DEVILS GIVE THEMSELVES A SCARE
Salford 35 Hull 22 Match Report – David Clegg
The rock solid defensive system, which had done so much to provide the platform for last week’s win at Huddersfield, was again faithfully reproduced in Saturday’s home match with Hull FC, for the first fifty minutes. What happened during the remaining thirty will have given the coaching staff some food for thought, because as the game started to swing in the Airlie Birds’ favour, the whole defensive pattern seemed to disappear, giving the visitors confidence and momentum sufficient almost to threaten snatching the league points.
It was all so different in the early period of the game, when a keen and determined Hull dominated territory for long periods, only to be outdone by a controlled and confident defence, which looked as though it could have soaked up all the pressure in the world with consummate ease, and without conceding a try. Whether this took rather more out of the players than appeared at the time is open to speculation, or alternatively having crossed for a third try to put themselves nineteen points ahead they felt they were safe and it was job done.
Nevertheless, they certainly did a grand job for most of the game, and appeared to relish doing so. One tackle by Harrison Hansen (left), newly returned from injury, was an absolute stinger, which must surely be a contender for ‘tackle of the season’, and there were several other big hits, throughout.
With both teams desperate for the points in order to mount a late assault on the top eight, this was in fact an extremely tough and closely fought encounter, which was evidenced by Salford’s decision to kick for goal, after 38 mins, to stretch their lead to twelve points, running up to half time.
Well as the defence operated in this first period, the attack was rather more erratic, with the Red Devils coughing up possession on a number of occasions and hence being confined to their own 30m area for quite long periods. When things got more stressful in the second half, they compounded such errors by giving away needless penalties, which just added to the nerves and the size of their task.
A towering kick, as early as the third minute, from man of the match Rangi Chase (above right), proved too problematic for fullback Jamie Shaul, and his opposite number, Niall Evalds, replacing the injured Kevin Locke, was put clear only for an obstruction to be spotted and penalised by referee, Matt Thomason.
This allowed Hull to apply some not inconsiderable pressure to the Devils’ line, with which the home side did well to cope so confidently, until on 15 mins, Rangi Chase appeared from nowhere to latch onto a Hull pass, and race nearly 80m to the posts for the opening try, goaled by Josh Griffin.
Salford had to wait until the 23rd minute to increase their lead, when Chase’s beautifully timed pass behind the advancing line of attack found Mason Caton-Brown (right), and the centre sped through the gap created, to ground too far out for Griffin to add the extras. 10-0
Griffin’s penalty goal appeared to have wound up the first half scoring, but with the hooter sounding fractionally after a play-the-ball, the Devils got a final play, from which Chase cheekily dropped a goal to take the score to 13-0.
The sin-binning of Jordan Rankin shortly after the resumption was quickly exploited by Chase with a kick to the corner for Josh Griffin to score in the corner, which he then converted from the touchline, giving the Red Devils a seemingly comfortable lead.
This proved not to be the case, for the twelve men promptly regrouped, and launched a series of attacks on the Salford line, culminating with Hadley cutting through a gap, on 55 mins, to open the visitors’ account, at 19-4.
Less than three minutes later they were back, and this time it was Yeaman who crossed on the opposite touchline, for Rankin to land the goal from the touchline and narrow the gap to 19-10.
Salford nerves were settled briefly with two tries on 66 and 69 mins. Fages and Evalds both moved the ball quickly out wide with Johnson getting in at the corner, and then some lovely inter-passing was begun with a forward surge from the ever improving Tony Puletua (left) complete with offload to Fages, who looked capable of scoring himself but, unselfishly, chose to pass to the supporting Tommy Lee, who in turn set up Darrell Griffin (right) for a try under the posts converted by brother Josh. Once more the Devils seemed safe at 29-10.
Not so, though, as Hull mounted further attacks which brought tries so easily that it was difficult to understand just what had gone wrong with Salford’s defence. Yeaman crossed for his second of the evening, and two minutes later Shaul really spread panic among the Salford faithful, with the Airlie Birds suddenly within striking distance, a mere seven points behind.
With the score at 29-22 that first half drop goal now looked invaluable, but Hull still looked capable of scoring twice and taking the lead. Fortunately, Salford were able to hold out, and when in desperation a Hull kick ricocheted behind them, Mason Caton-Brown collected and raced under the posts to give Josh Griffin an easy conversion, and secure the much needed and deserved points for the Red Devils.