, and she too, along with so many others had contributed much to the victory..

So, it is onward to Bradford, this weekend, but with the job thus far, only half done.  Much depends not only on their performances, on Sunday afternoon, but also the efforts of the backroom staff to enable as many of the injured as possible to take the field on the day.  Good Luck to them all.  The deserve efery success, so let us just hope they get it!

SALFORD

Luci McKeown, Lauren Ellison, Sade Rihari, Alex Simpson, Katie Garry, Louise Fellingham, Demi Jones, Abi Collins, Brogan Evans, Megan Condliffe, Helena Walker, Victoria Kini, Sarina Tamou

Substitutes:

Hannah Wicks, Laura Bent, Casey Naylor, Gabrielle Chaplin, Eponine Fletcher, Kayleigh Bradshaw

Acknowledgement

Sean Monks Omaga Photography, for above photograph showing Victoria Kini making a hit-up, supported, from left to right, by Brogan Evans, Louise Fellingham, and Sade Rihari

Salford Red Devils 28  Warrington Wolves Luna 14                     Match Report

In front of what was by far the largest home crowd of the season, the Salford Red Devils ladies’ team, winners of the League Cup only ten days earlier, put on a display of skilled open rugby, which must have delighted the contingent of Salford supporters who had turned out to cheer them on.

It had been back in late March when these two sides had first clashed in what had been the Reds’ opening fixture of the season, and how rewarding it must have been, last night for everyone to reflect on their performance in that first encounter, compared with the slickness of their performance, this time around.

In fairness, both sides had made considerable progress over the season, and the visitors showed their quality in the opening stages, crossing for the first score, after only four minutes, and then regaining a 6-8 lead, on 18 mins, after centre, Sade Rihari had, together with Demi Jones’s conversion, given the home side a slight advantage, on seven minutes.

The game changed remarkably, and from the visitors’ perspective, most cruelly, on the restart, when the kick-off saw the ball put into space in the Warrington twenty where at least three unpredictable bounces, saw Salford fullback, Luci McKeown, first onto it, with a second kick to knock it over the try line, where she grounded it, for Salford’s second score.

Going up in sixes, whilst the opposition are doing so in fours, is most helpful, and Jones’s second conversion emphasised her superiority in this department.  Relinquishing their briefly restored lead so promptly, must have been quite sickening for the Warrington players, and indeed the remainder of the first half saw Salford in total command, building on their now increased advantage on the score board.

By half time, that advantage had further increased by ten points, courtesy of right winger, Lauren Ellison, who crossed for two tries.  The first came directly from a scrum, twenty metres from the Warrington line.  The initial running was done by Taz Corcoran, who had packed down at the back of the scrum, from where she collected the ball taking it to the right, whilst also drawing defenders in, so that when Ellison received the ball she had a free run to the corner.

Five minutes from the interval, fine defensive work by Alex Simpson forced a knock on, thereby providing further possession for the Reds.  The ball was moved slickly along the line, until it arrived in McKeown’s hands, and she momentarily held onto it thus attracting attention her way before sending it on to Ellison.  A slightly easier kick at goal than the previous attempt was slotted over by Demi Jones, to bring the half-time score of 22-8 – a comfortable, though not commanding lead.

The visitors, as any reasonably good team would do, used the interval to regroup, determine what had gone wrong, and then address the issues on the field during the second half.  The outcome of this was that the second half was a much more tightly fought battle, with both teams keeping each other scoreless, for over twenty minutes.

Salford did have a few opportunities to go further ahead, but were denied either by a well-organised defence, or by handling errors close to the line.  The real heroes of the half were the forwards who took on the visiting pack with a ferocious determination to make every metre they could.

Player of the Match, Darcey Price set an excellent example, which was replicated by many others, including, Abi Collins, Casey Naylor, Sarina Tamou, Megan Condliffe, Yasmin Parton-Sotomayer, Vikki Kini, Kayleigh Bradshaw, and the unlikeliest of forward of all, Brogan Evans.  These players just simply ate up the metres as they sought, each set, to put the Red Devils back in striking distance.

The finest piece of rugby in the whole match came on the sixtieth minute, and remarkably did not end in a try, but that in no way diminishes the quality of the rugby which was served up.  It started thirty metres out, with McKeown, under considerable pressure from opponents, managing to slip out a pass to Rihari, who then surged through the line at a great angle, before sending out the classiest of passes to Ellison, who race for the corner, only to be tackled into touch by excellent scrambling defence from Warrington.  No try, but attacking play right out of the top drawer.

