St.Helens v Salford.
As a kid growing trips to Wigan, Leeds and St.Helens felt like entering the school sports hall to take an exam. It’s the ultimate test and over the years Salford’s success in these matches in my life time has been pretty sparse. It’s like taking your driving test or going for a job interview. You know your going to have to work for every inch and one momentary lapse will cost you big time.
Salford’s last away victory at St.Helens came in January 1980, almost three years before I was born so I never saw an away win at Knowsley Road. In the summer era Salford have come mightily close on a number of occasions to finally getting that win at the new ground Saints play at. At Knowsley Road it always felt like we were going there to keep the score down and if we did keep it below 30 points it was almost a moral victory and you came home sort of relived. I suppose it just shows how far Salford have come as a club in recent years because we’ve pushed the Champions all the way and even competed against them in a Grand Final.
Salford have now lost this fixture on forty consecutive occasions since 1980. Having banished the Headingley hoodoo last Friday what odds would you get on Paul Rowley’s side making it a famous double this Saturday.
The Red Devils are in excellent form with four victories on the bounce which leaves them sat comfortably in fifth place in the league table four points in front of seventh place Saints. St.Helens were beaten at Catalans last weekend and have lost three of there last four games.
Veteran hooker James Roby is set to become Saints all time record appearance holder on Saturday. Roby is now level with Kel Coslett on 531 appearances which is a remarkable achievement and it’s virtually unheard of these days for a player to spend his entire career with one club. Roby has a terrific engine and marvellous rugby league brain. It’s a bit like having a special forces soldier in the team. At 37 years of age Roby is just as fit as he’s ever been and he’s definitely a player to watch out for on Saturday.
Salford were ferocious on Friday night in victory at Leeds. At times the Rhinos had plenty of possession but Salford weathered the inevitable storm and that tenacious, willingness to defend as if your life depends on it will be needed against Saints.
Super League Away Record.
1997 St. Helens 19 Salford 12
1998 St. Helens 48 Salford 12
1999 St. Helens 48 Salford 0
2000 St. Helens 46 Salford 22
2000 St. Helens 50 Salford 28
2001 St. Helens 66 Salford 16
2002 St. Helens 34 Salford 2
2004 St. Helens 40 Salford 4
2005 St. Helens 46 Salford 12
2006 St. Helens 28 Salford 6
2007 St. Helens 48 Salford 4
2007 St. Helens 27 Salford 26
2009 St. Helens 38 Salford 12
2010 St. Helens 58 Salford 34
2011 St. Helens 31 Salford 6 (played at Widnes)
2012 St. Helens 38 Salford 10
2013 St. Helens 14 Salford 10
2014 St. Helens 32 Salford 12
2015 St. Helens 32 Salford 12
2016 St. Helens 34 Salford 20
2017 St. Helens 25 Salford 24
2018 St. Helens 32 Salford 2
2019 St. Helens 32 Salford 30
2020 St.Helens 48 Salford 8
2021 St.Helens 29 Salford 6 (at Headingley, Leeds)
2021 St.Helens 28 Salford 0
2022 St.Helens 14 Salford 10
2022 St.Helens 19 Salford 12 (Play off semi final)
They played for both.
Over the years there has been so much player movement between the two clubs. The town of St Helens is a real hot bed of the game with some fantastic amateur set ups including Thatto Heath, Blackbrook and Clock Face. In the Super League era Matty Smith, Joey Lussick, Jordan Turner, Lama Tasi, Tommy Lee and Theo Fages have all moved to Saints from Salford. Willie Talu, Tony Puletua, Francis Meli, Mark Edmondson, Matty Ashurst, Andrew Dixon, Danny Arnold, Alan Hunte, Josh Jones, Bobbie Goulding, Lee Gaskell ,Paul Forber, Mark Lee, Mark Flanagan, Jake Emmitt and Anthony Stewart to name a few in recent years to represent both sides.
Eric Prescott, Paul Groves, Paul Brownbill, John Mantle, Ken Gwilliam, George Nicholls and Darren Bloor played for both clubs in the pre super League era. The list could certainly go on as there are many more. Alex Murphy and Shaun McRae have coached both sides.
A match to remember Friday 23rd June 2017.
St.Helens 25 Salford 24.
