It was a day of if’s, buts and maybe’s as Salford played at home for the final time in 2022. Leeds and Castleford met at Headingley to decide the final place of the top six but Salford were already sealed in the top six.
Coach Paul Rowley made plenty of changes to his side with debuts handed to six players of the clubs’ reserves side. Morgan Escare started in the halves partnering Harvey Livett. After a very lengthy injury layoff James Greenwood returned in the second row.
The Red Devils started brightly and Escare’s clever kick caught the visitors defence out. Myles Dalton Harrop came close to a debut try but just couldn’t get to the ball in time.
The Wolves bagged the games first points with a neat try from exciting youngster Josh Thewlis scoring on the left edge. Warrington tried their luck down the left again. This time Oliver Holmes reached out showing great strength in the tackle to double the lead to 0-8. Both conversions were missed.
From the kick off the Wolves made a hash of it providing Salford with a chance to attack. James Greenwood hit a good line to power over on his comeback, Harvey Livett took over the goal kicking duties and pulled his side back to within two points, 6-8.
Rhys Williams came close to an interception but agonisingly for the Welshman he couldn’t quite reach the pass.
Both sides were making errors and finding it difficult to complete sets. I suppose this was understandable given the amount of changes made in playing personal.
Leon Hayes impressed for Warrington playing the role of an old fashioned scrum half. Busy on attack and solid in defence it looks likely to have a bright future in the game.
Henry Davies and Daniel Spencer-Tonks on their debuts ran the ball very hard making plenty of meters and Joseph Coote-Franklin looked very solid and assured in the centre.
Warrington’s third try came off a flat pass with Luke Thomas racing in to score. Hayes booted his first conversion of the afternoon, 6-14.
Salford’s enthusiasm particularly in defence was eye catching and after forcing a drop out Livett was unlucky to have a try disallowed for obstruction. Livett did kick a penalty goal right on the half time hooter to reduce the deficit to 8-14.
Warrington started the second half the quicker side and Greg Minikin scored to open up a two score lead.
Perhaps the biggest cheer of the afternoon came when Dalton-Harrop raced to the line to score. A nice Salford moved created some space and he wasn’t going to be denied. Young half back Jack Stephens showed some nice touches after coming off the bench and he had a hand in the build up to the Dalton-Harrop try. Livett converted to bring Salford right back into the match at 14-20.
A rather dubious penalty for offside gave the Wolves a good leg up and when George Williams broke through he had the quality and composure to find the try line to effectively take the game away from a very spirited and hard working Red Devils team.
Salford never thought about throwing the towel in and kept trying to play right until the hooter. In the final seconds Thewlis pouched am interception to give the score line a slightly flattering look but Warrington deserved the victory.
For Salford though it’s now on to the playoffs and Huddersfield Giants away at 1pm next Saturday. The atmosphere in the away end promises to be absolute fever pitch. Their is so much on this match. Forget the ex players and coach factor. Win this and Salford are eighty minutes from another Grand Final. These are the games you want to be in, this is what watching and playing Rugby League is all about.
A huge congratulations to Josh Rourke, Joseph Coote-Franklin, Myles Dalton-Harrop, Jack Stephens, Daniel Spencer-Tonks and Henry Davies who were a credit to the club on their debuts. Let’s hope we see more from them all in the future.
It was great to see the players signing autographs and posing for pictures with lots of young supporters after the match. It’s been a terrific season for Salford Red Devils and who knows where it will end?
Salford 14 Warrington 32.
Big thanks to Steve McCormick for the photos