Salford City Reds are halfway through a unique treble this week: being televised extensively three weeks on the trot, which is as rare as the M10 turning up on time. It's not often Sky Sports choose to cover the Reds outside of their contractual obligation, but this weekend they have no choice.
The second of this threesome was live on the box from The Willows last Saturday against Hull FC. The Airlie Birds had started the year as Super League's table-toppers, but a steady decline since — no doubt aided by the Reds, who in another rarity defeated them on their own turf in the Cup a few weeks back — saw them slip towards the edge of the sought after top 8 positions. So we had a chance. Unfortunately, Salford didn't win; there wasn't much in it. A 14–18 home loss is still a respectable result in a competition the Reds are still getting to grips with since bouncing back from relegation in 2007.
This result followed a 38–6 defeat in French Catalonia: the Catalans Dragons sweeping us aside in the Perpignan heat (on this occasion with extended highlights shown at midnight).
Now usually, two defeats on the spin would signal a modicum of concern. But given what the Reds achieved over the Easter period, Salford fans can be forgiven for still feeling nonchalant.
Despite beginning 2009 with a victory against Welsh cellar dwellers Celtic Crusaders, Salford proceeded to be poor and uninspiring, losing their next six matches badly; to be blunt, they were a shite watch. Yet, whilst despairing from where our next victory was coming, it was in Hull at the start of this month where our season was given the kiss of life; and it was the start of yet another treble of rarities.
Salford don't win at Hull FC that often — that's an understatement. Yet somehow, late in the second half, Salford found themselves still in the game and you could literally see the players looking at each other and thinking: we can do this. Indeed they rose to the challenge of sending last year's Wembley finalists tumbling out of the Cup at their first hurdle. We couldn't fathom where that performance was hiding for so long.
And if that wasn't enough of a jolt, a week later, the Reds only went and backed it up: scooping their second Super League win at home to Warrington; a last gasp missed goal attempt from the Wolves' Chris Hicks sending The Shed into a sea of mass goonage.
Brilliant, we thought; but there's no chance we'll defeat Leeds on Easter Monday. If beating Hull FC in Hull is rare, there isn't a metaphor that comes close in describing how rare it is for Salford to beat Leeds at Headingley. It's like Hazel Blears solving Salford Council's money woes by physically laying a golden egg; it just doesn't happen. The last time it did happen was in 1977. The time before that was in 1959. To put it in perspective, the last time Salford beat Leeds away: Joy Division were still called Warsaw, Factory Records hadn't even formed yet, and The Ting Tings were just twinkles in their respective daddy's eyes.
You can see where we're going with this set up. Yes, they did it, Salford pulled off the miracle, on Easter Monday of all days, winning 20–30. And this wasn't against an ordinary team. Leeds are the reigning Super League champions; last year they were even World champions… of sorts. No matter. Salford actually defeated Leeds at Headingley. The hoodoo is dead… for at least a generation or two.
It's no surprise if you weren't aware of this Herculean feat. The coverage, bar initial radio and online commentary, was muted. No, it wasn't muted, it was pants. The specialist rugby league newspapers brushed over the Easter Monday programme as if they were pre-season friendlies — an unfortunance of being sandwiched in between publication schedules.
And as for the Salford Advertiser, well, they led the back page with story about the Reds' new loan signing from Wigan, Darrell Goulding. No disrespect to the lad but this momentus victory should have been splashed all over the back pages, if not the front. There's only one possible result that betters defeating Leeds away, and that's lifting the Challenge Cup at Wembley, something not seen since Don Bradman handed it over to The Red Devils great Gus Risman in 1938. And like that occasion, Salford deserved an open top bus parade, if it weren't for the fact it would only serve to highlight our recent craptitude.
So, as you can imagine, after this Ammiesesque resurgence — the most unlikliest of trebles, we weren't too bothered about the two following defeats. That said, the third of Salford's TV stints takes place this upcoming Saturday at 'Murrayfield Magic' — where the whole of Super League traipses up to Edinburgh to play an entire round at (you've guessed it) Murrayfield; and while the afterglow of said rare victories peters out, it's against Harlequins — the clowns from London — where the Reds need to put up another respectable showing; especially as they inflicted a 18–48 drubbing on us at The Willows barely two months since. At least it was warmer in Southern France..
Also read the latest on the Reds new stadium