Saturday 12th January 1980 seems a life time ago. So much has changed in sport and society in general but that’s how far you have to go back since Salford won this fixture.
The Rubix cube had just made its debut at The International Toy Fair. New Romantics were taking over the pop charts and The British Steel Corporation had started a nationwide strike. Times were changing and so was the sport of Rugby League. Since Salford victory that day good performances in this fixture have certainly been hard to come by. 2007 and ten years later in 2017 were both heartbreaking for Salford and their supporters. Matty Smith kicking the decisive drop goals in both matches 27-26 and 25-24.
The 2017 match was a real bitter pill to swallow after Salford had lead 8-24 going in to the closing stages. It’s hard for me to say it but it was a remarkable comeback from a club that never seem to give in. “Never write off The Saints” as people say!
Surly runs can’t go on forever can they? One things for certain Ian Watson’s men will have to be on the top of their game to have any chance in this fixture. This season has been a strange one so far for The Red Devils who have shown when then click in to gear they can beat anyone as we saw in Perpignan in March and at Warrington on Good Friday.
Super League away record.
St. Helens 22
1997 St. Helens 19 Salford 12
1998 St. Helens 48 Salford 12
1999 St. Helens 48 Salford 0
2000 St. Helens 46 Salford 22
2000 St. Helens 50 Salford 28
2001 St. Helens 66 Salford 16
2002 St. Helens 34 Salford 2
2004 St. Helens 40 Salford 4
2005 St. Helens 46 Salford 12
2006 St. Helens 28 Salford 6
2007 St. Helens 48 Salford 4
2007 St. Helens 27 Salford 26
2009 St. Helens 38 Salford 12
2010 St. Helens 58 Salford 34
2011 St. Helens 31 Salford 6 (played at Widnes)
2012 St. Helens 38 Salford 10
2013 St. Helens 14 Salford 10
2014 St. Helens 32 Salford 12
2015 St. Helens 32 Salford 12
2016 St. Helens 34 Salford 20
2017 St. Helens 25 Salford 24
2018 St. Helens 32 Salford 2
They played for both
Over the years there has been so much player movement between the two clubs. The town of St Helens is a real hot bed of the game with some fantastic amateur set ups including Thatto Heath, Blackbrook and Clock Face. In the Super League era Matty Smith, Jordan Turner, Lama Tasi, Tommy Lee and Theo Fages have all moved to Saints from Salford. Willie Talu, Tony Puletua, Francis Meli, Mark Edmondson, Matty Ashurst, Andrew Dixon, Danny Arnold, Alan Hunte, Josh Jones, Bobbie Goulding, Lee Gaskell ,Paul Forber, Mark Lee, Jake Emmitt and Anthony Stewart to name a few in recent years to represent both sides.
Eric Prescott, Paul Groves, Paul Brownbill, John Mantle, Ken Gwilliam, George Nicholls and Darren Bloor played for both clubs in the pre super League era. The list could certainly go on as there are many more. Alex Murphy and Shaun McRae have coached both sides.
Eric Prescott played almost 300 matches for Salford after signing from St. Helens.
A match to remember 12th January 1980
St. Helens 17 Salford 18
After a successful period for Salford in the 1970s as the decade ended cracks were starting to appear. Players were moving on and some getting older but their was still some stalwarts at the club with Mike Coulman, Colin Dixon, Keith Fielding, Kenny Gill, Alan Grice, Steve Nash, Eric Prescott and Maurice Richards all on the playing roster. Between them they had tons of big game experience and hundreds of matches under their belts.
The 1979/80 season would go on to be modestly successful for Salford with a final league position of fourth. Top of the table at Christmas time and unbeaten in the league for the first few months of the season the supporters were dreaming of good times again.
December 79 was a tough month and three defeats against three of the top sides of that period Bradford, Widnes and Hull Kr were a slight set back.
With young star hooker Paul O’Neil on international duty playing for Great Britain under 24s changes were made. Kevin Ashcroft came in at hooker for O’Neil and Sammy Turnbull played right centre.
The match day programme from 1980.
Scrum halves Dave Harris and Steve Nash were both injured so new signing John McAtee made his debut.
Eric Prescott tackled everything putting in an all action display in the pack.
Mike Coulman ran the ball hard all afternoon against a very tough St. Helens pack that included terrific ball playing forward George Nicholls and big Powerful Eric Chisnall.
The game was nip and tuck all the way. Salford’s three tries came from Coulman, Prescott and Colin Whitfield. Goal kicking full back Steve Rule booted four conversions but the unlikely match winner was veteran hooker Kevin Ashcroft. His drop goal snatched it for Salford in what was a thrilling afternoon at Knowsley Road.
The teams that day;
St. Helens, Brian Parkes, Les Jones, Clive Griffiths, Derek Noonan, Roy Mathias,
Steve Peters, Johnny Smith, Mel James, Graham Liptrot, Eric Chisnall, Chris Seldon, Peter Gorley, George Nicholls.
Subs, Denis Litherland and Roy Haggerty.
Salford, Steve Rule, Keith Fielding, Sam Turnbull, Colin Whitfield, Maurice Richards, Frank Wilson, John McAtee, Mike Coulman, Kevin Ashcroft, Tony Gourley, Chris Mcgreal, Stuart Williams, Eric Prescott.
Referee, Mr J.E. Smith. (Halifax) .
St. Helens have looked a step above the rest of the sides in Super League so far in 2019. Just one defeat in the south of France against Catalans Dragons is the only set back Justin Holbrook’s men have suffered. After a fantastic Easter Saints have eased up slightly in recent weeks. After a hard fought win at Hull Kr last Sunday’s Challenge Cup victory at Huddersfield was in the balance right until the final hooter.
One player who has really stood out for Saints in 2019 is star centre Kevin Naiqama. In his debut season he’s looked outstanding, with a superb off load and brilliant finishing ability. His lightning pace adds a little more quality to what is a frightening back line. Tommy Mackinson and Regan Grace are two of the most prolific wingers in the league.
Kevin Naiqama, is in fine form in 2019.
The pack is quick, mobile and boasts plenty of size and aggression.
Half backs Theo Fages and Johnny Lomax have been linking so well this season playing off that dominate pack. The whole team works like a well oiled machine. Efficient, reliable and relentless. St. Helens are going to take some stopping.
Salford’s defeat in The Challenge Cup last Saturday hit the supporters, Staff and players hard. A really disappointing performance, particularly in the second half were they had no answer to Hull Kingston Rovers dominance.
With Salford’s squad being a small one their isn’t many changes Ian Watson can make but it will be interesting to see the 19 man squad later in the week.
Watson continues to punch above his weight with really limited resources. He certainly has plenty to deal with but nothing seems to faze him. Jansin Turgut left the club last week under a cloud leaving the squad another man lighter.
With lots of rumours of players moving on next year and speculation here there and everywhere a positive performance and result on Friday would be very welcome.
Safe travels and enjoy the game everyone.