It’s going to be strange this Easter with no Rugby League to go and watch. Good Friday is a special day for players and supporters. Salford were due to play Warrington this year on Easter Saturday. With the current situation the world is in their is still no sport so I thought I’d have a look back at some Good Friday fixtures from years gone by in the Super League Era.
Our first season in Super League back in 1997 saw Oldham Bears visit the Willows for the first game of the Easter weekend. A pulsating match saw plenty of tries. Salford’s half back duo of Steve Blakeley and Ian Watson dictated the play, in the pack Paul Forber and Cliff Eccles were outstanding. The Reds raced into a 22-0 lead with Blakeley, Darren Rogers, Andy Platt and Forber all scoring tries.
Steve Blakeley takes on Oldham‘s Luke Goodwin.
Oldham mounted a spirited fight back in the second half and came back to within six points of their hosts. Martin Crompton, Paul Davidson, Luke Goodwin and Darren Abram all put in impressive performances.
Salford were to good though and powered home with tries from Watson and Scott Naylor. This victory made it two from two for the newly promoted Salford Reds. On Easter Monday a nail biting 27-26 victory over Paris stretched our winning start to the season. Salford made it five straight wins shortly after beating Halifax at Thrum Hall before another one point victory over Sheffield Eagles at the Willows 17-16. Ian Watson with a forty yard missile drop goal to clinch the points.
Salford were relegated at the end of the 2002 season. The League campaign for 2003 got under way on Good Friday with a tricky looking match away to Whitehaven. A glorious sunny day made the trip an enjoyable one for the supporters. The picturesque drive along the A595 taking in the beautiful Lake District landscape made this quite a special away trip.
The match was a really tough one, Whitehaven were rugged with a rough set of forwards and plenty of pace in their back line. Leroy Joe had plenty of tricks up his sleeve leaving Salford constantly on the back foot. The partisan Cumbrian crowd sniffed an upset! A very late Chris Charles conversion would save a draw for Salford. Trailing 22-20 Charles held nerves of steel to boot the goal of the touch line much to the relief of the travelling Salford faithful. 22-22 as the hooter sounded on a fantastic contest. Do I think we got out of jail that day? Yes I think we did, funnily enough the return fixture at the Willows ended a draw later in the summer 26-26 this time. Whitehaven were a tough nut to crack that season. To their credit they finished sixth in the table and improved again the following year making it to the National League Grand Final in 2004.
Good Friday 2005 saw Warrington Wolves visit the Willows. Under coach Paul Cullen Warrington had made good progress with some impressive signings and a big squad their were high expectations with the supporters.
Salford seemed to have the ability to really raise their game for this match. The Wolves back line of Brent Grose, Henry Fa’afili, Martin Gleeson, Toa Kohe-Love and Dean Gaskell provided plenty of explosive pace and creativity. Lee Briers was always a player to watch in the halves and on this day another young promising half back Chris Bridge partnered Briers.
Salford were at their very best though, Stuart Littler bagged a hat trick and Warrington couldn’t find an answer to the constant pressure they were put under. David Hodgson, Nathan Mcavoy and former Wolves forward Ian Sibbit all scored tries as Salford battered their local rivals 42-10. Warrington coach Paul Cullen was furious after the match christening the day ‘black Friday’!
Stuart Littler bagged a ”Black Friday ” hat trick in 2005.
Fast forward ten years to Good Friday in 2015. A favourite away trip with many supporters the visit to Huddersfield to face The Giants.
Salford had made a patchy start to the season with a heavy defeat at home to St. Helens and a crazy 40-40 draw in the south of France against Catalans.
Victories at home over Hull, Wakefield and Widnes had seen a steady rise up the table for Iestyn Harris’s Red Devils side and they arrived in West Yorkshire for this evening clash full of confidence.
The Giants were a good side and always tough to play away from home.
This game was nip and tuck, a real battle in the middle between the two packs of forwards. The home side had Craig Kopzack, Craig Huby, Brett Ferres, Jack Hughes and Ukuma Ta’ai with the giant Eorl Crabtree and powerful Michael Lawrence on the bench. Salford could match that though with a front row of Adrian Morley and Scott Taylor. The Red Devils had Corey Paterson, Weller Hauraki and Harrison Hansen in the side with Lama Tasi and Darrell Griffin on the bench. Another player on the bench was young forward Carl Forster. He really made his mark scoring a fine try when he got his chance.
Leading 6-10 at half time Salford just had the edge.
A late Aaron Murphy try got Huddersfield back within six points but Salford held on for another big win 12-18. It was a tremendous atmosphere in the away that night as Salford’s 2015 momentum started gathering pace
They don’t come much better than Good Friday last season.
Following the monumental 0-46 away win at Catalans, Salford’s form had nose dived with four straight league defeats away to Castleford, at home to Wigan, away to Wakefield and at home to Hull. All four matches were fairly tight affairs but Ian Watson’s side were missing something. No one expected what was about to happen at the Halliwell Jones stadium against Steve Price’s Warrington Wolves.
The Wolves were in good form with Blake Austin pulling the strings. A few weeks earlier they had thumped Hull Fc at the KCOM Stadium scoring 63 points. With a potentially devastating back line Warrington we’re capable of opening any team up. Salford would have to be are their best to even have a chance many thought.
Kris Welham try scorer in 2019.
The Red Devils hit the Wolves with a first half whirlwind. Early tries from Joey Lussick and Kris Welham set the visitors up to a solid start which stunned the home crowd. Blake Austin hit back with a try but the first half was all Salford. A delighted Daniel Murray crashed over to score before Robert Lui went in. Krisnan Inu faultless with the boot nailing six conversions. With the scoreboard reading 6-28 at half time Salford’s travelling away support behind the posts were buzzing at the break.
Despite being 22 points ahead the game wasn’t safe yet, Warrington had the players to mount a comeback. Jake Bibby scored just after half time and even with Welham in the sin bin Salford’s determined defence seemed impossible for Warrington to breach. A victory that had everything. Great tries, superb desire in defence, enthusiasm and a pride to fight for every scrap on offer. A 12-36 win made this another very very good Friday!
Stay safe and god bless.