SALFORD Red Devils look certain to be condemned to the Million Pound game in the Super 8’s Qualifiers after losing 30-8 at Leeds. Quays News reporter Andrew Riley was there to run the rule over the performance of the Red Devils…
Salford Devils crashed to their third defeat in the Super 8’s qualifiers at Headingley as Leeds Rhinos ran out 30-8 winners in a contest that, to be honest, Salford were never really in.
In a game that was never really allowed to flow, thanks in part to both sides making errors and the referee blowing up for everything, Leeds took an early lead thanks to Jamie Jones-Buchanan crashing over under the posts, and Liam Sutcliffe adding the extras, Leeds led 6-0.
It wasn’t to last, as Salford went up the other end less than two minutes later, when a high bomb was knocked back by Josh Griffin to captain Michael Dobson, who sent George Griffin over, and with Gareth O’Brien converting, the tie was all square after 10 minutes.
That was arguably the high point for the travelling fans, as both sides knocked on, held on too long in the ruck and generally made the sort of errors that turn head coaches hair grey prematurely, until just before the half hour mark, Salford were given a penalty 30m out and O’Brien made it 6-8.
That was to be the last time Salford would trouble the scoreboard however…
O’Brien was caught out of position in the 36th minute, and made a desperate tackle from an offside position, leaving referee Thaler with no option but to send him to the sin-bin for 10 minutes, and Leeds promptly scored through Callum Watkins.
Sutcliffe missed the conversion though, to leave it 10-8 at the half time hooter.
The telling statistic for the half was the 7-5 penalty count.
Neither coach could have been happy with their team’s performance, but it is in those moments that the character of a player and coach shows, and how they deal with the pressure.
Salford started the second half looking dangerous, and looked to have crossed the line through Weller Hauraki, only for it to be ruled out correctly for a double movement.
That decision took the fight out of Salford, and mentally, they appeared to fold.
Leeds extended the lead in the 52nd minute as Jordan Lilley, taking over kicking duties from the injured Sutcliffe, added a penalty, and then in the 55th the ball was knocked out of a lose carry, and James Segeyaro showed his soccer skills to race onto the lose ball and score under the posts.
Lilley again converted to make it 18-8, and the body language from Salford was that of beaten and condemned men.
In the 65th minute, Carl Ablett went over to make it 22-8, again Lilley accurate with the boot made it 24-8, and there was simply no way back for the visitors.
With just three minutes left on the clock, Adam Cuthbertson crashed over and with the addition of the conversion the score stood at 30-8 and it was game over.
Post match, Leeds coach Brian McDermott said he felt the scoreline flattered his side:
“We didn’t play to our best,” he told the assembled press.
“There were too many errors for my liking, and Salford really came to give us a game.”
Salford coach Ian Watson was left rueing the try that was ruled out:
“I thought the Weller try was wrongly ruled out, and the momentum of the game swung back towards Leeds at that point,” he bemoaned.
“We’d done well defending until that point.”
With the remaining games in the qualifiers against Championship sides, Watson is under no illusion of the size of the task now facing his squad.
“We have to go three from three now. The lads are a good honest group and they know what they’ve done wrong, and taking the wrong options with the ball has let us down.”
He also pointed to the fact that earlier this season the Devils’ attack had been ruthless, but they were now spilling the ball too much in attack with the try line begging.
“We’re doing the tough stuff. We are defending well but teams are getting the bounce of the ball against us where they weren’t before and we just aren’t dealing well with it or making the right choices with the ball in hand.”
Yet, he refused to blame the defeat on the string of injuries the club has amassed in the last few weeks.
“We train really hard as a group. Players get enough time in those positions to know what they’re doing and we’re big on everyone knowing their role in the team as well.”
“Losing say a (Justin) Carney on the wing or a Mason (Caton-Brown) isn’t easy, but it’s those players who get you on the front foot and score you the tries,” he said.
Salford now face Featherstone Rovers next Sunday, then London before finally finishing the season away to Batley on the September 24.
They need to win all three to have an outside chance of avoiding the Million Pound game.
Given the way other teams have gone so far, it will likely be points difference that decides who is promoted and who is relegated, so a strong performance will be demanded by those loyal fans who watch the Devils week in and week out.
By Andrew Riley