Salford victories in this fixture have been a very rare occurrence. The solitary win of the 1970s came in February 1977. It was the Queens silver jubilee in the summer of that year and since then the Red Devils have recorded two away wins against Leeds. In a way it was quite ironic that last night’s victory and performance came on another Royal weekend and it was certainly a Royal performance to be proud of from Paul Rowley’s team. The travelling supporters soaked it up and enjoyed every second of it.
It was a tight start to the match with early Salford pressure as the nervous looking Rhinos came up with errors. The Red Devils seemed a lot more resilient than of years gone by. There defence is tough and they went toe to toe with a talented Leeds team.
The opening quarter was dominated by solid defence from both teams. You could hear the full force of some of the tackles from the terraces. Chances were limited but Salford took full advantage when Leeds half back Blake Austin was sent to the sin bin for a rather cynical challenge that left referee Jack Smith with no other option. The Red Devils immediately made the extra man advantage count and Deon Cross sent winger Rhys Williams over with the ever reliable Marc Sneyd booting the conversion off the touch line.
Sneyd once again weaved his magic with a teasing kick that forced a drop out before Salford received a penalty. The opportunity to kick the goal was spurned as Salford backed themselves for another try. The gamble paid off as second row grafter Sam Stone powered over to hammer home the visitors relentless attitude. Sneyd again converted, 0-12.
Richie Myler came mighty close to touching down but couldn’t quite ground a kick through to the in goal area. Rhyse Martin looked certain to score but Salford’s goal line defence muscled up superbly to frustrate the home side.
A frantic passage of play in the final minute of the first half brought Leeds a try from Myler. Some very good support play and backing up from the Rhinos reduced the half time deficit to 6-12. There was injury concern for Salford with fullback Ryan Brierley leaving the field. Chris Atkin came on as his replacement.
Salford kept the pressure on after the break with a wonderful desire and determination. This was personified by a drop out that was forced after a Sneyd kick. They say a kick is only as good as a chase but this chase was top notch. A penalty followed on the next set which Sneyd had no hesitation in converting to nudge the Devils out to 6-14.
Ellis Longstaff was playing at centre for the injured Matty Costello. The youngster was targeted by Leeds and Harry Newman who niggled him all night. Longstaff got the better of the England centre from Croft’s kick through to finish superbly in front of the ecstatic Salford supporters on the West Terrace.
Sneyd added another penalty 6-22 but Leeds gathered the kick off and scored a try through James Bentley. 12-22.
With Leeds just ten points adrift the home crowd lifted. The Rhinos threw everything at Salford for the last fifteen minutes, penalties and set restarts were all repelled by a solid red wall.
This Salford side has matured into a real tough and dogged unit. Yes they can score some wonderful tries and play free flowing, flamboyant rugby that we all love to watch. Every winning team though needs the grafters and that never say die willingness to fight for every inch. When you have both these qualities your a real threat. Salford’s league position tells its own story. I also think this team can get better.
The Red Devils have another huge test next Saturday away at St.Helens a fixture the club hasn’t won for over forty three years.
A special night at Headingley finished Leeds 12 Salford 22.
Big thanks to Steve McCormick for the photos.