Salford Red Devils 10  Hopwood Hall 8                   Match Report

With a three-week gap since their last outing, which was exactly a month ago when they had entertained Wakefield, it is little wonder that the Salford U19s College Academy ‘Red’ team took some little time to get back up to speed, in this their return encounter with Hopwood Hall College.

A number of postponements, predominantly caused by adverse playing conditions, combined with the half term break, had clearly taken the edge of the Reds’ performance, and the visitors took advantage by sweeping to an eight-point lead, after thirty minutes.

Once they had managed to get on the scoreboard, shortly before half time, however, the Salford youngsters were gradually able to take control of proceedings, as they had done in their previous encounter at the home of the visitors, eventually going in front, fifteen minutes from the end.

The big difference, however, between this match, and the earlier, away encounter, was that on that previous occasion, Salford had had a strength in depth of forwards, on the bench.  This time, though, for various reasons there was a dearth of forward power, with the substitutes’ bench being comprised entirely of backs, some of whom were required to play in the forwards against a particularly big and powerful opposing pack, in order to spell members of the starting six.

Add to that the considerable loss of prop, Charlie Glover, ten minutes into the game, and the Salford side really looked up against it.  Step forward, fellow forward, Ewan Haynes, who, with his move up to prop, really took charge of the situation, leading from the front and inspiring his fellow forwards to follow suit, which, to their credit, they did.

The always reliable Jack Kenway, having moved from second row to loose-forward, took up cudgels alongside him, as did second rower, George Charnock, with some injection of running skills of his own individual style.  A special mention must also be given to centre-by-trade, Josh Wagstaffe.  Moved, quite early in the game, from his usual slot in the three-quarters into the forwards, he proceeded to put in hit after valuable hit-up, making much needed yardage, on each occasion.

It was fifteen minutes of arm-wrestle, before the visitors opened the scoring, the last five of which they had had Salford on the rack, desperately defending their line.  Just as it looked as though they had weathered the storm, with play having moved to the other end of the field, their defence was opened up by a clever passing-move.  A reverse pass, inside, created the first clean break of the afternoon, and a kick to their left corner saw their winger take the ball to cross for the first of their two unconverted tries.

Their lead was doubled, fourteen minutes later, when an overlap was worked, this time on their right, where their winger was unmarked and had a clear run to the line.

Sideways runs across the face of an opponent’s defensive lines invariably seem to indicate a lack of attacking ideas – except when George Charnock undertakes one.  Twice, in the first half, he cut inside from the left flank, and on each occasion the angle of his left to right run caused confusion in the opposition’s line.  The first time it led to right winger, Myles Paul, getting over in the corner only for the final pass to be adjudged forward.

There was no such disappointment, six minutes from half time, when Charnock set up Josh Higgin, who timed his run, straight at the line, to perfection, taking Charnock’s defence-splitting pass with ease.  Crucially, Jack Stevens added the conversion to bring the Red Devils to within two points of their opponents at the interval.

The second half was a hard, uncompromising war of attrition, with a number of stoppages for injuries sustained in the intensity of the conflict.  Both teams had tries disallowed; Salford’s when fullback Nathan Connell was adjudged to have been held up over the line, while Hopwood Hall’s would-be scorer lost the ball as he went to ground it.

The one successful attempt went the way of the hosts, on sixty-five minutes, thanks to Kenway’s excellent kick into the right corner, where Paul was able to make up for his earlier disappointment by taking the ball on the run and scoring in the corner.  With Stevens’s conversion attempt going wide, the Red Devils had to continue to fend off further incursions towards their line to ensure their slender lead remained intact.

With a three-week break, over the Christmas period, the players will next be turning their attention to the Cup, with their first round tie being against Wigan & Leigh College, at Leigh Sports Village, on Wednesday, 12th January, 2022.


