It’s been a strange few seasons for Leeds. A season of struggle in 2016 saw them finish in Super League’s bottom four and endure The Qualifiers. 2017 and up and down season eventually ended up with a Grand final win over Castleford Tigers. Last season in 2018 a very disappointing year saw coach Brian McDermott sacked with Kevin Sinfield returning in there hour of need. Another bottom four finish for a club like Leeds with there financial clout saw quite a few changes in the close season. Former player David Furner has come in as Head Coach with Kevin Sinfield moving to Director of Rugby.
There has been quite a lot of player movement at Headingley in the off season. Prolific try scoring winger Ryan Hall has joined Sydney Roosters.
Tuimoala Lolohea has signed from West Tigers, Trent Merrin from Penrith Panthers and Konrad Hurrell from Gold Coast Titans.
Add to that experienced forwards James Donaldson from Hull Kingston Rovers and Dom Crosby from Warrington Wolves the Leeds squad is as big as any in top flight Rugby League.
It’s been a tough start playing two of the competitions fancied sides in Warrington and Wigan with The Rhinos being well beaten in both matches. Salford coach Ian Watson will be wary of a backlash from his opponents this Sunday and is fully aware of the threats Leeds pose.
Over the years Salford have struggled against Leeds, since the start of Super League in 1996 our record against them is abysmal both home and away. Even before that though victorious against the Yorkshire men have been few and far between. If ever a team had a bogey side Leeds are definitely Salford’s.
David Furner won the Championship with Leeds in 2004.
Super League home record
1997 Salford 20 Leeds 33
1998 Salford 6 Leeds 40
1999 Salford 30 Leeds 38
2000 Salford 26 Leeds 34
2001 Salford 14 Leeds 19
2002 Salford 16 Leeds 48
2004 Salford 0 Leeds 44
2005 Salford 12 Leeds 30
2006 Salford 18 Leeds 24
2006 Salford 18 Leeds 19
2007 Salford 26 Leeds 30
2009 Salford 24 Leeds 30
2010 Salford 22 Leeds 31
2011 Salford 22 Leeds 30
2012 Salford 16 Leeds 56
2013 Salford 16 Leeds 42
2014 Salford 18 Leeds 22
2015 Salford 18 Leeds 28
2016 Salford 14 Leeds 10
2017 Salford 24 Leeds 50
2018 Salford 38 Leeds 22
They played for both
Here are a few players to wear the red of Salford and the blue and amber of Leeds.
Luke Burgess, Joel Moon, Mark Brooke-Cowden, Andrew Duneman, Ensene Famailo, Phil Ford, Ashley Gibson, Phil Hassan, Weller Hauraki, Ben Jones Bishop, Andy Kirk, Francis Maloney, Richie Myler and David Young.
A match to remember
Salford 18 Leeds 19 Friday 16th June 2006.
This was to be the third meeting of the two sides in 2006. Leeds had edged a tight game earlier in the season 20-12 at Headingley as well as beating Salford 18-24 at the Willows. The Reds perhaps a shade unlucky in both previous matches.
The Rhinos were really starting to Challenge for trophies having won the Championship in 2004 and were World Champions in 2005 with some real quality in there side. This match in June was another pulsating affair. Salford were enjoying there best season since 1997. So many matches in 2006 had been decided by just one score and in fact quite a few by one point cliff hangers.
Salford managed to weather an early Leeds storm, with Tony Smith’s Rhinos playing there usual swashbuckling style of rugby.
Andy Coley gave us a well deserved lead charging under the posts off a slick Luke Robinson pass. David Hodgson converted 6-0.
Leeds fought back to level the scores before Hodgson had a try disallowed for crossing. The lighting quick winger restored Salford’s advantage with two penalty goals. The Willows faithful were delighted with a 10-6 half time lead in what certainly was an electric atmosphere.
The Rhinos upped the intensity as the second half got in to full swing. Willie Poching crashing over for a try that Kevin Sinfield converted. This nudged Leeds back in front at 10-12.
It was end to end excitement, Hodgson levelled the scores one again with a penalty before scoring a super try in the corner to almost lift the roof off the old Stadium. Holding his nerve once again to boot the conversion off the touch line, 18-12.
The Rhinos kept powering forward with there ferocious pack. Simon Finnigan worked over time in defence for Salford tackling everything that moved. It was like The Alamo at times.
Danny McGuire came to the rescue for the visitors with a piece of individual brilliance. The stand off darting through a gap to sprint to the line. Sinfield levelled the scores 18-18.
As the full time hooter edged ever closer both sides looked to land the knockout blow. Leeds had a huge let off when Andrew Dunemann knocked on close to there line. The Salford half back was having a marvellous season and cut a distinct figure in his black scrum hat.
It was that man McGuire who broke Salford hearts though in the 79th minute landing a drop goal.
It was a bitter pill for Karl Harrison’s Salford side to swallow and there loyal supporters.
As The Reds proved so many times in 2006 they could certainly compete with anyone in The Super League.
The teams that night were;
Salford: Fitzpatrick, Hodgson, Littler, Moule, Langi, Dunemann, Robinson, Coley, Alker, Rutgerson, Brocklehurst, Sibbut, Finnigan.
Subs, Myler, Charles, Highton, Haggerty.
Leeds: Smith, Donald, Walker, Senior, Williams, McGuire, Burrow, Jones-Buchanan, Diskin, Feather, Peacock, Ellis, Sinfield.
Subs, Millard, Lauiti’iti, Bailey, Poching.
David Hodgson starred for Salford in the 2006 fixture.
Success for Leeds this season could depend on how there half back pairing settle together. Ritchie Myler has struggled to find consistency since arriving at Headingley. With a new partner this year in Tui Lolohea big things are expected. The Rhinos boast a big squad with plenty of young talent to pick from. One player to watch is young full back Jack Walker. Kallum Watkins and Tom Bricoe are a duo that should have plenty of tries in them.
Liam Sutcliffe and Stevie Ward have now been established first team players for a good few years and are both very talented.
Speaking after last weeks victory over London, Salford coach Ian Watson knows this will be a big test for his side and will be a good indication of where his team are at. With Jackson Hastings and Robert Lui at half back Salford look dangerous in attack. Niall Evalds is linking up Superbly with his excellent support play. Add to that some dangerous players in the three quarters, in particular new signing Ken Sio, The Red Devils look like they have points in them. You get the feeling defence could be the key this Sunday. Salford’s two victories in the opening rounds have been built on a tremendous defensive effort.
This promises to be a fantastic clash between two sides with so much history and tradition. Confidence and team spirit in the Salford side seems to be at its peak at the moment. The Red Devils are going quietly about there business on and off the pitch. Building momentum is the name of the game for a club that now seems to be getting in the press for the right reasons!
Enjoy the match everyone.