Salford v Leigh.
In modern day sport it always seems like your only ever a few defeats away from a crisis. On the other side of the coin your only a couple of victories away from being the best thing since sliced bread. String a few wins together and everything in garden is rosey, anything is possible and spirits are high. It certainly is a fine line between victory and defeat.
A few people said to me after last Sunday’s match against Leeds, why weren’t you more critical of the referee. I was as baffled as anyone in the ground by some of the decisions and I felt Salford were really hard done to. I thought we were the better side on the day. That said though if I moan and complain about the match officials where will that get us? It won’t change anything. If you’ve watched Salford for a good number of years ask yourself a little question. How many times have you been to a match where Salford have played Wigan, Leeds or St.Helens and come away from the game thinking blimey we pinched that one with a slice of fortune. I can’t think of any to be honest. It’s a bit like a boxer when he/she is the challenger fighting the champion in there own backyard. He/she won’t win on points they’ve got to get the knockout to take all the doubt away from the judges.
Nothing really surprised me on Sunday, I came away as disappointed as any other supporter. I don’t like to complain about officials as I like to stay positive and I apologise if people disagree.
Moving on to this weeks opponents Leigh in what should be another thrilling contest. Leigh have been a breath of fresh air in 2023. A lot of pundits thought they would be the rubbing rags and lucky to win a handful of matches. Salford won a hard fought victory away at Leigh in the opening game of the season as well as backing up with a win there at Easter. Since then though the Leopards have gone on a sensational run in the Super League as well as reaching the Challenge Cup Semi Final. Since defeat to Salford at Easter Leigh have won nine out of ten matches which is quite remarkable. Their only loss was at Catalans 38-30 and they were very unlucky to lose that game.
The Leopards don’t have a huge squad but coach Adrian Lam has been able to name a settled side week in week out and that has helped to build this tremendous momentum the club has built up. With a Cup semi final against St.Helens coming up next Saturday will Lam make some changes? We will have to wait and see. I wouldn’t begrudge Leigh getting to Wembley. I think it would be great for the sport to see a new side walk out in the prestigious Cup Final. Especially with Leigh’s last Wembley final such a long time ago in 1971.
It can be a funny thing in sport sometimes the way things can change over the course of time. Players and coaches can end up at clubs you’d never expect them to. Old rivals get reconnected, with plenty of anecdotes and conundrums along the way. For Salford supporters who remember the match between Salford and Leigh from 21st September 2003 at the Willows you might remember a certain Paul Rowley being shown the red card.
The Centurions as they were at the time were battling Salford all the way for promotion and in the Grand final elimination match Rowley the Leigh hooker got his marching orders in a very bad tempered contest which Salford won 26-18. It seems a long time ago now but we all still have fond memories of those times gone by.
Super League home record.
2005 Salford 42 Leigh 6
2017 Salford 12 Leigh 6
2021 Salford 34 Leigh 8
They played for both.
Luke Adamson, Ed Chamberlain, Kevin Ashcroft, Simon Baldwin, Radney Bowker, David Bradbury, John Duffy, Jacob Emmitt, Matt Gardner, Matty Gee, Bobbie Goulding, Danny Halliwell, Harrison Hansen, Gareth Hock, Liam Hood, Peter Smethurst, Stuart Littler, Peter Alstead, Nathan McAvoy, Dean McGilvary, Reni Maitua, Chris Morley, Stephen Nash, Rob Parker, Corey Paterson, John Pendlebury, Michael Platt, Gareth Price, Adam Sidlow, Craig Stapleton, Simon Svabic, John Taylor, Iain Thornley, Mike Wainwright, Junior Sau, Ian Watson and Mal Yates.
A match to remember Friday 14th April 2017.
Salford 12 Leigh 6.
Coming into this match Salford were in terrific form. Four wins on the spin including thumping wins away from home against Widnes and Hull plus a 13-12 victory in a pulsating clash with Castleford at the AJ Bell Stadium set the expectations high as Leigh arrived for this Good Friday fixture.
The Centurions had been promoted to the Super League at the end of the previous season and were making a good fist of their 2017 campaign.
This match was a real tense affair. Both sides played some attractive Rugby in a quick tempo first half.
Mitch Brown’s first-half try put Leigh in front but was cancelled out by Kris Welham’s score to make it 6-6 at half-time.
Gareth O’Brien sliced through after a long period of pressure to score a nice try and Michael Dobson added the conversion to put Salford ahead with quarter of an hour to play.
O’Brien’s drop goal attempt to seal it struck an upright, but Salford held on.
Leigh were on the back foot for much of the second half but stayed in contention up until the final hooter. A really enjoyable match finished 12-6.
The teams that day were;
Salford Red Devils: O’Brien; Johnson, Welham, Sa’u, J. Carney; Lui, Dobson; Tasi, Tomkins, Mossop, Jones, Murdoch-Masila, Flanagan.
Subs: Kopczak, Griffin, Wood, Walne.
Leigh Centurions: McNally; Higson, Crooks, Brown, Dawson; Reynolds, Ridyard; Acton, Higham, Tickle, Vea, Stewart, Hansen.
Subs: Pelissier, Weston, Hopkins, Burr.
Referee, Jack Smith.
Salford will be without loose forward Oliver Partington who picked up a one match ban from last Sunday. I wouldn’t be surprised if Paul Rowley switched Chris Atkin to number thirteen but he has a few options available.
The Leopards have enjoyed plenty of success with Ben Reynolds and Lachlan Lam working together in the halves. Former Salford player Gareth O’Brien has found a home at fullback. Josh Charnley continues to lead the try scoring charts with a sensational return of twenty two so far this season. Two other former Salford players have been a big part of Leigh’s pack in recent weeks. Ben Nakubuwai at prop and Ed Chamberlain who’s normally a centre has been playing in the back row. Edwin Ipape is a speedy hooker who works so hard around the ruck, in 2023 he’s taken Super League by storm.
It’s probably a pretty obvious statement to make but a good start is vital in this match. Salford have beaten the Leopards twice this season but I think Adrian Lam’s side have improved and gelled since the last meeting. The main thing is you can’t buy confidence and Leigh have it in pallet loads.
Salford looked to have there shape back against Leeds with the return of Ryan Brierley, Andy Ackers and Brodie Croft. One player who impressed immensely last Sunday was Tim Lafai. The slippery centre is so hard to tackle and his ability to get the ball out in almost impossible situations gives Salford another dimension with ball in hand.
You would expect plenty of points in this match. So far this season Leigh have averaged over twenty four points a match and only Catalans have scored more points in the Super League. Salford have averaged just over twenty and currently sit four points behind the second placed Leopards in sixth place on the League table.
This is another game not to be missed. The bookies early odds have Leigh with a two point start so this could be a close one to call!
The action gets under way at 3pm.
Safe travels and enjoy the match.
Big thanks to Steve McCormick for the photos and the Salford match day programme!