This match was arguably eclipsed by the epic match between the two sides in this very fixture in 2019. That match had great drama and a couple of thrilling come backs. In 2017 Salford were on a terrific run of form with Robert Lui and Michael Dobson forming a great understanding in the halves. In this match Todd Carney came in at scrum half to replace the injured Dobson. Carney didn’t play many games for Salford but in this game he showed the quality he possessed when he got it right.
Salford took the lead with an 11th-minute penalty after Saints were caught holding down in front of their own posts, handing Carney a routine kick.
Saints, who had won 12 and drawn one of their last 14 home Super League games, gradually got on top and the pressure told in the 25th minute when scrum-half Smith took on the Salford defensive line before cutting through to touch down from 10 metres. Percival added the conversion and moments later he kicked a penalty to make it 8-2 after Salford’s Kris Welham was guilty of a high tackle.
But Salford, who had won four of their last five away games in Super League, levelled the game after the half-time hooter had sounded. Scrum-half Carney kicked ahead and the bouncing ball evaded the Saints defence, allowing Evalds to touch down by the posts.Carney’s goal made it 8-8 at the break.
Salford burst into the lead within four minutes of the restart. They kept the ball alive on the last tackle and Evalds’ pass found winger Greg Johnson who produced a superb finish to score from close range. Carney’s conversion hit the post.
Robert Lui then powered through to score a try that got the Salford supporters dancing on the terraces. Carney converted to open up a ten point lead 8-18.
The Red Devils were chasing the impossible, a first victory in this fixture since 1980. Ian Watson’s men looked to have sealed the match when Evalds won the race for a Carney grubber kick into the ingoal area and with Carney adding the extras, Salford looked home and dry at 8-24.
That was the cue for the great escape from Saints. James Roby replied for the home side with a try under the posts – his 100th career touchdown – seven minutes from the end and Mark Percival added the conversion.
Winger Regan Grace scored Saints’ third try four minutes from the end to raise the hopes of the home fans though Percival was unable to convert.
With two minutes remaining, Jonny Lomax finished off a 30-metre move and Percival’s goal made it 24-24.
The match was now being played at a frantic pace. Nether side could draw breath or lose focus. As the clocked ticked down Matty Smith received the ball around forty yards out. He connected boot to ball cleanly and as the hooter sounded his drop-goal attempt sailed over to shatter Salford hearts in a cruel finish.
The teams that night;
St.Helens. Lomax, Swift, Mackinson, Percival, Grace, Fages, Smith, Walmsley, Roby, Amor, Taia, Wilkin, Knowles.
Subs; McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Douglas, Thompson, Lee.
Salford. Evalds, Bibby, Welham, Sa’u, Johnson, Lui, Carney, Tasi, Tomkins, Kopzack, Murdoch-Masila, Lannon, Flanagan.
Subs; Hauraki, Jones, Hasson, Brining.
Referee, Scott Mikalauskas
Under previous coaches Justin Holbrook and Kristian Woolf Saints played a thrilling brand of rugby league that most sides couldn’t live with. To match that there defence was also ruthlessly tough and at times it’s fair to say they played a little close to the knuckle. Under new coach Paul Wellens this has continued. Saints have a bruising pack with Matty Lees and Morgan Knowles both well known for there full blooded defending. The playoff semi final between the two clubs last September was one of the toughest matches I’ve seen for a long time .
To win this fixture Salford will need to be solid, well organised, willing to take a chance, bold, decisive and brave.
Tyler Dupree lead the pack brilliantly last Friday with his lung busting runs. Oliver Partington is becoming a bit of an enforcer on the quiet too. Partington likes to get involved with the tough stuff and the donkey work. He’s not afraid to dish it out either and every pack needs that.
Marc Sneyd and Brodie Croft have been a key part of Salford’s winning run and the Red Devils are reaping the benefits of a settled spine. I thought Rhys Williams played a blinder last week too in attack and defence along with youngster Ellis Longstaff.
Jack Welsby, Tommy Mackinson and Jonny Lomax are all capable of winning a match with a slice of brilliance and former Salford hooker Joey Lussick is expected to play a part.
The bookmakers have given Salford a ten point start this week on the coupon. It promises to be a fascinating match and it will be interesting to see if Paul Rowley has any players returning this week from injury.
The action gets under way at 1pm.
Safe travels and enjoy the match.
Big thanks to Steve McCormick for the photos.
Also photo credit to the Salford and saints match day programmes!