Respite for the visitors was short-lived, for two minutes later McKeown broke through to score under the posts, giving Jones a fourth successful conversion.  That the visitors later caught the Salford defence somewhat lacking in concentration, and went through to level up the scores for the second half was probably a fitting end to the game, because they had hey contributed much to the encounter, even though, on the day, the Red Devils showed their superiority thus rewarding their home fans, who had come to lend their support.

SALFORD

Luci McKeown, Lauren Ellison, Sade Rihari, Alex Simpson, Jena Monks , Louise Fellingham, Demi Jones, Megan Condliffe, Tamzin Corcoran, Abi Collins, Kayleigh Bradshaw, Vikki Kini, Sarina Tamou

Substitutes:

Brogan Evans, Hannah Wicks, Helena Walker, Darcey Price, Yasmin Parton-Sotomayor, Casey Naylor, Eponine Fletcher

ACKNOWLDGEMENT

Steve McCormick – Photograph showing Lauren Ellison scorer of two tries

RED DEVILS LIFT SILVERWARE IN INAUGURAL SEASON

Orrell St James’s 8  Salford Red Devils 20                                Match Report

Salford Red Devils ladies team defied all the odds that must have been stacked against their doing so, at the start of the season, by winning the League Cup, in this, their very first year, a mere eight months after their inception.

What an absolute triumph this is for a group who were still getting to know one another when the season kicked off, a mere five months ago, but in that time they have gelled together perfectly and developed into an almost unstoppable attacking force, seemingly against all opponents within their league.

How fitting it was, therefore, that their incredible accomplishment should have been achieved on the very day that the much-celebrated Lionesses put the whole concept of women’s sport into a far greater spotlight than it has ever been before.  They just happened to have been beaten to the punch by the Red Devils.

It was in a quite different manner, however, from virtually all their previous victories, to which the players had to adapt, in order to ensure they secured their just desserts.  Not on this occasion, then, was there to be any high-scoring, lavish, breath-taking attacking play; it was far too close for that, and closer even than the scoreline would suggest.  No, this was, foremost, a victory of character over adversity.

No-one can ever predict how a game will unfold, but just one look at the pitch was enough to portend that this would undoubtedly be a game of two halves, with an incline from end to end comparable with that at the infamous Mount Pleasant, Batley.

Having the advantage of the slope for the first half, the Salford players had the clear task of setting as high a score as possible in the hope of putting themselves out of sight by the turnaround – something which they had had plenty of practice of doing, over the course of the season.  To that end, the fact that it was they who kicked off down the slope, was extremely helpful, with the Orrell defenders losing the ball early in the first set, and consequently setting up the Reds with possession in great field position.

Indeed, the game was less than two minutes old when fullback, Luci McKeown, performed a timely pirouette, close to the line, to foil a couple of defenders to go over on the right-hand side, and that was even after Brogan Evans had been held up, under the posts.  As far as the goal kick was concerned, though, it mattered not that the kick was further out than it might have been, as Demi Jones was on target to turn the four into six.

Four minutes later, and with the Orrell team still having hardly touched the ball, a superb, wide pass by Taz Corcoran found the unmarked Alex Simpson, and the centre went through for the second score, this time too far out on the left for a successful conversion attempt.

Whether it was carelessness, or over-confidence, at this point, the ball was lost quite quickly after the resumption, and the opposition’s dearth of possession started to be balanced out, so it was not until the 23rd minute that the Red Devils were able to extend their lead.  Kayleigh Bradshaw was tackled virtually on the Orrell try-line, and her quick play the ball caught the defence out by the ball being moved to the blindside, where right centre, Sade Rihari, used her power and pace to get over for what was to be the final score of the half, extending their lead to sixteen points by Jones’s second conversion.

We have often said that a half time lead of eighteen points is quite overturnable, and there will have been many who had been hoping for rather more cushioning by further points, as the teams resumed for the second forty.  This, however, had been recognised by coach, Chris Bates, who had instilled upon is charges, that the fate of the trophy would now rest with the quality of their defence.

How right he was.  The Orrell St James players were completely familiar with the exigencies of their pitch, and how to use the slope to their advantage – only one of the adversities Salford were to face, and thankfully overcome, during the following forty, with the Reds pinned down in their own twenty metre area, for lengthy periods, desperately endeavouring to repulse the waves of attack hurled at them.

They had had a foretaste of this in the closing stages of the first half when they had been tirelessly, but unsuccessfully, tested by their opponents, who did, though, go close on a number of occasions.  Easy to do when your line speed is aided by a slope, but much more challenging to have to keep doing, up a hill.

Yet, with Bates’s instructions still ringing their ears, that is exactly what they did.  If it moved, it was tackled, and after an early foray with an attack of their own, they certainly had plenty of tackling to do.  Eight minutes of exceptional defence was eventually broken by Orrell’s first try, bringing the score to 16-4.

