SO NEAR YET SO FAR
Castleford 14 Salford 10 Match Report – David Clegg
A heartbreaking Castleford try, by Webster in the last minute of the game, brought the Tigers victory, and the Red Devils a defeat they really did not deserve, for they had been clearly the better side throughout the second half. Indeed this was by far the most complete performance the Salford players have put in this season, and they looked every inch the team we have for so long been waiting to see, dominating possession and overcoming the wet conditions with a completion rate far better than that of their opponents. It is such a shame that they were not rewarded with the points.
Yet it all could have been so different if, eight minutes earlier, Francis Meli’s inside pass, following his break, to the supporting Niall Evalds (right) had found its mark, but last line of defence, Luke Dorn, cleverly anticipated the play, and got his hand to knock the ball off course. With the line at his mercy, and pace to burn, Evalds would have been an undoubted scorer under the posts, and at 16-8 one might have been confident that the Devils would have been out of sight.
With that one act of desperation, Dorn not only saved his team from disaster, he gave them the lift initially to hang on in the face of Salford’s subsequent assault on the home line, and then to launch one final attack of their own, which eventually brought about their win.
The first half had been very much an error strewn affair, with both sides struggling to hold onto the slippery ball. Playing down the slope at the Mend A Hose Jungle, Salford had by far the better of the field position, but the Tigers’ defence was always equal to the task of keeping its line intact, as indeed was that of the visitors. Unsurprisingly, therefore, points were very much at a premium, and it was not until the 28th minute that left winger Carney out-jumped Greg Johnson, to collect Castleford’s high kick into the corner, and with it the opening try, converted from the touchline by Sneyd.
Although there was little difference in the opening exchanges of the second half, Salford served notice of their intent, on 15mins, with a great break by Evalds, which split open the Cas defence for the first time. Unfortunately, a penalty in a kickable position – Cas’s only penalty of the second half – saw Sneyd extend their lead to eight points, shortly afterwards.
It took a mere five minutes for the Red Devils to respond. A penalty took them within striking distance, and then sharp handling of the ball along the line created enough space for Junior Sa’u (above left) to squeeze himself over the line, and bring his side back into contention at 4-8.
Five minutes later, coach Iestyn Harris played his trump card with the reintroduction of second rower, Gareth Hock, (right) who scored with his first touch of the ball in that spell, running a great angle into space, to give Rangi Chase a relatively straight forward conversion, and put Salford in front at 10-8. It all looked so promising from that point onwards, only for Cas to have the final say with their last gasp converted try.
This will long be regarded as the one that got away, but the fact that the Red Devils came so close to bearding the Tigers in their own lair, where so many teams have foundered this season, will have given great heart to the fans, players and coaching staff alike, as they start to produce some significant momentum in their performances. That next win cannot be too far away.