Unbeaten in their last 6 at the AJ Bell Stadium, Salford Red Devils host Hull KR in a rematch of the Million Pound Game. The last time the two sides met, Gareth O’Brien’s golden point drop goal was the difference, and once again he is named in Ian Watson’s 19-man squad for the clash. Hull KR come in to the game off the back of 3 wins, including one against Super League side Leigh Centurions.
LAST TIME OUT
Salford went into their Round 13 encounter with Wigan Warriors off the back of a convincing home victory over Widnes Vikings and a close win against high flying Toronto Wolfpack in the last round of the Challenge Cup. Wigan however, went into the game with depleted numbers, off the back of a 50-point loss to Castleford. The Red Devils opened the scoring with a well-worked move finished off by Kris Welham in the corner. Niall Evalds added to the visitor’s points tally off another well worked shape – this time crossing in the opposite corner, and with Michael Dobson adding the extras, Salford led 10-0 with 20 minutes played. Salford carried on in the same clinical vein when crossing just four minutes later when Robert Lui and Ben Murdoch-Masila combined to extend the visitors lead to 4 points. Dobson added the extras and the Red Devils went in to the half time break 16-0 up. Salford continued the romp with Lui pulling the strings; going up 28-0 with quick fire tries after the break from Evalds and Johnson respectively.
Wigan, however, staged a come back with Tom Davies squeezing over after slick hands from Liam Forsyth. Wigan added two more tries to their tally in the final quarter of the game with Ryan Sutton and Lewis Tierney crossing at short distance. Josh Woods this time added the extras and reduced the gap to 12 points, but O’Brien added a drop goal with 6 minutes to go and a penalty with 4 minutes to go to seal the Red Devils’ first away win at Wigan since their inclusion in the Super League.
Hull KR similarly are flying high this season, and went into their Round 13 clash with Batley Bulldogs with only one loss in all competitions. The hosts could only hold out the Robins for 9 minutes, when Robbie Mulhern crossed to open the scoring. Hull KR added to their lead with back-to-back tries from Ryan Shaw, Andrew Heffernan, and Jordan Abdul at the end of the first quarter of the game. Hull KR continued to dominate, adding to their tally through Zach Dockar-Clay to make the score 28-0 with 31 minutes played. Shaw and Heffernan both scored their 2nd tries of the day just before the close of the half, putting Hull KR 38-0 up going into the sheds a half time.
Hull KR continued to the second half in the same vein with Jamie Ellis crossing just 6 minutes in. He converted his own effort, and put the hosts 44-0 up. Jake Butler-Flemming extended their lead, just before Shaw completed his hat-trick with 20 minutes to play. Dockar-Clay soon crossed for his second to extend Hull’s run to 62 unanswered points. Batley, however, replied soon after with a Michael Hayward consolation try but Hull KR continued to apply pressure and crossed the whitewash once more before the final whistle. Hull KR asserted their dominance once more, going into the sheds at full time with the scoreboard reading 68-4.
Jamie Ellis dropped down to the Championship side on loan after being told he was surplus to requirements this season by Rick Stone, so he will have a point to prove against a high flying Super League side in Salford. By contrast, Gareth O’Brien will be trying to emulate his heroic performance in last years Million Pound Game against Hull KR – in which he scored the winning drop goal from 45m out. Robert Lui has also been a commanding presence in the Salford side of late, striking a great balance of flair and pragmatism with halves partner Michael Dobson. Without doubt, the Salford pack has the advantage in this one, so it’ll be the playmaking spine that is pivotal. If the Hull KR playmaking spine can control the game and negate the impact of Salford’s pack, they’re in with a shot. If not, it’ll be the Salford playmakers that will decide by how much the Red Devils win.
It’s hard to see Hull KR getting a look in here. Although they are undoubtedly the best side in the Championship this year, they have had little to challenge them in the form of Super League quality opposition. Salford, on the other hand, stand 3rd in the Super League, a far cry from where they stood prior to meeting Hull KR in the Million Pound Game last year. They also come in to this one off the back of an historic win away at Wigan and stand unbeaten in the last 6 at home. Lee Mossop and Junior S’au have also been named in the 19-man squad for Friday’s clash after returning from injury. S’au has the ability to change a game in the blink of an eye – he’s explosive and very dangerous on the edges, so if he makes it into the match day 17, I would be worried for Hull KR. No doubt, Hull will come into this with bags of passion after last season’s heartbreak, but Salford will be too strong for the Championship side. Salford Red Devils by 14
Salford Red Devils: Ben Murdoch-Masila, Craig Kopczak, Daniel Murray, Gareth O’Brien, Greg Johnson, Jake Bibby, Josh Jones, Junior S’au, Kris Welham, Kriss Brining, Lama Tasi, Lee Mossop, Logan Tomkins, Michael Dobson, Niall Evalds, Olsi Krasniqi, Rob Lui, Ryan Lannon, Weller Hauraki.
Hull KR: Jordan Abdull, Maurice Blair, Jake Butler-Fleming, Mitch Clark, Ben Cockayne, Zach Dockar-Clay, Jamie Ellis, James Greenwood, Andrew Heffernan, David Hodgson, Josh Johnson, Ben Kavanagh, George Lawler, Shaun Lunt, Thomas Minns, Robbie Mulhern, Liam Salter, Nick Scruton, Ryan Shaw.