After four hundred and thirty five days without home supporters Salford Red Devils finally had their loyal band of followers back in the stadium for the visit of Wigan Warriors. Ironically the match all those months ago in 2020 was this fixture, Salford stormed back to win that 18-14. After a disappointing start to the season the Red Devils were looking for a big performance to kick start their campaign under coach Richard Marshall.
Salford made changes to their starting lineup once again. With Dan Sarginson suspended for three matches Morgan Escare started at full back. Harvey Livett replaced Matty Costello in the centres. With Kevin Brown and Andy Ackers picking up injuries in Monday’s defeat at St.Helens Declan Patton and Danny Addy stepped in at scrum half and hooker respectively. With James Greenwood missing Pauli Pauli was promoted off the bench to a starting second row place. Jack Wells and Darcy Lussick made the bench. Another pre match body blow for Salford was captain Lee Mossop missing through injury.
Super League’s top try scorer Jake Bibby started at centre against his former club. Jackson Hastings partnered young star Harry Smith in the Wigan halves.
After another week of miserable weather the rain managed to hold off most of the morning to leave dry and breezy conditions for the lunch time kick off.
Salford made a bright and industrious start to the match. Escare scooted over but the try wasn’t awarded as Ryan Lannon was penalised for an obstruction.
On the next set though Harvey Livett raced away after pocketing a wayward Wigan pass. He just about made it to the line after a foot race with the Wigan defence. The conversion dragged wide but moments later Livett made it 6-0 with a penalty goal.
The Warriors were level after twenty minutes Brad Singleton reaching out to score from close range. Elijah Taylor had raced out of the line but couldn’t stop the big Wigan prop.
Lovely play from Tui Lolohea set up Salford’s second. The stand off toyed with the Wigan defence before offloading to Jack Wells who ran the perfect line to power through under the sticks.
Super defence from Rhys Williams stopped a very dangerous run from Bevan French. Williams really is Salford’s Mr Dependable. A top performer week in week out and a lot of his good work goes unnoticed.
Wigan turned defence into attack when Smith picked up a loose pass to race away turning the Salford cover defence inside out. He then chucked a desperate but sublime pass out to the supporting Liam Farrell who scored the try.
Harvey Livett edged Salford further in front just before the break with a penalty goal. A very entertaining and enjoyable first half ended 14-10.
Salford had to weather a storm in the early exchanges of the second half and when the opportunity came to add some points Harvey Livett booted a penalty goal from thirty five yards out. This gave Salford a little bit of breathing space.
A knock on from Ken Sio ten yards from his own try line gifted Wigan an attacking opportunity. The next set the Warriors moved the ball and a nice short pass sent Singleton over for his second try. Smith levelled the scores at 16-16 with a successful conversion.
Escare attempted a drop goal with just over ten minutes remaining but it was charged down well.
It was now end to end action in the closing stages. Each team hunting a mistake. Both teams had gone toe to toe all afternoon with just a cigarette papers width between them.
Three minutes from time Jackson Hastings calmly dropped a goal to give Wigan the advantage and the lead for the first time in the game 16-17.
It seemed very harsh on the Red Devils in a match were a draw would of been a fair result. A fantastic match and Salford now need to back this up next Thursday against Warrington. A lot of positives can be taken from the match by Richard Marshall, the players and the supporters.
Salford 16 Wigan 17