Fortunately, the Salford players still had enough energy left to launch a counter attack, and on 56 mins, Player of the Match, Riahari, cut through, drew the defence before sending out an excellently timed pass to her winger, Lauren Ellison, who crossed in the corner, restoring the 16 point advantage.

The remainder of the game was merely one set of Orrell attacks after another, as with so little ball, the Salford players appeared a little nervous on the few occasions it came their way, and consequently lost it, often, quite early in the tackle count.

So, ultimately, it was all down to the quality of the defence, thereafter, with Salford forwards as, always, having bearing the brunt of the work, as the Orrell forwards kept up constant drives at the Salford line.  Although they had their line breached on one further occasion, on 64 mins, and the final fifteen minutes  peppered with a few close shaves, time was gradually moving in favour of the Red Devils side, and indeed those sixteen points did prove to be unoverturnable.

So, the ladies got to bring back to Salford the first piece of silverware since they won the Championship Treble in 2008, and doing so in what was, for them, a most novel and unfamiliar manner.  Whole-hearted congratulations to them, and all those connected with the team, who have performed so marvellously, each in their own particular way.  Having won one trophy now, there is always the up-coming Championship Play Offs, in which to test themselves, later in the year.

SALFORD

Luci McKeown, Lauren Ellison, Sade Riahari, Alex Simpson, Katie Garry, Louise Fellingham, Demi Jones, Megan Condliffe, Tamzin Corcoran, Abi Collins, Helena Walker,  Kayleigh Bradshaw, Brogan Evans

Substitutes:

Hannah Wicks, Jena Monks, Darcey Price, Yasmin Parton-Sotomayor, Laura Bent, Casey Naylor, Gabrielle Chaplin

ACKNOWLDGEMENT

Steve McCormick – Headline photograph showing quality of Salford’s defence from Helena Walker, Darcey Price, and Brogan Evans

Dewsbury Rams 0  Salford Red Devils 54                                Match Report

Just about the last thing anyone would want, on finding themselves part way between Cup semi-final and Final, with only a week to go, is to come up against the very team of which they had disposed, in the semis, two weeks earlier.

Not only that, but to have to face them on their own pitch, when the recent encounter had been on home turf, in what was an extremely bruising and highly competitive contest, might well have unsettled many a team.  Then, on top of all that, there was the absence, through injury, of two important strike players, Lauren Ellison, and long-term absentee, Steph Gray.

Yet, while all of these issues might, to many of us seem a little disquieting, the players of the Red Devils ladies’ team were not only totally undaunted by the challenge, they had been positively relishing the chance to turn out and overcome that challenge for which everything seemed to be conspiring to compound.  And how well they did overcome them, with a total of ten tries (7 in the first half and 3 in the second) and seven goals bringing a grand total of fifty-four points.

What was even grander was the fact that they prevented the opposition from scoring at all.  One week earlier, they had determined, at half time, to keep their then opposition, Hull KR, nilled, but had slipped up in this aim, allowing them one solitary break, which brought the Robins a converted try.

On this occasion, however, there was to be no such slip, and the final whistle came with their line unbreached – a quite remarkable achievement for any team, especially in an away fixture in Yorkshire, and against a team which would still have been smarting over their ejection from the League Cup, a week earlier.

So how did the team, which had caused the Red Devils those difficulties in their 18-8 semi-final contest away from home, come to suffer such a hefty defeat, at home, a week later?  The answer lies, not so much with Dewsbury, who were virtually unchanged from two weeks ago, but with the Red Devils.

The first half had barely got underway, and they had scored three tries without the Rams actually having had hold of the ball, their sole contribution to the game being their four kick-offs, alongside as much tackling as they could muster.

The Salford handling was absolutely splendid, with every pass not only finding its mark but being delivered at a speed well in excess of previous matches, and with each one sticking, so that they dominated possession, not just in this opening period but right through the first half.

Seven tries in forty minutes tells its own story, and each one also leads to yet another set of six from the restart.  Little wonder, therefore, that, as the half progressed, the degree of energy which the home side had had to expend in just endeavouring to stem the flow of seamless attacking moves thrown at them, had been sapped to the limit.

Centre, and regular try scorer, Alex Simpson was first on the scoreboard and she was joined in the list of first half try scorers by Luci McKeown (2), Casey Naylor, and newly signed debutant, Sade Rihari (3) also operating in the centre.  Demi Jones was successful with five of her seven conversions to clock up the half time score of 0-38.

