By Sean Hayes | 15/01/2017
It was a case of déjà vu at The Crown Oil Arena on Sunday afternoon as Salford Red Devils inflicted an almost identical score line on Rochdale Hornets, a year on from their last friendly fixture.
In the first outing of both clubs since their seasons ended in dramatic style back in September the Super League side showed their class, however they didn’t have it all their own way despite the 44-18 score line.
The early indications show that Alan Kilshaw has recruited well in the off-season, with Miles Greenwood oozing class at the back and Gavin Bennion carrying the ball with purpose throughout.
Lewis Palfrey had the toughest job of all as he paired up with Danny Yates for the first time since his move from neighbours Oldham, and he showed glimpses of what he is capable of.
The burden was lessened by another new face, Garry Middlehurst, who was heavily involved in attack from loose forward as he brings an extra dimension to the Hornets play.
The stand out performer was Ben Moores though, as he put in a solid 50 minute display at hooker which saw him cross for the opening try. Rochdale’s number nine looks to be moulding into a leader on the field and gave his team direction, but was also an imposing figure in defence.
It was a disastrous start as the home side found themselves 12-0 down within six minutes, with Gareth O’Brien dummying his way over for the opener and converting both efforts, the second of which came from a barnstorming Josh Jones.
The Salford fullback was dangerous in his first game since securing his club’s top flight status with a golden point drop-goal in the Million Pound Game, although he only lasted 22 minutes before being stretchered off. A Yates kick hung in the air for O’Brien to take, and as soon as the ball reached him Lewis Galbraith was in his face and hit him with a huge tackle which dislodged the ball for Moores to pounce.
Palfrey added the extras after the stoppage in play as the injured Red Devil was carried from the field, however at the full-time whistle he was back on his feet to see his teammates into the changing rooms.
Yates was in six minutes later although he was denied after Jordan Case’s pass was adjudged to have been forward, and seven minutes from the break Greg Johnson crossed for his first of four to re-establish the 12 point advantage.
The visitors had a man advantage soon after, as Jo Taira was sin binned for a late challenge off the ball, with Junior Sa’u making Rochdale pay from close range. Michael Dobson’s conversion made it 24-6 at half-time.
Whatever was said in the sheds worked a treat as the hosts replied within five minutes of the restart, with Yates’ short ball charged onto by Galbraith before he touched down under the crossbar.
Taira then made up for lost time with one of his first touches after returning from the sin bin, as he got a hand to a grubber from dummy half to put Hornets within six.
That was as close as they managed to get to Salford though, as Kris Welham scored a debut try after palming off an attempted tackle to cross in the corner for an unconverted effort.
Johnson then grabbed a second half hat-trick in the closing quarter, finding space on the right edge for each try to race over and finish with four to his name.
It was a well needed blow-out for both sides with the season fast approaching, but for now all eyes are on next week’s Law Cup clash with rivals Oldham.
Miles Greenwood, Chris Riley, Jake Eccleston, Lewis Galbraith, Jack Holmes, Lewis Palfrey, Danny Yates, Gavin Bennion, Ben Moores, Samir Tahraoui, Jordan Case, Josh Crowley, Gary Middlehurst Subs (all used): Jay Lobwein, Matty Hadden, Jo Taira, Jack Francis, Luke Fowden, Jordan Cella
Tries: Moores (22), Taira (45), Galbraith (50)
Goals: Palfrey 3/3
Salford Red Devils
Gareth O’Brien, Greg Johnson, Niall Evalds, Junior Sa’u, Justin Carney, Robert Lui, Michael Dobson, Lee Mossop, Kris Brining, George Griffin, Ben Murdoch-Masila, Weller Hauraki, Josh Jones Subs (all used): Lama Tasi, Ryan Lannon, Olsi Krasniqi, Adam Walne, Jordan Walne, Josh Wood, Kris Welham, Matty Willinson, Jake Bibby
Tries: O’Brien (3), Jones (6), Johnson (33, 60, 70, 78), Sa’u (36), Welham (55)
Goals: O’Brien 2/2, Dobson 3/4, Wood 1/2