For supporters of a certain vintage this match is always eagerly anticipated when the fixtures are released. A bitter rivalry through the 1970s and one of the worst records in Rugby League over the past forty years add to the importance for Salford. Since Super League began in 1996 The Red Devils have won just three home games with Leeds and those three wins have all come fairly recently. Even pre Super league through the 70s, 80s and 90s victories over Leeds were a very rare and savoured occasion.
Over the past fifteen years the Rhinos have created a Rugby League dynasty at Headingley. With their Golden Generation of players the trophies came thick and fast.
Over the past few years that group of players that brought eight Super League Titles and Three World Club Championships to West Yorkshire have one by one retired or left the club.
By Leeds standards the last two seasons have been disappointing. A club in transition some say. That may well be but the Rhinos infrastructure is arguably the strongest in the country. A magnificent stadium with facilities that many football clubs would be proud.
Salford will be looking to kick start their season after a tough contest with Huddersfield last Friday ended in a 10-12 defeat. The Red Devils will need to be on their guard as the Rhinos put fifty points past Tony Smith’s Hull kr last time out.
To add a bit of spice Robert Lui returns to the AJ Bell Stadium and Tui Lolohea will be looking to get one over the club that dumped him last season.
Super League Home Record.
1997 Salford 20 Leeds 33
1998 Salford 6 Leeds 40
1999 Salford 30 Leeds 38
2000 Salford 26 Leeds 34
2001 Salford 14 Leeds 19
2002 Salford 16 Leeds 48
2004 Salford 0 Leeds 44
2005 Salford 12 Leeds 30
2006 Salford 18 Leeds 24
2006 Salford 18 Leeds 19
2007 Salford 26 Leeds 30
2009 Salford 24 Leeds 30
2010 Salford 22 Leeds 31
2011 Salford 22 Leeds 30
2012 Salford 16 Leeds 56
2013 Salford 16 Leeds 42
2014 Salford 18 Leeds 22
2015 Salford 18 Leeds 28
2016 Salford 14 Leeds 10
2017 Salford 24 Leeds 50
2018 Salford 38 Leeds 22
2019 Salford 14 Leeds 46
2019 Salford 28 Leeds 16
Craig Kopzack on the burst in 2016.
They played for both.
Here are a few players to wear the red of Salford and the blue and amber of Leeds.
Luke Burgess, Joel Moon, Mark Brooke-Cowden, Andrew Duneman, Ensene Famailo, Phil Ford, Ashley Gibson, Phil Hassan, Weller Hauraki, Ben Jones Bishop, Andy Kirk, Francis Maloney, Robert Lui, Richie Myler and David Young.
Robert Lui became a huge fans favourite at Salford.
A match to remember Sunday 11th February 2007.
Salford 26 Leeds 30.
This was the opening match of the 2007 season. After Salford’s heroics of the previous season finishing 5th in the Super League coach Karl Harrison made some very exciting signings to strengthen his squad. Power house forward Mark Edmondson joined along with the exciting back Luke Dorn. Michael Korkidas had been a real fans favourite at his previous clubs and his signing made Salford’s pack quite a significant size!
On a chilly afternoon at The Willows a bumper crowd of over 8,000 packed the terraces creating a terrific atmosphere at kick off.
The Rhinos started at a blistering pace leaving Salford shell shocked.
New signing Brent Webb scored a brace of tries with Danny McGuire and Rob Burrow also going over in a thunderous first half display. John Wilshere raced over off a nice Aaron Moule pass to get Salford on the scoreboard.
6-22 down at halftime Wilshere grabbed his second try shortly after the break.
After Clinton Toopi had been penalised for a flop Salford moved the ball down field and Moule scored from dummy half from short range after Alker had gone close. Luke Robinson added the conversion to make it 16-22 after 49 minutes.
The Willows faithful were roaring their side on who had showed great character to rattle the Rhinos.
Luke Robinson put in a big performance back in 2007.
Leeds kicked a crucial penalty goal to post their first points of the second half.
The visitors then had a large slice of luck land their way after 69 minutes when Wilshere lost control of the ball after taking a cross field bomb by McGuire and Jordan Tansey was on hand to touch the ball down. 16-30.
Salford wouldn’t go away and kept the ball moving with a renewed urgency. This time it was Gareth Haggerty who got the try after a driving run from close range. Robinson added the conversion to make it 22-30.
There was even more drama when Aaron Moule created the extra man out wide to score after a flowing move across the entire width of the pitch. Robinson could not add the conversion though but the Rhinos lead was cut to just four points at 26-30. This set up a real frantic, grandstand finish. Unfortunately Salford couldn’t get the heroic last gasp try they deserved.
Both sides seasons couldn’t have ended in more contrasting circumstances.
Leeds finished second in the table and went through the playoffs to the Grand Final at Old Trafford. A memorable 33-6 thumping of St Helens saw them crowned champions.
Salford finished bottom with just 13 points, 7 points adrift of Hull Kingston Rovers. Relegation to National League one was a bitter pill to swallow.
The teams that day;
Salford, Hodgson; Halliwell, McGuinness, Moule, Wilshere; Dorn, Robinson; Coley, Alker, Jewitt, Edmondson, Littler, Finnigan. Subs used: Korkidas, Haggerty, Adamson, Brocklehurst. Tries: Wilshere (2), Moule (2), Haggerty. Goals: Robinson (3).
Leeds, Webb, Donald, Toopi, Senior, Gibson, McGuire, Burrow, Bailey, Diskin, Leuluai, Lauiti’iti, Ellis, Sinfield. Subs used: Sructon, Jones Buchanan, Tansey, Thackray. Tries: Webb (2), Burrow, McGuire, Tansey.
Referee, Ian Smith.
Saturdays match .
Looking ahead to Saturday you get the feeling that this match could be won in the battle of the packs. Against Huddersfield in round three Salford lacked their usual grunt upfront. Gil Dudson missed out through illness, Sebastine Ikahihifo couldn’t play due to his loan agreement and Adam Walker is still unavailable.
Coach Ian Watson will be hoping to get Dudson back in the front row with Lee Mossop.
Watson will also be sweating on half back Kevin Brown. Brown was sin binned after an ugly and perhaps clumsy clash with Jordan Turner in the closing stages last Friday. Tui Lolohea shouldn’t need any motivation for the fixture and will be looking to impress.
As well as Robert Lui the Rhinos possess another quality half back in Luke Gale. The former Castleford Tigers talisman signed in the close season after five seasons at Wheldon Road. If these two can click in 2020 Leeds could make a big impact.
Rhinos head coach Richard Agar as an exciting crop of young players awaiting their chance as well as over seas stars Konrad Hurrell, Adam Cuthbertson and Matt Prior to call on. It’s an impressive looking squad and Salford will need to be at their best defensively to combat the pace and power Leeds will throw at them.
Konrad Hurrell is definitely a player to watch.
Salford have plenty of attacking weapons of their own. Dan Sarginson has really caught the eye so far this season. Wingers Ken Sio and Rhys Williams provide pace and can both finish when provided a chance.
Joey Lussick had a fantastic match the last time the two sides met. Salford won at Headingley 12-20 last year and Lussick with his pace from dummy half caused Leeds a raft of trouble all match.
The Red Devils could be forced to make changes as Kevin Brown awaits his fate this week. With Chris Atkin patiently waiting for his opportunity he could be the man to fill in if needed.
This promises to be an explosive encounter and a match not to be missed.
The action gets under way at 2pm.
Safe travels and enjoy the match everyone.