After a break for international Rugby League Salford returned home to face Wakefield Trinity. Both sides were at crossroads in their respective seasons. Victory would keep them in touch with the playoffs and defeat would leave them in the doldrums with Toulouse. Bottom side Toulouse are cut adrift at present with just four league points but with a run of home fixtures coming up next month in the extremely hot French sunshine they could mount a survival bid and put plenty of pressure on teams above them.
Salford are currently struggling with injuries to what is already a fairly small squad. Coach Paul Rowley has now lost Morgan Escare to injury and made a few changes to his side from the last match against Wigan. Chris Atkin made the bench with Amir Bourouh missing out. Sitaleki Akauola started at loose forward with Elijah Taylor on the bench. Alex Gerrard started at prop but Salford’s one to seven remained the same.
Wakefield got off to a perfect start with an early try from James Batchelor. The Red Devils looked a little off the pace in the early stages as Trinity threatened to dominate. Harvey Livett came close but couldn’t ground the ball. Soon after Livett set Tim Lafai up to score with a clever kick and Marc Sneyd levelled the scores with the conversion 6-6.
From them on Salford seemed to speed through the gears like a finally tuned sports car. Purring forward in a lovely flowing move down the right edge Deon Cross fooled the Trinity defence with some terrific centre play to coast over.
Former Salford hooker Liam Hood kicked out on the full and the home side took complete control. Ryan Brierley floated out a super pass and this time Ken Sio scored in the corner.
The Red Devils went hunting on the left edge and Lafai put Joe Burgess away and he showed a cracking turn of pace to race over. Livett then measured a lovely weighted kick for Burgess to score his second try and then fine play from Brodie Croft put Brierley in. The Salford trio of Brierley, Croft and Sneyd was destroying a pretty fragile Wakefield side with some sensational free flowing rugby league. When the half time hooter sounded Sneyd calmly booted a penalty goal to send Salford in leading 32-6 at the break.
Sometimes in Rugby League it’s hard for a team to replicate such a dominant first half in the second but Salford were stronger and even more ruthless.
Trinity were caught cold in the opening stages with Croft going over before a try on the next set from Kallum Watkins. Having played well for England last weekend Watkins was once again a tower of strength in both attack and defence.
Wakefield grabbed a try from winger Lewis Murphy but Salford then raised the roof. Burgess with a great pick up then threw a fine pass to Watkins who in turn fired a peach of a pass out the back. It was Harlem Globe Trotter stuff, Sio finished the move superbly as the home supporters roared an amazing try.
Supporters with long memories will recall set moves the team used to do in years gone by and it was exciting to see one from a set scrum. Croft sneaked out the back and set Cross away to score.
Akauola powered over from close range to rack the sixty points up but the relentless Devils just kept going. Cross is proving to be one of the significant signings of the season and he put Brierley in for a try. Sneyd went through but referee Jack Smith adjudged the pass to be forward.
Joe Burgess rounded the scoring off with his hat trick try after more good work from his centre Lafai.
Salford have been on the end of some real thumping and embarrassing score lines in the Super League era but today it was their turn to thrill the supporters. Confidence flowed, passes stuck and everything they touched turned to gold.
Speaking after the match coach Paul Rowley is looking up the table and next weeks match at Warrington is a big chance to push towards a top six spot. The Wolves have had problems this season but have a squad full of quality players. If Salford can play with the intensity they did in this match they are more than a match for anybody.
Salford 74 Wakefield 10.
Big thanks to Steve McCormick for the photos.