It was another carnival atmosphere at the Salford Stadium prior to kick off. Light showers faded away to leave a bright dry afternoon. Before the match Salford had many ex players from yesteryear on the pitch and the supporters lapped it up. It was quite emotional to see the adulation the fans still held for these players. Heroes who’d represented the club in years gone by.
Salford coach Paul Rowley made a fair few changes after last Saturday’s defeat in France. Danny Addy, Tim Lafai, Marc Sneyd and Kallum Watkins all returned to the starting thirteen and new signing Brad Singleton also started at prop.
Saints took the lead from a early penalty goal but the Red Devils thundered back with an immediate response. Kallum Watkins powered over to put Salford in front and Marc Sneyd converted 6-2.
Salford’s barnstorming start continued when Ryan Brierley increased the lead. The Red Devils full back read a kick superbly with immaculate timing to score a fine try. Sneyd once again converted to double the lead to 12-2.
Salford were growing in confidence and were unrecognisable from the team that got thumped 42-0 last week.
Brad Singleton on his debut played the first thirty minutes and his robust running caused problems for the Saints defence. He received a rapturous applause when he was substituted before the break. Sneyd increased the lead with a penalty goal and Salford seemed in complete control. Their defence was well organised and the first half performance was arguably the best forty minutes they had put together all season. Sneyd made the wise decision to drop a goal right on the hooter to send his side in at the break with a thoroughly deserved 15-2 advantage.
Saints had the better of the opening stages of the second half and enjoyed plenty of possession. The game though took a huge twist when Saints live wire Tee Ritson broke down the left edge. The Salford cover got across and it looked like Ritson was in touch. The touch judge didn’t agree and play continued. Salford defended desperately with Deon Cross adjudged by referee Jack Smith of committing a professional foul. Cross was sin binned and Saints took advantage with a try from Matty Lees. Mark Percival converted, 15-8.
Salford were now under the cosh. Saints could smell it and upped the intensity levels particularly in defence. They were quick out of the blocks pegging Salford deep in there own half. Ryan Brierley swept up numerous kicks superbly well in another valiant defensive display from the Salford fullback. A try saving tackle stopped a certain try from Jack Welsby but this only delayed the inevitable. On the next play Tommy Mackinson swooped over the line to reduce the deficit even further. Percival nailed the conversion to bring the visitors back to within a point at 15-14.
Salford seemed to be running out of steam. Territorial opportunities were very limited as the Red Devils did most of the defending.
As the match approached the final ten minutes Welsby cut loose to scoot over to put Saints in front, 15-18.
It was a huge effort from Salford but sadly their is no sentiment in sport. St.Helens did enough to win the match. The game breaker was without question the Ritson incident and the moments that followed. In the cold light of day though it’s another defeat for Salford.
Next weekend is the Challenge Cup final so Salford’s next match is the following week when they visit Huddersfield on Friday 18th August.
Salford 15 St.Helens 18.
Big thanks to Steve McCormick for the photos.