After last Friday’s frantic finish and extra time drama Salford now embark on the next phase of the 2019 journey. The last time Salford made the playoffs in this format was back in 2006. A heavy defeat in the elimination match away at Bradford cut short what was on the whole a season of real progress.
Back then we entered the playoffs on the back of a disappointing defeat at London. This time we’ve won eight matches on the trot in what has been a remarkable run of games since the beginning of July.
Although the 17-16 victory against Hull kr wasn’t the most polished display of the season it showed the Red Devil’s relentless desire to win. This group of players have gained a momentum and belief throughout the year.
Every single person involved with the club is pulling in the right direction. Working for each other with a smile on their faces, the club is gaining huge respect and many friends in the Rugby League community and for the loyal band of supporters it’s heart warming to see.
Friday nights opponents Wigan like Salford are in very good form too. Coach Adrian Lam had a difficult task at the start of the year following on from Shaun Wane. Lam has made his own mark on the team and that gritty determination and tough win at all costs mentality has shone through in recent weeks.
Wigan won the inaugural Grand Final in 1998 and since then have gone on to win the title at Old Trafford on four occasions, 2010, 2013, 2016 and 2018.
The Warriors success over the years is quite untouchable. With 22 Championship wins, 19 Challenge Cups and 4 World club titles they are probably the most famous Rugby League club in the world.
Salford have met Wigan 3 times already this season. 2 pulsating clashes at The AJ Bell Stadium saw the Red Devil’s come up just short losing 22-30 and 26-30.
Salford and Wigan in action earlier in the season at The AJ Bell Stadium.
The fixture at the DW Stadium at the end of June Wigan came out on top again 28-12, the week after saw a very disappointing home defeat to Huddersfield. Since that match against the Giants though Salford have been on an amazing winning run. You have to go back to October 1973 to compare a winning league run to this one. Back then Salford won nine league games on the spin. The Rolling Stones were at number one with Angie, a pint of beer would of set you back about 14 pence and a litre of petrol around 8 pence!
One things for sure, I don’t think Salford’s loyal supporters will be complaining about inflation if their side gets a win this Friday.
Championship play off record against Wigan
16th April 1910, semi final, Salford 6 Wigan 16
18th April 1914, semi final, Salford 16 Wigan 5
22nd April 1933, semi final, Salford 14 Wigan 2
28th April 1934, Final, Salford 3 Wigan 15 (at Wilderspool)
3rd May 1969 round 2, Wigan 21 Salford 26
30th April 1972 round 2, Wigan 9 Salford 21
29th April 1975 round 2, Wigan 35 Salford 17
They played for both
Over the years there have been plenty of players who’ve been at both clubs at some point in their career. Here are a few of them,
Mal Aspey, Neil Baynes, Steve Blakeley, Gavin Clinch, Andy Coley, Michael Dobson, Mark Flanagan, Martin Gleeson, Sean Gleeson, Wayne Godwin, Bobbie Goulding, Andy Gregory, Steve Hampson, Ged Byrne, Paul O Neil,
Harrison Hansen, Gareth Hock, Nathan Mcavoy, Lee Mossop, Jack Murphy, David Myers, Martin Offiah, Sam Panapa, John Pendlebury, Luke Robinson,
Tim Smith, David Stephenson, Trevor Stockey, Ged Stazicker, Scott Taylor, Logan Tomkins, Colin Whitfield, Peter Smethurst, Stephen Wild and Phil Ford.
John Pendlebury, excellent ball playing forward who played for both clubs.
A match to remember Sunday 30th April 1972.
Championship playoff round 2, Wigan 9 Salford 21.
After a good run towards the end of the season which included a nail biting 0-2 victory at Station Road against Swinton, Salford finished in 5th position one place in front of rivals Swinton. Back then their were 30 teams in the league, it wasn’t until 1973 that the two divisions came in to place.
Wigan had finished fourth and both sides went in to the top 16 playoffs in Good form.
In round one Salford best Dewsbury at The Willows 21-7 with tries from Colin Dixon, Chris Hesketh and Phil Ward. David Watkins kicked seven goals. Welshman Watkins went on to be the seasons top points scorer in 1971/72 season with a tremendous 473, from 30 tries and 192 goals.
