The Super League season kicks off in two weeks time. Andrew Riley went to the AJ Bell as Salford Devils took on Challenge Cup winners Hull FC….
Salford coach Ian Watson was pleased with the way his squad put Hull FC to the sword on a very cold day on the banks of the ship canal.
The final score of 18-6 to the home side didnt quite tell the whole story though.
Naming 26 players, including two youngsters from Halifax who are on dual registration, Watson knew that with Hull coach Lee Radford naming pretty much his first 19, it was going to be a tough day at the office.
Salford settled into their rhythm fairly quickly, but it was Hull’s Albert Kelly who looked to have scored first, only to be deemed by Referee Hicks to have been held up.
Salford though pressed hard and were making ground on every play, thanks to Junior Sa’u, who did score after 20 minutes, and with Gareth O’Brien adding the conversion, Salford led 6-0, and on the balance of play, they deserved to be ahead.
Then, just five minutes later, Weller Hauraki was held up over the line, and Hull were looking far from comfortable as Salford pushed to extend the lead.
Sadly, Hauraki was to leave the field after 27 minutes with what Watson said was a recurrence of an old injury under the heel, and was taken off as a precaution.
Then a quick break saw George Griffin score under the posts, and again, O’Brien accurate from bang in front doubled the lead to 12-0.
It remained that way for the rest of the half, and Salford looked the brighter going in at the break.
The second half saw Watson bring on a much changed team, and it took a few minutes for them to settle down, with Hull looking ready to fight for every inch of the turf.
It wasn’t until the 66th minute that they finally scored.
After Curtis Naughton had been denied a try in one corner, from the restart a flowing move across the park saw Steve Michaels score on the opposite side.
With former Salford player, and current Man of Steel, Mark Sneyd adding the conversion, it was 12-6 and game on for the visitors.
Just four minutes later though, Salford captain Michael Dobson lofted a hopeful ball into the air, and after it rattled around, it was Kris Welham who pounced and scored.
O’Brien again accurate with the boot, and Salford led 18-6 with 10 minutes left on the clock.
After Salford relegated Hull’s rivals Hull KR in the “Million Pound Game” at the end of last season, the FC fans were in fine voice, chanting “Thanks for sending Rovers down” as the clock ticked towards the final hooter.
The game finished with Hull again defending their line, and the Salford fans looked happy enough as they headed pitchside to applaud the players off.
Post match, Watson was quick to praise his players, telling the press; “I felt we started well, and the younger lads really showed their metal today. It’s been almost the perfect pre-season for us.
It certainly gives me a headache with the season opener just under two weeks away.”
On Hauraki leaving the field, he was his usual honest self, explaining that it was a recurrence of an injury he picked up in training, and his removal was a precaution. However he will need a scan later this week.
Another player with a niggle was Jordan Walne, who felt his hamstring tighten, and also came of for treatment.
On the dual registration players, Chester Butler and Connor McGrath, he was full of praise, not just for the players, but for Halifax and the RFL.
“It’s great to see that dual registration works both ways. Players from the lower division are able to see a route into super league. Those two were brilliant for us today.
Fair play to the RFL for allowing it to work, and it gives both teams a method of developing their younger players.”