Rugby league can be a game of very fine margins as we saw in the Challenge Cup Final on Saturday. The width of defeat was no thicker than a cigarette paper. Salford now face a gruelling fixture schedule of three matches in seven days against Wigan, St. Helens and Warrington.
After Saturday’s tremendous effort at Wembley Stadium their is no doubt Salford coach Ian Watson will want to get back to winning ways and finish the season as high in the League table as possible.
Salford have won the last two meetings, beating Wigan on their on ground in a thunderous playoff semi final last season and The Red Devils produced a storming comeback this season to upset the Warriors back in March.
After a disappointing performance in the Challenge Cup semi final Wigan’s eggs lay firmly in the Super League basket. The pressure is on for them to reach the Grand Final after missing out in 2019. Since returning to action in August the Warriors have lost just twice in the League. A disappointing performance against Hull Kingston Rovers saw the Robins come up with a surprise 34-18 victory. Their only other defeat came mid week before the Challenge cup semi final when a young side were beaten 0-42 by St. Helens.
Wigan currently sit in second place in the Super League two points behind leaders St. Helens. Salford are in eighth position with games in hand on the sides directly above them.
With the fixtures coming thick and fast Salford’s resources will no doubt get severely tested in the coming weeks as the 2020 season reaches its climax.
Super league away record.
1997 Wigan 14 Salford 21
1998 Wigan 34 Salford 6
1999 Wigan 64 Salford 2
2000 Wigan 52 Salford 20
2001 Wigan 70 Salford 4
2002 Wigan 32 Salford 0
2004 Wigan 20 Salford 10
2005 Wigan 40 Salford 12
2006 Wigan 20 Salford 12
2007 Wigan 40 Salford 16
2009 Wigan 34 Salford 18
2010 Wigan 60 Salford 10
2011 Wigan 52 Salford 18
2012 Wigan 38 Salford 6
2013 Wigan 46 Salford 6
2014 Wigan 45 Salford 4
2015 Wigan 19 Salford 12
2016 Wigan 20 Salford 16
2017 Wigan 16 Salford 31
2017 Wigan 42 Salford 0 ( Super eights)
2018 Wigan 30 Salford 0
2019 Wigan 28 Salford 12
2019 Wigan 18 Salford 12 (Top Five Playoffs)
2019 Wigan 4 Salford 28
They played for both.
Over the years there have been plenty of players who’ve been at both clubs at some point in their career. Here are a few of them,
Mal Aspey, Neil Baynes, Steve Blakeley, Gavin Clinch, Andy Coley, Michael Dobson, Mark Flanagan, Martin Gleeson, Sean Gleeson, Wayne Godwin, Bobbie Goulding, Andy Gregory, Steve Hampson, Ged Byrne, Paul O Neil, Harrison Hansen, Gareth Hock, Nathan Mcavoy, Lee Mossop, Jack Murphy, David Myers, Martin Offiah, Sam Panapa, John Pendlebury, Luke Robinson, Tim Smith, David Stephenson, Trevor Stockey, Ged Stazicker, Scott Taylor, Logan Tomkins, Colin Whitfield, Peter Smethurst, Stephen Wild and Phil Ford.
Andy Coley, gave great service to both Salford and Wigan.
A MATCH TO REMEMBER Friday 5th May 2017
Wigan 16 Salford 31.
It had been twenty years since Salford had won this fixture back in 1997. That match was played at the famous old Central Park ground. The Red Devils had endured quite a lot of misery and heavy defeats at Wigan’s new ground but arrived in May 2017 full of confidence playing some thrilling Rugby.
Ian Watson’s side had hit a rich vein of form with just one defeat in their previous eight matches. Wigan under coach Shaun Wane had stuttered to find consistency and came into this clash smarting from a 54-4 hammering at Castleford the previous week.
Salford were in determined mood in the early stages and took a well deserved lead through a nice try from centre Kris Welham.
Michael Dobson orchestrated proceedings at scrum half and his terrific rugby brain put the Warriors firmly on the back foot.
Quick fire tries from Niall Evalds and Ben Murdoch-Masila stunned the home side and Salford looked in total control with a 0-16 half time lead. The Red Devils loyal away following were lapping it up excitedly tucking in to their pies and bovril at the break.
Even with a healthy lead you got the feeling Wigan still had the fire power to blast their way back in the second half. Salford had other ideas and got the perfect start with another Evalds try in the 43rd minute. Four minutes later Greg Johnson finished well to extend Salford’s lead to 0-28.
Two try hero in 2017, Niall Evalds.
Wigan finally got a points on the board when Tom Davies grabbed a try. Salford kept working hard in defence but their was breached by Ryan Sutton with twenty minutes remaining. Lewis Tierney crossed with eight minutes remaining to cut the lead to twelve points. Salford weren’t to be denied and it was Garth O’Brien who put the game to be with a late drop goal and penalty goal.
It was famous night for the Salford faithful who had made their thoughts known all evening with a banner opposing a change of the clubs identity.
The teams that night:
Wigan, Tierney, Davies, Forsyth, Burgess, Marshall, Woods, Powell, Nuuausala, Ganson, Sutton, Isa, Farrell, J Tomkins.
Subs, Tautai, Gregson, Bretherton, Navarrette.
Salford, Evalds, Johnson, Welham, Jones, Bibby, Lui, Dobson, Tasi, L Tomkins,
A Walne, Lannon, Murdoch-Masila, Krasniqi.
Subs, Kopzack, Brinning, Murray, O’Brien.
Referee, Chris Campbell.
The next fixture after a Cup Final is always a difficult one. Last week was a huge one in the history of Salford RLFC for so many reasons. The players and staff have gone through a whole range of emotions. Ian Watson has spoken about the defeat really hurting the players and now the dust is settling I am pretty sure they are all looking to get back out on the field.
Wigan are a tough professional outfit and they certainly won’t be any sympathetic favours from Adrian Lam’s Warriors. Two players who will be looking to impress for the Warriors are Jackson Hastings and Jake Bibby. Both had terrific seasons playing for Salford in 2019 and both will be busting a gut to get back to another Grand Final.
Andy Ackers has been in impressive form recently.
One player who is set to feature for Salford is hooker Andy Ackers. Missing from the Cup Final due to being cup tied Ackers pace around the ruck has added a new dimension to the Red Devils attack. Along with Joey Lussick Salford have two of the best number nines in the country.
Both sides have plenty of grunt and size in the pack. After another try at the weekend the ever improving James Greenwood could be set to battle his younger brother Joe who’s impressed in the Wigan pack recently.
Brothers James and Joe Greenwood.
Wigan’s match with Catalans was postponed last week so you would expect them to be the fresher of the two sides. Ian Watson has ingrained a real steel and determination at Salford. He never looks for excuses, always honest and to the point Watson lives and breaths every tackle and every pass direct from the touch line.
Friday’s match will once again take place behind closed doors in St. Helens. The action gets under way at 5:30pm.
Stay safe and enjoy the match.