As the Challenge Cup dust settled it was straight back to business for the victorious Warrington Wolves. Taking St Helens out of the equation, the playoff places are so tight, each side knowing a defeat at this stage of the season could prove costly.
Prior to kick off Salford sat 2 points behind second place Warrington knowing a victory would take them level on points with just two regular season matches remaining. A lot has been made recently about the bottom end of the Super League table and the fight to avoid relegation. The playoff race though is equally as fascinating and with Salford’s terrific form of late their supporters arrived in fantastic spirits, believing perhaps something special could still be achieved in 2019.
The Wolves made a couple of changes to their side with Matty Smith coming back in. The well travelled half back had been cup tied for the Wembley final.
A dry fine evening welcomed both teams to the field. The pitch as ever in immaculate condition.
Early Salford pressure along with Tui Lolohea’s smart kicking game caught Warrington on the back foot. A penalty followed with the home side opting to kick the goal. 2-0.
Both sides were excellent in defence particularly on their own goal line. Frustration seemed to get the better of Lama Tasi when he tangled with Tyrone McCarthy and the game turned slightly scrappy.
Salford kept plugging away with Lolohea and his excellent short kicking game.
A tense but entertaining first half ended 2-0 in Salford’s favour.
The Red Devils shot out of the blocks at the start of the second half as they upped the intensity. Niall Evalds came close to scoring but was held up just short. Warrington finally cracked in the 49th minute though, Lolohea’s spiralling kick caused panic for the Wolves. The ball was spilled and Ken Sio swooped to grab the games first try. Krisnan Inu hit the post with his touch line conversion.
Salford are the second highest point scorers in Super League this year and that point was re-emphasised on another wonderful attacking move. The ball was kept alive before Kris Welham produced a brilliant piece of centre play to gift wrap Sio’s second try.
Confidence was now flowing through the Red Devils and roared on by their magnificent home support they responded. Joey Lussick tore through a jaded Wolves defence before finding Jackson Hastings in support. Hastings kept a cool head to send Jake Bibby over for another fine try that took some scoring from the young winger. Inu converted to give Salford a 16-0 lead.
To their credit Warrington kept battling launching a desperate attack. A wayward pass was picked off by Sio who raced the full length of the field to score his hat trick try to seal another victory for the home side.
Young Warrington hooker Danny Walker scored a last gasp try to get his side on the score sheet.
Speaking after the match Salford coach Ian Watson was pleased to get the victory, “we spoke about putting them under the pump and going set for set with them and if we had to win it on the back of kick chase game that’s what we was willing to do. We had to be professional and have the right mind set which we did.”
Salford have now won six games on the trot and travel to Headingley next Friday to face Leeds. Three victories there in the last 60 years (1959,1977 and 2009) make Leeds a bit of a graveyard for Salford sides of the past. Watson knows this is another important game for his side. “We want this one, no qualms about that.”
Just how far can this Salford side go in 2019? It’s going to be a very exciting few weeks ahead.
Salford 22 Warrington 6.