Nathan Connell, Myles Paul, Josh Wagstaff, George Charnock, Alec Walton, Adam Tierney, Jack Stevens, Josh Higgin, Will Fernly, Charlie Glover, Jack Kenway, Louis Lord, Euan Haynes


Mikey Gillan, Chris Eaves, Oliver Burgess, Ellis Kelly, Linden Taylor, Billy Wadeson

Hopwood Hall 4 Salford Red Devils 34                    Match Report

Salford U 19s College Academy secured their third consecutive in this their first away match of the season, with a hard-fought, but comprehensive, victory over Hopwood Hall College. A first glance at the scoreline might give the impression of an easy ride for the Red Devils, but, in fact, this was far from the case with the home side providing the most physical opponents the Reds have encountered so far this season.

Indeed, for the opening ten minutes, the visitors were put under considerable pressure with Hopwood commanding possession with a number of back-to-back sets as a result of goal-line drop-outs, set restarts, and Salford handling errors.  This, consequently, led to superior field position, which enabled them to launch onslaught after onslaught on the Red Devils’ try-line.

Nevertheless, the line remained intact for the duration of this period, and, in fact, right through to the half time interval, thanks to some magnificent defensive work, during which all the players put their heart and soul into supporting each other throughout.

It is often said that defence wins games, and this is because after forging wave after wave of attacks, the opposition begin to run out of ideas, and frustration sets in, which is exactly what happened on Wednesday.  Although they played the game in the most robust manner, Hopwood were not an overly big side, which enabled the Salford pack to soak up the pressure, and then, when the opportunity presented itself, to turn the tables with a score themselves.

Nothing can be more disheartening than, after ten minutes complete dominance but with nothing to show for it, to go behind with a try on the first foray into your twenty-metre area, which is how the Salford side responded, and thereby turn the game on its head.

It was prop, Euan Haynes, who, on this occasion, did the honours, charging over between the posts giving Jack Stevens a straightforward conversion attempt and putting the visitors six points ahead.  They did not leave it at that, however, backing it up with two more converted scores following quickly on.

In an almost carbon copy of his break in their last outing against Hull, scrum half, Jack Stevens, made a tremendous break through the middle, to set up the supporting Nathan Connell for the second of the afternoon, with Stevens, himself, dummying his way through from close range, for the third.

That, however, was to be his last involvement in the game, as a knock to his shoulder, in the act of scoring, prompted his withdrawal from the field, leaving Jack Kenway to take over the kicking duties for the rest of the match.  The loss of such an influential organiser and incisive attacker was, understandably, a considerable setback to the Reds’ attacking play, which brought an abrupt end to their scoring for the remainder of the half.

Almost as if with second sight that this would happen, coach, Danny Barton, had included no less than three halfbacks, Henry Moran, Adam Tierney, and Billy Wadeson, on the bench, and although it took each of them some little time to adjust to the role Stevens had vacated, they each grew in confidence, as the game progressed, and eventually acquitted themselves with increasing aptitude.

An eighteen-point lead, whilst being quite commanding, is not a winning margin until late on, and so it was all to the good that the next team to score was Salford, which they did on three further occasions, with Haynes and Connell doubling their half time tallies, and winger Myles Paul getting over in the corner shortly before the end.

The game resilience, which their hosts had mustered throughout the entire encounter, was deservedly rewarded with a score of their own, when they opened up the Salford right edge to score too far out for a successful conversion.

It was the calibre of his players’ character and determination, throughout the game as a whole, which most delighted Danny Barton.

“Despite scoring six tries, we were never going to run away with this game,” he remarked, “and any slight let up in our intensity or concentration would have let Hopwood back into it, because they competed all the way through.  As it was, we kept out focus and just stood up to whatever was thrown at us, whilst overcoming setbacks and then taking our opportunities, when they presented themselves.”

