Despite Salford having not played a game in the Cup this season, this match is a quarter final tie. Whisper it gently but a win on Friday puts us just eighty minutes from Wembley.
Since the birth of The Super League in 1996 a lot of emphasis is now heavily placed on the Grand Final for obvious reasons. For me though The Challenge Cup is the Holy Grail. A chance to grace Wembley and follow in the footsteps of so many great players. Wembley has seen some tremendous finals. The Water Splash between Wakefield and Leeds in 1968, Leigh upsetting Leeds in 1971, the all Hull final of 1980, Wigan and Hull’s epic in 1985, Halifax edging St. Helens in a thriller in 1987, two ding dong matches between Bradford and St. Helens in 1996 and 1997, Sheffield turning the tables on Wigan in 1998. The new Wembley has also seen some classic matches too. Catalans lifting the trophy a few years ago was certainly one of the highlights in recent years.
The Water Splash Final of 1968 is one of the most famous cup finals ever.
You’ve got to go back to 1969 for Salford’s last final. A brutal clash with Castleford ended in a close defeat in what was quite a controversial match. Salford have lifted the trophy once in their history beating Barrow in 1938 under the leadership of the great Lance Todd. Such was Lance’s influence on the sport the man of the match award is named after him.
Salford have come close to reaching Wembley over the years. Semi final defeats in 1988, 1997, 1998 and 2017 drive the supporters hunger to finally take the step to the final.
Throughout the clubs glory years of the 1970s the Challenge Cup always seemed to be a huge disappointment. A Wembley final alluded the club throughout the decade with some huge matches on both sides of the Pennines ending in defeats.
Salford have been the fall guys in the a Cup on quite a few occasions, losing matches they were expected to win. Supporters of a certain age will remember 1979 and the two replays against Bramley. The second ending in defeat at Swinton’s Station Road ground. In recent years defeats against Leigh have certainly hurt our pride but let’s remember some of the good times.
Who could forget ending Wigan’s dominance in 1996 in front of a packed crowd at The Willows, putting Warrington to the sword in 1997 at Wilderspool in the Quarter Final and Rangi Chase’s golden point drop goal to win at Hull 36-37!
The Challenge Cup is very special and we will all have memories of wins and loses. This competition captures the imagination, it’s a magical excitement, from hiding behind the couch when the balls are being drawn from the velvet bag to nervously standing on the terraces cheering the team on through thick and thin.
Challenge Cup record against French opposition.
1997, Salford 8 Paris 4. Attendance 5,275, The Willows
2003, Salford 26 Toulouse 10. Attendance 1,590, The Willows.
2010, Catalans 30 Salford 8. Attendance 5,238, Stade Gilbert Brutus.
They played for both.
Despite Catalan Dragons short existence there are a number of players who’ve played for both clubs including Jodie Broughton, Luke Burgess, Iain Thornley, David Berthezene, Todd Carney, Michael Dobson and Richie Myler.
Jodie Broughton, a prolific try scorer for Salford and Catalans.
A match to remember Sunday 23rd February 1997.
Salford Reds 8 Paris St Germain 4.
After an impressive victory over Castleford at Wheldon Road in the previous round, Salford returned to The Willows to face Paris. The French side had enjoyed moderate success in their debut season in 1996 finishing one place above bottom side Workington Town, with three wins and one draw from their twenty two matches. Paris didn’t enter the Challenge cup in 1996 but in 1997 they had beaten Batley 4-38 at Mount Pleasant to set up this fifth round clash with Salford.
This match was a very tense affair. Salford had to be at their best in defence to keep their line intact.
David Hulme looks to offload back in 1997.
Jeremy Robinson kicked two penalty goals for Paris but the match winning try and the games only try went to Salford’s powerhouse winger Fata Sini. Ian Watson nailed two conversion attempts to send Salford through to Quarter Final tie at Warrington.
Referee, Steve Presley
Salford had no fixture last weekend but Catalans were in action. The Dragons played in front of a home crowd in Perpignan for the first time since March. In sweltering conditions quite surprisingly Catalans were swept aside by a very resilient Wigan Warriors side. Terrific in defence and very economical on attack Wigan built up an 0-18 which they went in with at half time. The home side had spent large periods of back to back sets on Wigan’s try line in the first half but were unable to register any points. Two late tries gave the home supporters something to cheer, Wigan took the victory with a 12-28 win.
Catalans brought some really quality players in for the start of the 2020 season and if they can click they could have a big say come the business end of the campaign. Half backs Josh Drinkwater and James Maloney have bags of experience. One man who doesn’t need any introduction is Australian star Israel Falou. Power and pace come hand in hand. To top it off Falou has a magnificent try record as well as being an accomplished defender. Former Wigan aces Sam and Joel Tomkins are now with Catalans along with hooker Michael McLlorum and Lewis Tierney. Add to this a whole host of French talent with Benjamin Jullien, Fouad Yaha, Julian Bousquet and stalwart Remi Casty, coach Steve McNamara has a very capable squad.
After defeats to Leeds and Castleford it’s looking a very big ask for Salford to make the Super League playoffs. Coach Ian Watson will no doubt have his side fully prepared for this match knowing they have a terrific chance of progressing in the competition, especially now with only eight teams remaining. The signing of Kallum Watkins has given the club a real boost and shows their ambition moving forward. Players want to come and play for Ian Watson. He has shown over the last few seasons how much he can improve players and get the best out of them. Salford’s reputation amongst other clubs in the game has definitely grown. The club has worked hard to earn respect and the work ethic that has been instilled has to be one of the most pleasing things for the loyal supporters.
After conceding almost ninety points in their previous two matches Salford must tighten up the defence to have any chance against Catalans. The Dragons posses many attacking threats as I mentioned earlier and if they are at their flamboyant best with the ball Salford will need to tackle like trojans.
With the on going situation the match will be played behind closed doors this Friday in St Helens with a 6pm kick off.
Stay safe and enjoy the match everyone.