SALFORD Red Devils put in what was arguably their worst performance of the season in a narrow 19-16 defeat to London Broncos.
The final scoreline actually flattered the home team who were not at the races (somewhere owner Marwan Koukash must have wished he was at) from minute one.
London Broncos dominated the possession, and after a lacklustre opening 15 minutes, William Barthau intercepted a loose pass and raced 60m to open the visitors account.
With a lack of conversion, the possession ebbed and flowed with very little in the way of creativity from either side.
The only shining light was prop Craig Kopczak, who looked a lonely voice trying to motivate the players around him.
Sadly, it wasnt to last, as after a heavy tackle on the London line, Kopczak limped off with a potential season-ending knock to the ankle.
As he left the field, so it seemed did the hopes of the Salford fans.
Salford did get a foothold in the game however when George Griffin went over and Gareth O’Brien scored to make it 6-4 after 35 minutes.
Yet true to the way Salford have played this season, it was a faint glimmer of hope that was quickly blown out when London went and scored again just three minutes later.
A conversion left it 6-10 at the break, and Devils coach Ian Watson had a lot to do to turn his players around.
The second half was again a dire affair until the 60th minute when London again crossed, Aussie import Jamie Soward this time converting his own try to make it 6-16.
Just seven minutes later, Salford gifted London a penalty in front of the sticks and Soward again made it 6-18.
With just 10 minutes left, Barthau slipped over a drop goal that looked to have sealed the Devils’ fate.
By this time, Salford players’ heads seemed to have gone, along with their Super League status, but a late try flurry from Josh Griffin, first in the 74th minute, converted by O’Brien, followed by an unconverted try in the 77th made the scoreline appear marginally better.
Post match, head coach Watson was unable to explain how his side had looked so bad after last weekend’s performance where they ran in 13 tries.
“We didnt look after the ball,” he told the press.
“Too often, we just handed it over. We said that London would be a different game to Featherstone, but I dont think it sank in.”
Asked about the players, he said he felt that there were one or two really putting in a performance, whilst others were not working for the team.
“It’s a mystery,” he admitted.
“We bang on about teamwork, and not everyone seems to want to play as a team. We have the odd individual, but we work and train on a team ethic here.”
With the loss condemning the club to at least a place in the “Million Pound Game”, and possibly straight relegation, London Broncos could by rights go up to Super League themselves if Salford lose next week away at Batley Bulldogs.
That is a game that will be made even more intense as it’s Batley coach John Kears last before he takes over the reigns at Wakefield for 2017.
By Andrew Riley