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SALFORD RED DEVILS 12 LEIGH CENTURIONS 6
 

Star date: 15th April 2017

SALFORD MAKE IT FIVE WINS IN A ROW...

Salford Red Devils won their fifth consecutive game to sit in second place in the League ladder after ten games. A tight and, at times dour, Good Friday derby win over Leigh Centurions saw Salford triumph 12-6, with fullback Gareth O'Brien going over to score the match winning try.

Match report and photos by Gareth Lyons here...


Salford Red Devils 12 Leigh Centurions 6 Salford Red Devils 12 Leigh Centurions 6 Salford Red Devils 12 Leigh Centurions 6
Salford Red Devils 12 Leigh Centurions 6 Salford Red Devils 12 Leigh Centurions 6 Salford Red Devils 12 Leigh Centurions 6
Salford Red Devils 12 Leigh Centurions 6 Salford Red Devils 12 Leigh Centurions 6 Salford Red Devils 12 Leigh Centurions 6
Salford Red Devils 12 Leigh Centurions 6
click image to enlarge

Salford welcomed back the impressive Josh Jones, who is in the league's top ten tackle bust makers this season, but were without star signing Todd Carney, with rumour in the press room before kick off that he was being rested for the Easter Monday clash against his previous team Catalans Dragons.

If this was the case then coach Ian Watson's calculated risk paid off, as the Red Devils got the two competition points. For long periods of the game the Reds' previously slick attack which had scored over fifty points at Hull FC last Friday, struggled against a spirited Leigh defence, missing ex Red Devils Gareth Hock and Corey Paterson, and the heavy rain which marred the second half of this contest.

A tight first half saw the Reds open the scoring when Gareth O'Brien kicked a penalty goal after a Leigh infringement (2-0). The Centurions hit back with a close range try when stand-off Martyn Ridyard threaded a pinpoint grubber kick through the Salford defence for centre Mitch Brown to touch down for his third try of the season, Ben Reynolds converted to extend the lead, (2-6).
 
Although solid in defence the Red Devils were clunky in attack and lacked a little bit of their usual go-forward, which has seen the club lead the Super League in metres made. With unsung hero Craig Kopczak starting off the bench, the Red Devils relied on the wing of Junior Sa'u and Justin Carney to break the Leigh defence, but when Sa'u did break through he was surprisingly run down.

The Reds efforts were rewarded just before the break when a period of pressure saw Robert Lui and Michael Dobson combine, the later passing to Gareth O'Brien who chiming into the line created an extra man. O'Brien drew in a Leigh defender, waited until the last second and taking a hit for his troubles released Kris Welham...

Welham stepped inside Matthew Dawson and fended off Danny Tickle's tackle to score but Dobson sent his conversion just wide of the posts for the half time score of six points each.

As the hooter for half time went, the rain which had at that point had held off ,started and did not relent fully for the rest of the match. For a game with a relatively even first half, as both teams cancelled each other out, the only side that generated any periods of concerted pressure and looked like scoring in the second half was the Reds.

The match winning try was cleverly constructed, with Reds' Captain Michael Dobson using his tactical kicking to put Leigh under pressure, forcing the Centurions to drop out on a least three occasions in a five minute spell. Dobson put a series of kicks towards Leigh winger Adam Higson, with Josh Jones, Junior Sa'u and Justin Carney breathing down his neck he was forced to repeatedly put the ball dead.

As everyone expected the Reds to continue this tactic, they cleverly switched the attack to the other side of the pitch and, using the same move as for the first try, Gareth O'Brien found himself on the outside of the tiring Danny Tickle. Without the need to pass, he easily evaded the tackle and scored to give the Reds the lead and send The Shed into raptures.

This increased even more when Michael Dobson kicked the conversion from the touchline to give the Red Devils their match winning lead and although only one score, in the conditions it gave the Centurions a mountain to climb which they did not look capable of doing.

O'Brien missed a late drop goal attempt in the final few minutes and as Leigh made frantic attempts to score their ball security suffered and they were unable to seriously the challenge the Reds defence or build any pressure.

As the full time hooter went, the Red's fans celebrated a hard fought win and although the flowing rugby seen in away wins at Widnes and Hull FC was lacking, as was the spite which has been central to Salford v Leigh games in the last decade or so.

The Reds' defence was solid and tough, causing a number of Leigh errors and only conceding one try through a kick. It was no wonder that, post match, coach Ian Watson was happy...

"We have talked about being resilient and coming through close games and we showed that again today" he said "Last season we were involved in a lot of close games and just didn't quite get there. We won't get carried away with winning five games in a row...

"In the first half we were a little bit off but in the second we controlled the game really well on the back of Michael Dobson's kicking game, which is what we wanted to do in the conditions", he added.

At full time, as the players saluted the fans, you could not help but wonder how much the slog in horrible conditions will have taken out of them for the game against Catalans Dragons on Easter Monday, especially considering the potential heat in the South of France and the fact that the Dragons have had two extra days to travel (back to France as their last game was in Huddersfield), rest and prepare.

It is an absolute disgrace that, with teams asked to play twice over the Easter weekend in such a physical sport, the Dragons can be given such an advantage. But one thing the Reds have this season, as alluded to by Ian Watson in his press conference, is team spirit. So here's to six consecutive wins...

Match report and photos by Gareth Lyons

To see more of Gareth's match photos see https://flic.kr/s/aHskSS1EkA


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