The second half was a little more competitive with Dewsbury gaining ,more of the ball, and testing the Reds’ defence somewhat.  That the Salford players were equal to this, however, is reflected in the final score, but with less possession of their own, they were limited to three tries, from player of the match, Brogan Evans, Louise Fellingham, and Demi Jones to which she also added one of the two conversions of the half.

So now all eyes have turned to the League Cup Final, this coming Sunday, when the Salford Red Devils will face Orrell St James, at Orrell, KO 3pm.  We must all now wish them every success on the day, whilst marvelling at their considerable achievement, already, in winning through to the final stage in such a short spell of playing together as a team. GOOD LUCK LADIES!

SALFORD

Luci McKeown, Jena Monks, Sade Rihari, Alex Simpson, Brogan Evans , Louise Fellingham, Demi Jones, Abi Collins, Tamzin Corcoran, Megan Condliffe, Vicki Kini, Kayleigh Bradshaw, Sarina Tamou,

Substitutes:

Yasmin Parton-Sotomayor, Casey Naylor, Darcey Price, Helena Walker, Laura Bent, Gabrielle Chaplin

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

Sean Monks, Omaga Photography, for headline photograph showing Casey Naylor’s success in grounding the ball.

On the back of their magnificent victory at Hull KR, a month ago, the Red Devils returned to Humberside, yesterday, to chalk up an equally impressive result, this time on the western side of the River Hull, against the black & whites of Hull FC.

As has been the case with a number of their outings, the Salford players were a little slow in getting into their stride, and it was the home side which had the better of the early exchanges, having ample possession, with which to challenge the visitors’ defence, over the first ten to fifteen minutes.

The Red Devils were, nevertheless, able to keep their opponents at bay, although not without the adversity of losing their highly-rated fullback, Luci McKeown, quite early in the proceedings, with a leg injury, from which she did not return.  As a consequence, some hasty rearrangements to the line-up needed to be made, with her replacement, Brogan Evans coming on as hooker, Taz Corcoran moving to loose forward, both of whom made considerable impact on the game, and centre, Alex Simpson, taking over at fullback, from where she scored a most spectacular try.

The team had spent the week’s training sessions undertaking work to increase the intensity of both their attack and defence, particularly, but not exclusively, among the forwards, who were also buoyed by the return of Megan Condliffe, who had missed the last two matches.  The considerable success of all this became evident as the game progressed, with the pack laying the foundations of the victory with their strong drives up the field, and the hard tackles with which they hit their opponents.

It was as a consequence of this that almost all of their eight tries came initially from those hard metres they made in the early parts of sets, which sucked the Hull players into the middle of the field, whereupon the Reds were able to send the ball out wide to the backs, who then had sufficient room to combine with one another to produce the collection of tries, which ensued.

One in the first half, which was slightly different from the others, however, was their second, which came as a result of slick, left to right, cross-field, handling, which eventually produced an overlap for right wing Lauren Ellison to go over.

The one drawback from their overall style of play on the day, was that not a single try was scored near the posts, making the possibility of a conversion somewhat remote, and indeed they were successful in only two of their kicks, one each from Kayleigh Bradshaw and Demi Jones, both of which were in the first half, to ring up a 20-0 half time score alongside tries from Louise Fellingham (2), Sarina Tamou, and Ellison’s above mentioned score.

With Salford’s first touch of the ball in the second half, Alex Simpson went much of the length of the field, after taking the ball from Hull’s end-of-set kick, to continue the succession.  To complement their earlier successful goalkicks, Jones and Bradshaw also crossed, followed by Steph Gray to complete the set.

With the Yorkshire side still without a point, hopes were high that the Reds could return home having secured their first nilling of an opposition.  To their credit, however, Hull regrouped for one last minute assault on the Salford line, and succeeded in going over for a try close enough to the posts for it to be turned into a six-pointer, which meant that the nilling would have to wait ‘til another day.  That, though, certainly did not detract from the most impressive, and highly entertaining, performance of the Salford side, who will now travel to Widnes, next Sunday, for what is expected to be one of the most keenly fought encounters of the season.

SALFORD:

Luci McKeown, Lauren Ellison, Steph Gray, Alex Simpson, Eponine Fletcher, Louise Fellingham, Demi Jones, Megan Condliffe, Tamzin Corcoran, Darcey Price, Sarina Tamou, Kayleigh Bradshaw, Vanessa Hadley

Substitutes:

Laura Bent, Brogan Evans, Casey Naylor, Abi Collins, Helena Walker

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

Sean Lunt, Omaga Photography, for above photograph showing, from left to right, Salford’s Demi Jones, Brogan Evans, and Abi Collins

Media Consultant – Gabby Chaplin