Salford Reserves 12  Wigan Reserves 42 Match Report

First team rugby apart, Salford’s results of matches with the Wigan Warriors at virtually every other level, over decades, have been littered with defeats by considerable amounts, and on some occasions without the Reds even managing to get on the scoreboard.

Not on the occasion last Monday evening, when the two sides met once again, however, with the Red Devils stunning their visitors with a whirlwind of an opening which saw them cross twice in the first ten minutes, to open up an eight-point lead, which could have been even more but for Jack Stevens’s attempted conversion to the first, hitting the upright.

What was all the more remarkable was that the Salford team was the most inexperienced Reserve side to have taken the field, this season.  Most encouraging of all was the fact that eight of them had come through the Salford Pathway, having played in the age-related youth sides such as the Salford Red Devils College Academy U19s.

One name, which will possibly be remembered by those familiar with that particular group of players, is that of Nathan Connell, who, along with others, over recent seasons has caught the eye on a regular basis with some significant contributions to the side’s performances.  For him, though, this match turned out to be a personal triumph, with his being absolutely pivotal to that opening onslaught.

On the fourth tackle of the very first set, he slipped a cleverly timed pass to another of the Pathways group, George Charnock, which put the centre into the clear, and then backed him up all the way to take the return pass and score to the right of the posts giving the Red Devils one of their fastest opening tries of the season.

It was then on ten minutes that a Salford end-of-set kick to the left corner was fumbled backwards by Wigan, and again it was he, who was first to pounce and double their lead.

Unfortunately, we had to wait until midway through the second half for the Reds to increase their score further, but it was well worth the wait with its coming from some most impressive handling along the line from left to right, and each pass most telling.  The final, long pass, which we tend to associate solely with Super League rugby, was yet again from Connell with his floating the ball straight into the hands of right winger, Billy Walkley, who did well to cross in the corner, to wrap up the Salford account.

Yes, it was Wigan, who they were playing, and once they had got over their opening shock, they took control in the way that Wigan feeder teams always do, against almost anyone.  The final thirty points difference, though, was far lower than has often been the case in the past, and that is testament just as much to the Salford defence, as to their attack.

Sadly, one early, most valiant try-saving tackles, on five minutes, by left winger, Calum Hughes, led to a lengthy stoppage in play as, in so doing, he received a nasty-looking injury, which required hospital attention.

Most coincidentally, the second half was similarly disrupted on the fifth minute of that half, when the doctor was called to the Wigan dressing room to deal with one of their players, who had suffered an injury, late in the first half, and again a lengthy period had to elapse before the doctor was able to return pitch-side, and the game could resume.

Other players who can feel well-satisfied with their performances were prop, Lucas Iles, who stood up magnificently to the strength of the Wigan pack which included Ri’chards Nsemba, whose first team experience was quite evident, and Jack Stevens, whose lack of success with his kicks at goal was made up for with his more general kicking-game, which included a superb forty-twenty, towards the end of the game.

Coach, Stuart Wilkinson, was justifiably not only well pleased with his side’s performance throughout the whole game, but also highly impressed with the club’s handling of the two medical incidents, which caused such intrusion into the game’s continuity.

“I was most impressed with the way the club handled both incidents.  Our physios, doctor, and club officers all responded brilliantly, remaining calm, supportive and professional throughout, in a way that one would always hope for.  They all deserve the utmost praise for their handling of both situations,” was his judgement.

SALFORD

Nathan Connell, Billy Walkley, George Charnock, Calum Hughes, Matthew Rudd, Jack Stevens, Alex Davidson, Kellen Wood, Lucas Iles, Joseph Cooper-Franklin, Jacob Lee, Matthew Unsworth

Substitutes

Harry Files, Mason Phillips, Jorge Cabral, Finlay Yates, Euan Haynes

WIGAN

Noah Hodkinson, Ethan Fitzgerald, Nathan Lowe, Jeffrey Maddox, Charlie Yeomans, Jack Farrimond, Trent Kelly-Duffy, Thomas Forber, Kian McDermott, Finlay Irwin, Ri’chards Nsemba, Taylor Kerr

Substitutes

Dylan Kelly-Duffy, Ryan Brown, Harvey Wilson, Reece Bushell, Kalum Rathbone

Warrington 34  Salford 32                             Match Report

The Salford Red Devils U19s College Academy were, sadly, eliminated yesterday from the knockout cup, in the cruellest possible round – the semi-final –  when they went down to Warrington Wolves, who had the significant advantage of having secured the home advantage of Victoria Park.

On a fine, sunny afternoon, even with a strong breeze blowing along, and up the pitch, it was the noticeable slope, end to end, which had the greatest effect on proceedings on field, with the Wolves having its advantage in the first forty minutes.

In what proved to be a most enthralling and evenly balanced encounter, the lead changed hand on no less than four occasions.  The entertainment factor was evident throughout, as the teams went almost turn-and-turn-about to score and thereby provided a total of thirteen tries, with the extra one going Warrington’s way.

It was they who opened the scoring, in the ninth minute, immediately after Salford second rower, Jimmy Shields, had been ruled to have grounded the ball short of the line, at the other end.  There was no such doubt, though when prop, Euan Haynes, charged through to score to the left of the posts, and Charlie Glover converted to put the visitors ahead, 4-6.

It was however the sin-binning of loose forward, Glover, in the first half, followed by the complete dismissal of substitute Luke Isles, some twelve minutes from full time, both for dissent, which impacted significantly on the team’s aspirations to progress, with their hosts crossing twice in that first ten minute spell, to run up a 14-6 lead, on 30 minutes.

Fortunately, Glover’s return came in time for him to be able to convert George Charnock’s try, which pulled the Red Devils back into contention, and indeed, he added another two points, onto Shields’s this time more successful grounding, on 36 minutes, after Warrington had restored their eight-point advantage, a few minutes earlier.

So with the half-time score of 20 -18 to the Wolves, there was considerable optimism, within the Salford ranks that they could triumph, and indeed Haynes was most unfortunate to have the ball stripped from him over the line, in one of the first moves of the half.  It was their opponents, however, who briefly increased their advantage to 24, following a Salford dropped ball on 46 minutes.

The Red Devils’ best spell by far came in a fifteen-minute spell, when three tries, from Josh Bentley, Ellis Kelly, and Charnock’s second, put them into a respectable, if not comfortable, 24-32 lead, with less than twenty minutes left. 

Even though Warrington pulled back four points, it was not until the visitors’ numbers were depleted for the second time, that they were able to regain the lead with one final try in the corner, which, with the help of the wind, was converted from the touchline.

Regretfully, the much dreamed upon final against Castleford, therefore, must remain just that – a dream.  A little more luck, at times, would not have come amiss, whilst having to cope a player short for a quarter of the game turns a hill into a small mountain.  Remarkable and creditable, therefore, was the fact that they came so close to achieving that dream.