After a pretty nippy, damp and windy week the weather had cleared up for Salford’s return in this home fixture with Castleford. The evening sun was just starting to drop leaving playing conditions perfect for Rugby League as the two sides came out to warm up.
Salford coach Paul Rowley made some subtle changes to his side that won a tough game at Leigh last weekend. Oliver Partington returned to the side at loose forward and Jack Ormondroyd was back on the bench.
Castleford had former Salford favourites Niall Evalds at fullback with Jordan Turner in the centre and George Griffin on the bench. Gareth Widdop partnered Jacob Miller in the halves with Jack Broadbent moved to centre.
The Tigers got off to a blistering start on their first real attack. Greg Eden finished of a clean and crisp move to score in the corner. Widdop confidently booted the conversion to put the visitors in front 0-6.
The ‘arm wrestle’ is used a lot to describe certain passages of play in modern rugby league and that is probably the best way to describe the first half. It was tough with both defences tight as a drum and desperate at times to keep the opposition at bay. Salford had plenty of possession in good field position but more often than not took the wrong option, particularly on the last tackle.
Castleford were solid and well organised. The Red Devils were struggling to break them down. Despite the lack of points this match was being played at a very high intensity.
Evalds stopped a certain try with a sensational defensive effort to thwart Joe Burgess.
As the game approached half time Salford made a break through. A wonderful passage of play started with Kallum Watkins bursting down the right edge. Ryan Brierley was in support and he provided a perfect kick for Brodie Croft to score a try straight from the training ground. Marc Sneyd levelled the score with the conversion to send the teams in at the break level 6-6.
The second half again saw defences on top with very few clear cut chances. Niall Evalds came close but couldn’t ground the ball over the line.
The game was poised perfectly and needed a big moment to swing the momentum. Just before the hour mark Shane Wright powered over to nudge the home side in front for the first time. The Australian back rower is in tremendous form. Sneyd extended the lead to 12-6.
Castleford refused to lie down and kept battling away.
With ten minutes remaining the Tigers gave away a very soft penalty for a high tackle. Sneyd knew it was in kicking distance and did not hesitate. Salford now had an eight point lead and the jaded Tigers could sense their fight was almost over. The lively Eden broke down the left edge but a super tackle from Brierley wrapped the match up for Salford.
This match may not have had all the flamboyant rugby and flair on show but what it did have was maximum effort, toil and honest endeavour from two sides that never gave an inch. Shane Wright picked up the man of the match award after another tireless, all action display. Wright is becoming a firm favourite with the supporters.
Salford have a little longer in their turnaround before their next match and this will be a welcome blessing for coach Paul Rowley and his players who’ve had a bruising few months.
Salford are at home to Catalans next Sunday at 3pm.
Salford 14 Castleford 6.
Big thanks to Steve McCormick for the photos.