North East 16 Salford 24
Salford Red Devils U16s built on their home victory of the previous week with a much more intensely fought win away in the North East, at the home of the Newcastle Falcons. That they were made to battle throughout, however, came as no surprise to Head Coach, Danny Barton.
“We knew it was going to be tough and so it turned out to be,” he reflects, “though we actually started off really well, and we controlled the game for the first eight to ten minutes, thanks to the way we completed our sets and then put the North East back under more pressure.”
The result of this fine start was an early unconverted try by winger Ben Moseley, and Danny believes that had his charges backed this up with a further score then the tit for tat encounter, which followed, might have been averted. As it was, it proved to be the home side who were next to get over the line, and, indeed, take the lead with their successful conversion.
“Their try came on the last play of the set,” he recalls. “Our defence was not as good as it should have been.
“In fact our defence, in general, was not really up to the mark, so we shall be doing a lot of work on that during the coming week. Our line speed was quite sluggish and we looked a bit lethargic overall, in this area.”
Nevertheless, there were plenty of other aspects of his side’s performance which delighted him.
“Our attack was really good, and, when we got our shape right, we looked as though we could have scored nearly every time,” he enthuses. “Things may be a little inconsistent at the moment, but that is only to be expected, because we have only been together a relatively short time. Improvement will come over time.”
A narrow 14-12 half time lead, as a result of further tries from Lewis Clarke and Jamie Abram, showed the closeness of the contest to that point.
“Credit to them, the North East got back into it, and really took the game to us,” he explains. “They had a couple of big strong forwards who made an impact, while some of our decision making, particularly out wide, was questionable.”
Fortunately, it was the Red Devils who extended their lead, shortly after half time, when Lewis Clarke went over for his second try, which was one of only two to be converted, the first by Keegan Brennan and this second by Will Cartlidge. Thankfully, for the first time, this put some daylight between the sides.
Not that the visitors were allowed any respite by their hosts, and indeed a sin-binning, as the result of a trip, made for a hard ten minute spell with the Red Devils down to twelve men. Pleasing as it was that they held their line intact for the whole of this spell, it was the North East who were next to pull back to within a try, before Tyler Dupree wrapped up the scoring, close to the end.
Grand as the venue, and great as the experience of playing in such an environment, both were, Danny felt that the size of the pitch did affect the game.
“Neither side had had previous experience of playing on such a large pitch, which, for lads of this age, was extremely tiring, and certainly affected the quality of the game, as the second half wore on,” was his opinion.
With the same two teams coming up against each other again this coming Saturday, in the return fixture here at the A J Bell, KO 2pm, Danny is certain that his troops will be under no illusion as to the task in front of them, but is happy for them to have the opportunity of backing up their win again, then.
“It’s good that we have had the chance to have a look at them, and they at us,” he maintains. “It doesn’t happen many times that this happens, so we now get the chance to look at the video to see where we can improve.
“We won’t particularly be looking at the opposition, because really we have to concentrate on ourselves and ensure the improvements happen on the field.”
He assures me there will be no element of complacency, as he believes the players are fully aware as to how close matters were at certain stages in last weekend’s encounter, and that they will now realise the importance of maintaining pressure on their opponents, and coming up with better options throughout the game.
David Clegg