With the home straight of the regular season in sight, both sides came in to this match on the back of excellent away victories. Catalans Dragons were four points above Salford at the kick off with Ian Watson’s men knowing a victory would keep them well in the playoff hunt.
Derrell Olperts returned to the side after Junior Sau left in the week to sign for Leigh Centurions. Crowd favourite Sau had been a real mainstay of the Salford side for the last six seasons and news of his move came as a surprise to many, especially with the size of The Red Devil’s squad. At 32 years of age he still has plenty to offer and with over a 140 appearances for Salford his experience will be a huge benefit to his new side. Leigh play Widnes next Sunday in the 1895 Cup semi final with a place at Wembley up for grabs.
The last time Salford met Catalans was in Perpignan back in March. The Red Devil’s came up with one of those performances where everything went right. Playing some outstanding attacking Rugby League, scoring some special tries the Dragons were completely outclassed 0-46. It was a trip the travelling Salford faithful will remember for years to come.
Despite some good results since the Catalans have been prone to the odd disappointing display and remain one of Super League’s enigmas.
Salford were sensational last week at Warrington but we’re desperate to impress on their home ground after a very poor performance last time out at the AJ Bell Stadium against Huddersfield.
It was a cagey start to the match. Both sides made mistakes early on and were conservative in possession. The first points arrived from a Sam Tomkins penalty goal after eight minutes.
Salford came close to scoring from a Josh Jones break but his pass to Jackson Hastings was slightly early allowing The Dragons to hold out with some frantic defending.
Red Devil’s stand off Tui Lolohea put in a teasing kick which collided with the posts before landing kindly for new signing Josh Johnson. The forward looked delighted, scoring on his home debut in front of a jubilant South Stand.
Catalans hit back shortly after with a try from Sam Kasiano. The giant forward took advantage of a defensive clock off to power over.
Trailing 6-8 as half time edged closer Salford grabbed to quick tries to turn the match around. Derrell Olpherts finished well before another sublime Lolohea kick was plucked out of the air by Kris Welham to send the hosts in at the break 16-8 up.
Sam Tomkins who was brilliant under the high ball all afternoon turned try provider three minutes into the second half. The former Wigan star sliced through before sending Brayden Wiliame racing under the posts. Tomkins conversion brought the scores to 16-14 but that was a good as it got for the Dragons.
After weathering a brief storm Salford clicked into gear. A sensational Welham break saw the veteran centre burst through with a terrific hand off. Lolohea was in support to score his first try for the club. It was great centre play from Welham who has become Salford’s ‘Mr Reliable’.
David Mead had a try disallowed before Catalans misery was compounded on the very next set of six. Hastings running at the line committing defenders before putting the supporting Niall Evalds away to score. Lolohea took over the kicking duties to bring the score to 28-14 as the match entered the final quarter.
Adam Walker and Mickael Simon had a nasty collision from the kick off where both players had to leave the field after a head clash.
Welham bagged his second try with nine minutes remaining off another pin point precision Lolohea kick. Welham who was making his 300th career appearance was outstanding in attack and defence from minute one. In a vintage performance you could argue a strong case for this being Welham’s finest outing in a Salford shirt.
Mark Flanagan crashed over in the final minute to round off the scoring in what was a very physical and bruising encounter.
Speaking after the match Salford coach Ian Watson felt the week off next weekend had come at a good time for his side. “The break now gives us chance to freshen up. We’ve had a few players who have been busted and not been able to swap to many around. This will do us good both as a team and individually.”
Watson also paid tribute to Kris Welham “ I think Kris has been one of the most consistent players in my time here. He doesn’t always get the plaudits but does the little things really well. Ideally we’d like to keep him next year”
Salford are back in action on Sunday 4th August when they travel to the capital to face London Broncos.
Salford 40 Catalans 14