Wigan progressed through round one beating Oldham 18-8 at Central Park. Kieron O Loughlin scored a hat trick of tries in that match. Kieron played for Salford later in his career and he is current Wigan captain Sean O Loughlin’s Dad. Billy Davies also scored a try and Colin Tryer kicked three goals to set up a second round clash with Salford.
It was two to one in meetings that season. Wigan had won twice at The Willows 12-16 in January in the first round of The Challenge cup and the league meeting 14-24. Salford had won away at Central Park in the league 10-13.
Red Devil’s coach Cliff Evans had enjoyed previous success with St Helens and Swinton. Now Cliff was getting results with a Salford side that liked to play a flamboyant and expansive style of rugby.
Coulman and Dixon had a great partnership and friendship, both were try scorers at Wigan in 1972.
Forwards Mike Coulman and Colin Dixon crossed for tries in a dominant performance. Half backs Kenny Gill and Peter Banner bossed the match with Gill grabbing a try. Pack grafter Alan Grice tackled everything in another all action display from a real unsung hero. The reliable Watkins booted six conversions to see Salford through to the Play off semi finals.
The teams that day;
Wigan, Colin Tyrer, Kevin O Loughlin, David Hill, Bill Francis, Kieron O Loughlin, Billy Davies, Frank Parr, Dennis Ashcroft, Colin Clarke, Terry Cramant, Bill Ashurst, Eddie Cunningham, Doug Laughton.
Salford, Paul Charlton, Paul Jackson, David Watkins, Chris Hesketh, Maurice Richards, Ken Gill, Peter Banner, Terry Ramshaw, Derek Clarke, Alan Grice, Colin Dixon, Bill Kirkbride, Mike Coulman.
Referee, Billy Thompson.
Away form this season has been a real strong point for Salford. Nine wins on the road out of fourteen games is quite a remarkable achievement and was certainly unthinkable at the start of the year. The manner that some of those away matches have been won will definitely cause a slight concern for Wigan. The Red Devil’s have put quite a few sides to the sword really convincingly in particular the two trips to Warrington, Catalans away and last months match at Hull.
As I mentioned earlier Wigan are also in excellent league form. The Warriors claimed second spot after winning twelve out of thirteen matches in the second half of the season. Their only blemish, a defeat to St. Helens 32-10 in July.
It was a tough start to the season though with just one win in their first six matches.
For Salford Gil Dudson and Mark Flanagan will be available after missing last week. Coach Ian Watson knows that the task in hand is a huge one. The Warriors are tough and play a very physical style of rugby league. They can be brutal at times and as the current Champions will have plenty of expectation on them from their home crowd.
Jackson Hastings and Jake Bibby will leave Salford at the end of this season to join the Warriors and both will be out to impress. Hastings has the drive and fearless ambition to get the maximum out of the players around him. This is the perfect stage for him to thrive on with the match be televised. Jake Bibby has been in excellent try scoring form of late with a try in each of the last four games.
Wigan’s back line has caused Salford problems in the previous three meetings all ready this season, in particular the left edge. The battle of the two forward packs though is perhaps were this game will be won and lost. Oliver Partington has really come of age in 2019 for the Warriors. The 21 year old has plenty of aggression and has been very impressive. Joe Greenwood is one to watch and Willie Isa can be a real handful. Despite being 37 in a couple of months time club captain Sean O Loughlin has all the experience in the world when it comes to the big occasion. He might not have the pace these days but is still quick between the ears and will guide his team around the pitch.
Salford have plenty of talent though to combat Wigan. Joey Lussick has scored two priceless try’s against Leeds and Hull Kr in the last two matches. Tui Lolohea continues to blossom and the ken Sio, Kris Welham partnership has been very valuable. Krisnan Inu is a really danger and has shown some unbelievable pieces of skill this season. With quite a few ex Wigan players in the pack for Salford the forward battle in this match should be box office.
Both sides will be full of confidence and this makes the fixture an unmissable one.
The action gets under way at 7:45pm.
Safe travels and enjoy the match everyone.