Salford rounded off their pre season with a trip to the Halliwell Jones Stadium to face Warrington in Mike Cooper’s Testimonial match.
Both teams had strong sides on show as the count down to the new Super League season edged ever closer. In many ways this match felt like a dress rehearsal.
The Red Devils struck first, Kevin Brown fired out a super pass to centre Dan Sarginson who powered over to score.
The Wolves hit back when Toby King picked Ken Sio’s pocket, Warrington’s star centre pinched the ball after a tricky high kick. Stefan Ratchford’s conversion edged the home side in front 6-4.
Some strong running from Joe Philbin and Mike Cooper began to cause Salford problems and classy hooker Daryl Clark was his usually nippy self around the ruck.
The stand out performer was Warrington fullback Matty Ashton. After a fantastic season in 2019 with Swinton Lions the youngster was doing everything right. He looked very dangerous with ball in hand, his pace was frightening and defensively he looked very accomplished.
A lovely Salford move brought the game to life when Connor Jones put Niall Evalds through a gap. On the next play clinical handling and a real strong finish saw Sarginson score his second try to restore Salford’s lead. 6-10.
The Wolves seemed to be losing their way and became frustrated. The Red Devils pack we’re really muscling up in what was an impressive first half.
Stefan Ratchford surprisingly kicked a penalty goal two minutes before the break to reduce the deficit to 8-10.
After the entertaining arm wrestle of the first half the game seemed to open up in the second. Salford coach Ian Watson made plenty of substitutions in order to look at certain scenarios and combinations. This probably unsettled the rhythm of his side slightly.
The first action of the second half saw Blake Austin kick a neat Forty Twenty. The Wolves built pressure with back to back sets before a Ben Murdoch Masila error let Salford off the hook temporarily.
Ashton glided through showing his lighting pace only to be brought down via a last ditch ankle tap. This only delayed the inevitable though with Anthony Gelling scoring on the next play as Ratchford kicked for him in space wide out.
Ken Sio spilled the ball under pressure which allowed Warrington to camp on Salford’s line with repeat sets. Brilliant scrambling defence helped the Red Devils repel this onslaught as the Wolves slightly over played their attack.
Former Rugby Union star Luther Burrell raced in to score a try before Tom Lineham sliced through a jaded Salford defence to round off the scoring.
Speaking after the match Salford coach Ian Watson was pleased with his sides progress in the pre season “ we wanted to really focus on how we started the game and the first forty to fifty minutes were the key to that. I thought we dominated for certain periods.” Speaking about Kevin Brown, Watson knows he has a player of real quality in the ranks “ people have wrote him off saying his old or he’s not good enough, he would of definitely partnered Blake Austin at Warrington last year if it wasn’t for the injury and to be fair would their season have been completely different with them two in the halves? Probably!”
Looking ahead to next weeks match at champions St. Helens “ we’ve ticked all the boxes in pre season, it’s the big one for us going there and testing ourselves.
Warrington 26 Salford 10.