Next Week’s Fixture v Barrow Away (Craven Park) KO Time To Be Confirmed

Two converted tries in the last five minutes of this keenly fought encounter, gave the visiting Hopwood College side victory in what was the final U19s’ fixture of 2018.
The fact that the two sides are jointly linked together in terms of sharing facilities, gave the match an extra bit of bite, as both sides endeavoured to impose their supremacy over their friends and rivals, but it was the visitors who got off to the brighter start, when they crossed for two unanswered tries to pull themselves twelve points ahead.
The Red Devils did eventually find their rhythm, however, and started to pull themselves back into the game with two well taken scores.
The first came from prop forward Will Toone, who used his size and strength to crash over between the posts and give Connor Law a straight forward conversion attempt, by which he successfully halved Hopwood’s lead.
Within a few minutes that lead had been all but eroded away when Law showed some fine footwork in the right-hand corner to fox the defence and score.  His conversion attempt on this one and only occasion failed to find its mark, and Hopwood not only hung on to that slender two-point lead, they improved upon it with yet another converted try.
Just before half time, however, Law, yet again, reproduced some of his clever footwork to cross in the other corner, and this time was successful from out wide with the conversion attempt, which brought the half time score to 16-18.
Coach, Danny Barton, was consequently able to speak with a much happier dressing-room than might otherwise have been the case, to encourage the lads to build on the momentum they had built up.
“We had got off to a slow start,” he acknowledges, “but the lads had stuck to their task and done really well to force their way back into things, so we used the time to discuss how we would be able to take further control.”
Whatever the details of this were, they certainly payed dividends because, after ten minutes of attrition, a break down the wing by Law found hooker Connor Aspey supporting down the centre, and he finished off grounding under the posts. Law added on the conversion for good measure, to give the Red Devils a 22-18 lead.
Sadly, the time, over which they held onto that lead, was measured in seconds rather than minutes, for, owing to an error at the subsequent restart from which Hopwoodre gained possession, they levelled the score with an unconverted try.
“That misfortune took a lot out of our lads, and they didn’t really manage to get themselves back up after it,” Danny concedes.
Hopwood, on the other hand, had got the boost they needed, and used the remaining time to good effect by scoring two further tries to take the spoils.
Nevertheless, there were enough positives in the Salford performance for Danny to draw upon and console his charges.
“It was a good game throughout between two evenly matched teams, in which our lads displayed clear evidence of the improvements they have made since the sides last met early in the season,” he assesses. “It was eventually down to some naivety which was our undoing in the later stages of the game.”
The youth, and lack of size of the Salford players, were once again telling factors, and remain issues which only the march of time will adjust.
“Despite this we matched them physically, but at the end it was a couple of Hopwood players, in key positions who were able to use their size and force their way over against our tiring defence – tiring as a result of the effort they had put in throughout the game as a whole.”
Now with a couple of weeks’ respite over the festive period, the players can recoup some energy, in readiness for their return to take part in the knock-out cup competition, which kicks off, immediately upon the resumption, in January,
SALFORD: Josh Stafford, Connor Law, Lewis Roberts, Joe Lawlor, Will Timmins, Callum Hughes, Keiron Prescott, Austin Downham, Connor Aspey, Will Toone, Will Mills, Lewis Zammit, Sam Eyres.
REPLACEMENTS: Dan Goddard, Jak Fairbrother, Josh Bentley, Ben Whitely.

The relentless driving rain, which had precipitated the relocation of the Salford U19s’ home game with Barrow, on Wednesday afternoon, continued to take its toll on the Red team of the Cat 3 squad, by producing playing conditions with which they found the utmost difficulty in coping.
With their own field at the A J Bell completely under water, it was only thanks to the great spirited assistance of our good friends at St Peter’s RC School, Manchester, who most willingly sprang to our rescue by loaning their 4G pitch for the purposes of our fulfilling the fixture.
“It was a tough day for everyone concerned, with us having to decamp to the other side of Manchester, which was a considerable task in itself, but we are extremely grateful to St Peter’s, and our good friend, Jim Dixon in particular, for coming to our aid, and at such short notice,” coach, Danny Barton recounts.
Just as all this had affected Danny, so, too, it will also have affected the players themselves, with the whole build up to the match being disrupted and consequently different to their normal procedures.
“Not only that, the conditions far from suited us, whilst Barrow found them ideal for the physical dominance of their pack to assert itself,” Danny assesses,
“For ourselves, we just have to put it down to another piece of the players’ development.  All I ask is that they stick to working at the processes we have been putting in place, and they will definitely benefit from doing so, as time goes on.”
The game was barely five minutes through, when the visitors swept in for two converted tries, but the Red Devils responded, with a try from hooker, Connor Aspey, who scooted through the defensive line from a play-the-ball, selling a neat dummy on the way.
Unfortunately, goal kicker, Connor Law, was unable to convert, and the Cumbrians proceeded to exploit their dominance by running in a further two tries before scrum half, Keiran Prescott, scored a fine individual try to pull back another four points, and bring the half time score to 24-8 in the visitors’ favour.
With first teamers, Rob Lui, Joey Lussick and  Jackson Hastings, having made the journey across Manchester to support the lads from the touchline, there were hopes that the Salford players would make a quick response, but the second half belonged entirely to Barrow, with their strong powerful forwards taking complete control and forcing their hosts into errors both with, and without, the ball.
Centre, Joe Lawlor, showed some outstanding defence and deservedly was acknowledged as man of the match for Salford.
Next week sees another home game for the Reds, when they play Hopwood, in a return fixture, following their early season, narrow, away defeat.  It will be an ideal test for the players to show how much they have learned and improved in the intervening couple of months.

