This will be the first meeting between the Devils and the Dragons at The magic weekend.The Dragons come in to the game bottom of the Super League table but in recent weeks have shown major improvement. A home victory over Hull FC and a creditable performance away to St. Helens have certainly given Steve McNamara and his team hope of avoiding the bottom four.
New signing Josh Drinkwater could be the missing piece in the Catalan jigsaw having slotted in perfectly in his first few games for the club. Having spent 2017 with Leigh Josh’s organisational skills will get his team around the park.
Salford come in to this game on the back of a very disappointing defeat to Leigh in The Challenge Cup last weekend. In the previous weeks before that a 30-0 defeat to Wigan and a 10-60 home drubbing to St. Helens has left Ian Watson’s boys looking for a response. Salford still have a small cushion above the sides in the bottom four but are fully aware things can change very quickly.
Sunday will be The Red Devil’s fourth visit to Newcastle’s St James’s Park. This time last season Salford were soaring in to this fixture in magnificent form. Fast forward twelve months and despite some pivotal players leaving the club a top eight finish is definitely there for the taking.
Magic weekend record
2007 Salford 18 Warrington 50. Millennium stadium Cardiff
2009 Salford 16 Harlequins 24. Edinburgh Murrayfield
2010 Salford 16 Warrington 68. Edinburgh Murrayfield
2011 Salford 12 Celtic 42. Millennium stadium Cardiff
2012 Salford 38 Huddersfield 34. Manchester Etihad Stadium
2013 Salford 28 Widnes 22. Manchester Etihad Stadium
2014 Salford 24 Widnes 30. Manchester Etihad Stadium
2015 Salford 16 Widnes 38. St James Park Newcastle
2016 Salford 18 Widnes 12. St James Park Newcastle
2017 Salford 36 Leigh 22. St James Park Newcastle
They played for both.
Despite Catalan Dragons short existence there are a number of players who’ve played for both clubs including Jodie Broughton, Luke Burgess, Iain Thornley, David Berthezene, Todd Carney, Michael Dobson and Richie Myler.
Magic weekend game to remember
Salford 18 Widnes 12 , 21st May 2016
Samoan international Daniel Vidot scored his first Super League tries to inflict an eighth successive defeat on a Widnes side who had led the Super League table a few months earlier.
The former Brisbane Broncos winger, who missed the first three months of the season with a shoulder injury, opened the scoring after only three minutes and returned from a concussion assessment to add his second on 67 minutes which ultimately sealed an 18-12 success.
Inspirational captain Kevin Brown had returned for The Vikings but some fantastic Red Devil’s defence kept the half back quiet. Junior Sau and Ben Murdoch Masila proving a real handful for Widnes all afternoon.
Both sides defended with real gusto to make this match a real thriller with plenty of chances. Rhys Hanbury and Joe Mellor pulling the strings for The Chemics.
Justin Carney came up with a try saving tackle late on to deny Widnes winger Cory Thompson and Gareth O Briens penalty goal gave Salford a six point cushion 18-12.
Much to the delight of their travelling army of supporters The Red Devils hung on for a much needed victory.
The teams that day;
Salford: O’Brien, Carney, Sa’u, Bibby, Vidot, Lui, Dobson, Kopczak, Tomkins, G. Griffin, Murdoch-Masila, Jones, Flanagan.
Replacements: Hauraki, A. Walne, Joseph, Lannon.
Widnes: Hanbury, Thompson, Runciman, Bridge, Marsh, Mellor, Brown, O’Carroll, White, Dudson, Houston, Dean, Cahill.
Replacements: Heremaia, Manuokafoa, Whitley, Leuluai.
A really significant match for both sides. A win for the Dragons will put them just two points behind The Red Devils. On the other hand victory for Salford will keep their breathing space between the bottom four.
The big question on most supporters lips will be – is Robert Lui back in the side? The star man as he’s affectionately known pulls the strings at the heart of this Salford side and so much of the attacking play comes off him. As mentioned before Josh Drinkwater is a key player for the Dragon’s and former Red Devil’s winger Jodie Broughton scored a hat trick in the cup last week.
Catalan have plenty of size in the pack and glancing at their playing roster it’s hard to understand why they have struggled so much given the talent at their disposal. Coach Steve McNamara will be out to prove his critics wrong on the big stage in Newcastle. The same can be said for Ian Watson. After three defeats on the spin it would be unfair to say he’s under pressure but knowing the very high standards Ian sets he will be demanding a big performance after last week. All the ingredients are there for a fascinating encounter. The action gets under way at 1pm this Sunday.
Enjoy the game everyone, Paul Whiteside.