After fifty one years the day finally arrived. Salford proudly walked out at the iconic Wembley stadium to contest for Rugby League’s holy grail, The Challenge Cup.
A competition steeped in glory, memories and history. Even though the match was behind closed doors everyone involved with Salford Rugby League club knew the importance and the huge prize at stake. Salford’s only Challenge Cup wine came back in 1938. That side has since been immortalised and the same fate lay in store for Ian Watson’s side of 2020 if they could get the job done.
Watson made changes with Dan Sarginson and Jack Ormondroyd sadly missing through the positive virus tests. Every Salford supporter hopes those two get their chance again in the near future. Niall Evalds slotted back in at fullback. The rest of Salford’s starting thirteen remaining exactly the same as the semi final.
Leeds settled in to the game the quicker of the two sides and limited Salford territory wise in the early exchanges. You could hear the crunch of every tackle in what was a strange atmosphere.
Lovely quick hands from Salford almost came off but it was Leeds who got the opening points. A nice offload from Conrad Hurrell put Tom Briscoe over. Briscoe hugging the touch line by a matter of millimetres. Rhyse Martin booted the goal in off the up right.
Salford showing their true character hit back. Luke Gale’s attacking kick was taken comfortably by a Kallum Watkins, he found Niall Evalds who put Rhys Williams racing away. The welsh dragon went the full length of the field. Krisnan Inu levelled the scores at 6-6.
Leeds were denied a try from James Donaldson for a double movement but took a half time lead when winger Ash Handley strolled in.
Returning after injury Niall Evalds looked liked he’d never been away. As sharp as ever Salford’s star full back linked up superbly in attack and defence.
Pauli Pauli crashed over for the first points of the second half to peg the Rhinos back at 10-12.
Leeds continued to defend manfully and showed fantastic resilience at times.
Salford wouldn’t go away and when a high Tui Lolohea kick was allowed to bounce the Red Devils took their chance. James Greenwood who has made a habit of scoring important cup tries went over to put Salford in front for the first time in the match.
Leeds soon levelled, Handley finished a nice move and with Martin’s falling wide the scores were level at 16-16.
Richie Myler has been a real star all match and he attempted to win the match with a drop goal that footed wide.
Salford then went to win it. Super ball work from Watkins and Evalds put Williams away. Sadly the Welshman couldn’t hold a difficult pass.
Five minutes from time Luke Gale found the mark with a drop goal to hand Leeds a one point advantage.
Watson’s heroes kept battling away desperately attacking in the closing minutes but just couldn’t find the match winning play.
You can be very proud of your club, players, coach, supporters and City.
Salford Red Devils have come so far over the last few years and now is the time to stick with this great club.
Salford 16 Leeds 17.