Salford Red Devils were pleased to take a day of their pre-season training to Hopwood Hall College earlier this week.
The Red Devils have used Hopwood Hall College’s excellent facilities over the past year and have now agreed an official partnership between the two parties to help bring through the next generation of Betfred Super League players.
Head Coach Ian Watson said: “This is a massive step in the right direction for the Club in our aim to produce players as a community club. It’s time we begin to get more of local young players coming through our system with the future aims of the club to have a complete pathway from school, community club, academies through to the first team at Salford Red Devils.
“This is putting us on the right path to begin this process. The fact we can introduce young players from Hopwood Hall College and Salford Red Devils Category Three Academy into first team environments to aid and assist their development is brilliant. These lads are getting rewarded by spending time in and around an environment which allows them to experience life as a professional Betfred Super League player.
“The partnership has been greatly assisted via Matt Calland who I have had a relationship with at Halifax, Rochdale and Wales. They have first-class facilities at Hopwood Hall and with Matt at the helm we know that these lads are being coached to a high standard.
Director of Rugby and Operations, Ian Blease, said: “This is a very exciting and very promising partnership, that has been worked upon for a while now.
“This is one of our key components in our five-year rugby strategy to help us nurture and create the next generation of Salford Red Devils players from the surrounding regions.
“We already have a Category Three Academy at Salford Red Devils which we value, and which will also help us bring through some strong Salford talent along with this new partnership with Hopwood Hall College and our overall rugby strategy long-term.
“Salford Red Devils and Hopwood Hall College are aiming to create a career pathway for rugby talent. Hopwood Hall College captures some of the hottest talent in the Rochdale and Oldham areas and we have now put the Club in a position to access that talent.
“We are also in the process of developing further partnerships for other regions in Manchester and this will only enhance our youth development and rugby strategy. I will continue to push to make this Club stronger in its youth development, scouting, and ultimately, recruitment of local players back into the first team.
“Promoting local talent has to be a huge focus of the Club going forward and it’s something myself and Head Coach Ian Watson are extremely committed to.”
Kris Robinson, Centre Director for Sport and Public Services at Hopwood Hall College, said of the exciting new partnership:
“Having a working partnership with a Super League club the size of Salford Red Devils is a tantalizing prospect for Hopwood Hall College.
“Our learners will regularly get the once in a lifetime opportunity to train alongside and learn from Salford’s high-quality players and coaching staff, the club will have an ideal pipeline for the rugby talent ID of young sportsmen from our college. It’s the equivalent of our catering learners getting to work at the best restaurants or our business learners gaining work experience at blue chip companies.
“It’s also a great opportunity for the college to showcase its training and playing facilities, being good enough for a Super League club as established as Salford Red Devils is a sign of the quality offer, we have for our learners.
“Our relationship with the club has been excellent, from the Director of Rugby right the way down, we’re really looking forward to seeing what the future holds.”
For more information about Hopwood Hall College, visit their website HERE.