It was a glorious sunny Sunday lunchtime as the players walked out for kick off. A stiff breeze blew across the pitch but on the whole it was perfect playing conditions for Rugby League.
Salford coach Paul Rowley had to make changes to the team after Monday’s defeat to Catalans and they were forced due to injuries. Chris Atkin slotted into the halves for Marc Sneyd. Kallum Watkins started in the second row after a very impressive match last time out. Greg Burke and Morgan Escare made the seventeen with Sitaleki Akauola and Josh Johnson missing out.
After a nervy start from the home side they eventually began to settle. Jai Field showed lightning quick pace to sprint through a gap after good quick hands on the Warriors right edge. Field got the try with young half back Harry Smith adding the conversion.
Matty Costello came close to scoring for Salford when it looked odds on a try. Wigan desperately defended their line to deny the Red Devils centre. This didn’t deter the plucky Devils and they took full advantage shortly after when King Vuniyayawa stormed over. Ryan Brierley took on the kicking duties and levelled the scores at 6-6.
Some bookmakers had given Salford a twenty point start on the handicap coupon but the visitors obviously hadn’t read the script. Brierley saved a certain try at one end bravely pushing a quick to safety before breaking at the other end to send Matty Costello over for a well worked try. It was nothing more than Salford deserved.
Wigan hit back with a try from youngster Kaide Ellis. The Red Devils defence wasn’t up to scratch and he walked in for a simple score which Smith goaled, 12-12.
One or two 50-50 calls then seemed to go against Salford. It looked like two Wigan knock on’s before they received a dubious penalty. Good teams make it count and Liam Farrell who has a tremendous try record for a second row forward danced through some shoddy defensive efforts to score.
Smith then brushed off Atkin to score Wigan’s fourth try to extend their lead to 24-12. Salford were now firmly on the back foot and in need of a response before this match transpired into a thumping.
Brodie Croft was full of running and the Wigan defence were struggling to deal with his trickery. When the Australian burst through it looked all on a try but the final pass wasn’t good enough and the chance went begging.
Even the most optimistic Salford supporter probably didn’t see a second half revival happening but it most certainly did.
Croft was the architect again with a sublime kick through. Brierley judged it perfectly but left the try scoring to Alex Gerrard. Brierley made it three goals from three attempts, 24-18.
Croft got caught quite late after a kick but once again referee Marcus Griffiths allowed play to continue.
Just when the match needed an injection of magic Ken Sio took an interception as the Warriors pummelled the Salford line. Sio raced the full length of the pitch to delight the travelling support. Brierley nailed the conversion to level the score at 24-24.
The match was now balanced on a knife edge. You had to admire the Red Devils they matched Wigan set for set and went toe to toe. They may have been struggling for numbers but gained strength from their spirit and commitment.
With just over twenty minutes remaining a huge call cost Salford a try. Croft and Watkins combined well to put Brierley away but the pass was adjudged to be forward.
Liam Farrell then appeared to play at a Salford kick on the last tackle but the decision went the other way with a turn over awarded.
The Warriors came out swinging looking to finish Salford off. With back to back set restarts surely they had to score but Salford kept fighting and some how kept them out.
The Red Devils forced themselves under pressure with a forward pass deep in their own half. Wigan spilled the ball when it went out wide and lacked the composure needed to finish the chance.
With a four to one overlap Wigan bombed another chance and you sensed it could be Salford’s day.
The clock was now counting down and it seemed inevitable that a drop goal was both sides game plan. Croft went for one but the Warriors charged it down only for it to land back in Salford’s possession. Gerrard close to the line threw a pass but Wigan somehow grabbed the possession back in what was a frantic passage of play.
Rugby League can be a cruel game sometimes and when Morgan Escare attempted a drop goal in the closing stages the ball didn’t have the distance. It landed in the arms of Field and from the broken play he launched an attack. In the blink of an eye the superstar Australian had ghosted threw the Salford defence to clinch the match with his second try. A wonderful solo effort but you had to feel for the Red Devils who had given everything in what was a wonderful match to watch.
Paul Rowley was proud of his players efforts after the match but has moe injuries to contend with. Ryan Brierley and Elijah Taylor will miss next week to add more pressure on a battered squad. Salford are certainly doing it tough at the moment but let’s hope the tide turns some for Rowley, his team and the supporters.
Wigan 30 Salford 24.
Big thanks to Steve McCormick for the photos.