LEIGH 16 SALFORD 26 Match Report – David Clegg
After what seems an eternity of waiting, eventually last Friday the Salford Red Devils took to pitch in the first of their warm up matches against the Centurions, at Leigh Sports Village. With heavy rain pouring before and throughout the match, the conditions must have come as a shock to the system to the Salford players recently returned from the considerable warmth of South Africa. For the home side, however, it clearly was just what they had hoped for, and they took great heart from that to raise their game and pressure the Red Devils for the full duration of the match, something for which I am sure Head Coach, Brian Noble, will be quite grateful. That after all is what these matches are about.
Not that the result was ever in serious doubt, as having established a sixteen point lead mid-way through the first half, the Salford players had a cushioning which served to keep them ahead to the final whistle, despite the best efforts of their hosts. The goal-line defence was particularly well organised, and dealt efficiently with every attack Leigh served up, and in fact it was individual lapses in concentration, mi-field, which let Leigh in for their tries.
As expected, on attack there was clear evidence of the expected potent attacking force the Red Devils possess with such high quality players. Scrum half, Tim Smith, shone with his deft handling opening up the Leigh defence for most of the Salford tries. In the forwards, skipper Adrian Morley and fellow prop Lama Tasi worked both tirelessly and effectively, while Francis Meli was a tower of strength in the centre. Fullback Jake Mullaney, kicking in conditions which were totally alien to anything he had hitherto known, was successful with three conversions.
The opening deadlock was broken on 12 minutes when good passing under pressure by Rangi Chase and Francis Meli put Greg Johnson in space and the young winger, with one of his first touches of the ball, powered his way down the touchline, running through tackles and bouncing out of others, to score mid-way between the posts and the corner flag, leaving Mullaney successfully to slot over the first of his conversions.
Six minutes later, the Devils doubled their lead when on the back of a penalty which set up the position, a cleverly timed pass by Smith, as the ball was being moved from left to right, put Andrew Dixon through a gap for a try under the posts, which gave Mullaney his easiest kick of the evening.
Another clever pass from Smith this time wide out to Danny Williams on the right wing set him up with momentum which, despite the attention of the covering defence, saw him go over in the corner, too far out for Mullaney in those conditions to convert, thus leaving the score at 0-16.
A similar attempt by Leigh to score from a long pass to the flank, on 31 mins, saw the effort ruled out for a forward pass. This, nevertheless, gave them some considerable encouragement and they continued to press, keeping the Red Devils encased in their own twenty metre area for much of the remainder of the half, unti two minutes from half time opened their account when a missed tackle by Adam Walne allowed Liam Kay through to cross by the posts, giving Martyn Ridyard a simple conversion.
The second half was barely six minutes old when, having been inspired by their first score, Ridyard intercepted Howarth’s pass from the base of a scrum just inside the Salford half, and with the whole of the Salford back line set to launch an attack, sped the distance to score towards the corner and, with his successful conversion, bring their score to within four points of the Red Devils, at 12-16.
This only served to stiffen the visitors resolve, however, and when excellent work by Meli put Johnson away, once more, the winger was only prevented from a second score by excellent Leigh defence. On 56 minutes though, they were powerless to prevent fullback Jake Mullaney latching onto a clever pass from Rangi Chase to cross near to the corner. The missed conversion left the score at 12-20.
It was left then to Tim Smith to put the Devils out of range when his pass split the Leigh defence for the supporting Tony Puletua to storm thirty metres to the line, and Mullaney made no mistake with the conversion attempt, to extend the scoreline to 12-26, although Leigh were to have the final say, when a long pass to the wing put Ryan Brierley in for the final score.
Of the hardy souls who chose to brave the elements to watch the game first hand, there could have been very few who did not feel a great thrill as they watched the brand new team, containing such renowned figures within the sport of rugby league, taking to the field for our own Salford, resplendent in the racing colours of Chairman, Dr Marwan Koukash. To see their pleasure at a successful outcome at the end of the encounter again rekindled this. You can experience our feelings, yourself, by being at the opening fixture of the season at the A J Bell Stadium, on Sun 16th February, when the Red Devils take on Wakefield Trinity Wildcats.