After another tropical week on the weather front Salford were back at home to face Wigan. Despite a few clouds around the temperature hovered around the mid twenties. The pitch looked impressive and this match had all the ingredients for a fast, free flowing game with plenty of tries.
The walk up to the stadium was a pretty special one today. The club was celebrating Armed Forces Day and that was lots going on. A record crowd was expected as Salford looked to continue their excellent League form.
Wigan came into the match after a very hard fought victory over Warrington in the Challenge Cup but their form in the League has seen an alarming dip with just one win in their last five games. This has seen the Cherry and Whites drop to sixth in the table but I don’t think there will be to much panic considering how close the top six is at the moment. Victory for Salford would move them four points clear of Wigan and leave them just two points behind League leaders Catalans. It promises to be a fascinating few months over the summer in the race for the playoffs.
Salford coach Paul Rowley had to make changes from the team that was beaten last Saturday at Hull Kingston Rovers. Chris Atkin replaced the injured Brodie Croft at stand off. Adam Sidlow started with Tyler Dupree on the bench. Danny Addy and Matty Costello also made the bench but there was no room for Jack Ormonroyd who was the eighteenth man.
Before the teams came out a huge cannon/gun was fired three times to add to what was already a special atmosphere.
Salford started brightly but the last tackle play seemed to let them down with Wigan rarely tested. The visitors were patient in their own approach play and worked the conditions better. The rain had now started pelting down making the pitch greasy, Harry Smith planted a perfect kick to provide the games first try for Joe Shorrocks.
Salford kept working hard and got rewarded on the half hour mark. Marc Sneyd opened Wigan up, Ben Hellewell ran a perfect line to crash over and level the scores. Sneyd converted to nudge Salford in front 6-4.
The Red Devils lost Ryan Brierley to a head assessment to which he didn’t return from. Paul Rowley moved Ken Sio to fullback and Matty Costello teamed up with Deon Cross in the three quarter line.
Chris Atkin threatened to extend the lead when he sold Wigan a dummy to break through. The Warriors were resilient and thwarted this threat before breaking through right on the half time hooter. Jai Field had Liam Farrell in support to score a classic breakaway try. Smith missed the conversion, 6-8 at half time.
After a fairly even first half Salford gifted Wigan a try at the start of the second half. The visitors took full advantage of a Red Devils mistake to work the ball to the right wing. Abbas Miski battled past some weak defence to grab a try which Smith converted off the touch line to give Wigan an eight point cushion, 6-14.
After that it was pretty much one way traffic. Salford were caught out on the short side and Farrell got his second try. Things got worse when another predictable kick out wide from Sneyd was taken by Liam Marshall and the Wigan flyer set off motoring at full speed. Joe Burgess gave chase but didn’t really get close to his opposite number. Smith converted, 6-26.
Burgess came close after a super Tim Lafai pass left the try line begging but Salford’s number five couldn’t ground the ball. It summed up a frustrating afternoon for the Red Devils who were pretty much second best in every department. The effort could not be faulted though, sometimes you have to take defeats on the chin. A massive positive from the day was a record attendance of 7,854. It’s full credit to the hard work Salford Rugby League Club are doing both on and off the field.
Salford travel to Wakefield next Friday, a ground where our record has been pretty dire in the Super League era. Ryan Brierley will be missing and it looks like Andy Ackers could be out for another week or so. It’s a huge game for Salford to get back on track.
Salford 6 Wigan 26.
Big thanks to Steve McCormick for the photos.