Four Pointers: Salford Red Devils 22 St Helens RLFC 14
Salford got a vital win against an in-form St Helens as they ran out 22 – 14 winners on Thursday evening. Salford were always ahead, with Saints fighting to get back in the game from the off, but they left it too late as the Red Devils held on to go third in the table, after an explosive second half.
It was a quiet opening to the game, St Helens saw more of the ball and showed some bits of sparkle but never really tested the defence. Percival was creating plenty on his left wing, but didn’t have that clinical finishing touch to get over the line. At the other end of the field Robert Lui was pushing the home side forward, but like Saints, Salford were also struggling to create any end product.
It wasn’t until the 23rd minute until the first points were registered, as Dobson slotted over a penalty goal to put them two ahead, a good tactical decision in a difficult game. Kopczak extended Salford’s lead just before half-time as the prop bowled Lomax over to get an easy score.
It took Salford just 3 minutes from the restart to take their lead out to 14-0. Kopczak was on hand again, he made a great break and unselfishly passed to Dobson at the right time to set the number 7 free to score.
Alex Walmsley got one back for St Helens off the bench, Amor came close but the following play the ball saw Roby feed Walmsley who crashed over to get Saints first points on the board.
All of a sudden, St Helens were back in it with 20 minutes still to play. Ryan Morgan made a huge break before being brought down, but in the same set Lomax fed Morgan to finish off the play that he created.
Two tries in eight minutes from Saints put the worries on Salford, but Roby gave away a penalty in a dangerous position, allowing Dobson an easy penalty goal, taking Salford 6 points to the good with 15 minutes left.
Dobson pounced on a mistake from Ryan Morgan gifting the home side a simple touch down, taking the Red Devils up to 22-10 with 5 minutes to go. Lomax had the last score of the game after a rampant Saints attack, but it was too little too late for the Saints.
Saints payed their respects to 4-year old Violet-Grace Youens, a young girl from St Helens who died after a hit-and-run a few days ago. The players wore the colour violet during their warm-up with the young girls’ name printed on the back. Before the crowd respectfully created a chorus of applause on the fourth minute of the game.
EARLY BLOW FOR SAINTS
Saints had a good start to the game, and looked threatening from kick-off. Mark Percival found himself in acres of space down the left wing, he had options left and right but Salford wrapped him up to stop the attack. The move from the play the ball fed the ever threatening Theo Fages, who was knocked out after hitting the ground heavily just one minute into the game.
Fages received on field treatment for some time, before being helped off the pitch, fortunately without the need for a stretcher.
News from the treatment room ten minutes later confirmed Fages would be unfit to return to the field, but was okay.
Both teams rued from missed opportunities, more so in the opening forty. St Helens Mark Percival had a couple of chances to put his team ahead, but errors meant that he didn’t reap the rewards. Tommy Makinson and Jack Owens also crept towards the Salford goal line but both found themselves spilling the ball forward.
Up the other end, Robert Lui was providing plenty of testing balls against the St Helens defence. Kopczak managed to break the deadlock and put an end to some of the teasing opportunities, as the second half turned explosive with chances knocking throughout.
At Thirty years of age, Michael Dobson showed his experience, as he got himself a personal haul of 16-points. The Aussie got Salford on the board early on with a penalty goal, before a dominant second period saw him bag two converted tries and another penalty goal. He was an ever-present name on the tongue during the match as he helped orchestrate Salford’s attack, particularly after pouncing on a Saints mistake five minutes from time to seal the win.
Salford Red Devils (8) 22
Tries: Kopczak, Dobson 2
Goals: Dobson 4/4, O’Brien 1/1
Man of the Match: Mark Flanagan
St Helens (0) 14
Tries: Walmsley, Morgan, Lomax
Goals: Percival 1/3
POST MATCH MEDIA
Ian Watson: “Attitude will get you so far, and effort will get you so far, but you’ve got to be smart as well.”
“We won’t get carried away. We need to keep our heads down, keep working hard and keep doing the things we are doing, to make sure we remain successful.”
Kieron Cunningham: “The boys were brilliant in that second half, and for large periods of the first half as well.”
“We lost the ruck. We just weren’t quite good enough at controlling the ruck in that first period, and it hurt us.”
”We juggled things around a bit in the changing rooms at half time and it made the difference, but all credit to Salford.”
Referee: James Child
Venue: AJ Bell Stadium
Date/Time: Thursday 30th March 2017 – 20:00pm GMT