A beautiful sunny lunchtime awaited the players at kick off. Blue skies In Merseyside and hardly any breeze made the conditions perfect for Rugby League. Saints hooker James Roby received a guard of honour prior to kick off as he became the record appearance holder with the club. A remarkable achievement for a fantastic player who epitomises everything that is great about our wonderful sport.
Salford coach Paul Rowley made a few subtle changes from the side that won at Leeds last Friday. Matty Costello returned in place of Ellis Longstaff, Alex Gerrard made the bench and Jack Ormondroyd missed out.
The Red Devils made a super start soaking up any early Saints pressure before launching some blistering attacks. A lovely pass from Oliver Partington set king Vuniyayawa on the burst and he had Brodie Croft in support who raced in for a fine try. Marc Sneyd converted, 0-6.
Salford continued to look confident and comfortable in defence as the home side rarely threatened. A slick move on the right edge and superb link up play from Kallum Watkins and Ryan Brierley saw the Salford fullback go over for a deserved try. Sneyd converted and the lead was doubled to 0-12.
The match then saw a big turning point unfold. Shane Wright was caught high by Matty Lees and fell awkwardly. The Salford second rower had not long since come off the bench and unfortunately had to be helped from the field.
In the closing minutes of the half Curtis Sironen flung out a hopeful pass that James Bell clung onto to touch down. Tommy Mackinson converted to reduce the deficit to 6-12 at the break.
The first ten minutes of the second half saw Salford unravel rather alarming gifting Saints three tries. Matty Costello came up with an incorrect play the ball deep in his own half allowing Saints to attack. Sironen powered over but the conversion was missed. Moments later Rhys Williams flung out a crazy pass to Joe Burgess right near his on try line. Burgess couldn’t take it and Jonny Lomax excepted a gift wrapped try to put the home side in front. 16-12. The third try from this imploding spell came from Mackinson. He finished well in the corner before booting the conversion off the touch line. 22-12.
It was quite a turnaround, Salford couldn’t cope with the pressure and physical size of the home side. Williams knocked on another high kick before another comedy of errors led to a try for Joe Batchelor.
The second half was summed up for the ragged Red Devils when they were caught out by the shot clock which is quite unusual. Nothing seemed to go right. Passes were wayward and off the mark and considering it was a bone dry day the amount of possession Salford spilled was ridiculous. Having said that though Saints were relentless in the second half and the pressure they built forcing drop outs and repeat sets would of worn most sides down.
On a positive note Salford hung in there and didn’t capitulate. This side Rowley has is made of stern stuff and has a gritty steel about it. The effort was there but the cohesion and composure was certainly lacking.
Losing Wright and Andy Ackers in the second half is another massive blow that will leave Salford very low on numbers for next Saturday’s cup tie with Huddersfield.
St.Helens 26 Salford 12.
Big thanks to Steve McCormick for the photos.