2020 SL Round 5, Salford Red Devils 12 Wakefield Trinity 22 – Report

In a game where the 2019 Grand Finalists, Salford Red Devils, badly needed a win to kick start their season, they were second best in what was a fairly dour contest; out muscled by a determined and improving Wakefield Trinity side.

On a bright but windy and chilly March afternoon, it was indeed the visitors who ground out a gritty two points in front of a crowd of just over 3,800.

During the match it was the hosts, Salford, who drew first blood somewhat against the run of play through Tui Lolohea who set up a Ken Sio break before backing up the wingman to finish near the right-hand corner.

Wakefield responded through stand-in halfback Max Jowitt who backed up a powerful break through the middle from Reece Lyne.

Salford once again scored the first try of the half during the second stanza through former Newcastle Knights winger Ken Sio, only for Wakefield to enjoy a purple patch, scoring three tries in a decisive thirteen-minute period through wingers Tom Johnstone and Bill Tupou and the impressive Kelepi Tanginoa.

Sio helped himself to a second nine minutes from time though the Red Devils hardly threatened a comeback and it was Wakefield who ran out relatively comfortable winners.

Despite still being so early on in the campaign, this encounter will have been marked down by both clubs as an absolute must-win.

It was a somewhat cagey opening ten minutes of the match though it was the visitors, Wakefield, that looked slightly more threatening. Jacob Miller made a half break and nearly got beyond his opposite number Lolohea.

It was the hosts however who scored first. Pauli Pauli, against his former team, got an offload away to the aggressive Kris Welham who bumped off a couple of attempted tackles before finding Lolohea who put Sio away down the right-hand touchline before supporting the winger to cross for the game’s opening score. Lolohea failed to convert his own try so the score remained 4-0 in Salford’s favour.

Wakefield responded reasonably well to going behind and hit back ten minutes later as the ever-lively Kyle Wood profited from a quick play-the-ball, making a dart out of dummy-half and found Lyne who broke clean through the middle of Salford’s defence and supplied the supporting Jowitt who had enough pace from forty metres out to go under the sticks. Jowitt converted his own try to hand his side a slender lead.

The try came out of nothing in truth but from then on Wakefield were clearly the better side before half-time but lacked that bit of composure when the chances came and were struggling for creativity near Salford’s line.

Ryan Atkins, who had a good game, made a powerful break but his pass to Alex Walker was poorly-timed and the former London Fullback couldn’t take the ball in. Tanginoa and Pitts meanwhile both went agonisingly close to crashing over for Wakefield just before halftime but Salford’s defence stood firm. 4-6 halftime.

In a low-quality game dominated by defence and packed with clunky and flat rugby, Salford began the second half with a rare flowing move that ended with Niall Evalds, who is improving as a pivot, supplying Sio who dived over. Lolohea again couldn’t convert.

Wakefield had by far the better field position during the first half so to go behind on 45 minutes must have been quite frustrating and it would have been easy for the visitors to let their heads drop but their execution improved in the second half and they were rewarded with a purple patch.

First Jowitt, who impressed during his first ever first-grade appearance in the halves, booted an attacking swirling bomb that found Ryan Atkins, who managed to supply his winger Johnstone with an accurate offload. Johnstone had a stroll-in and improved the angle enough for Jowitt to nail the conversion. 8-12.

Then came a period of the game where Salford’s forwards were beginning to seriously struggle to contain Wakefield’s forwards, most notably Tanginoa and Romain Navarrete, and the rucks that were desperately slow in the first half got much quicker in the second.

For Wakefield’s third try of the afternoon former Salford hooker, Josh Wood, went down the blind-side on the last tackle ten metres out to feed Lyne who got an offload away to his winger Tupou. The explosive Kiwi had precious little space but was too big to bully into touch and had enough acrobatic balance to dive his way over in what was a breath-taking finish.

It got even better for Wakefield a few minutes later as the powerful Tanginoa, who was the best forward on the pitch, barged his way through some feeble Salford defence to just about put the game beyond the hosts’ reach. To their credit Salford didn’t give in when it looked like the wheels might fall off and looked like they might have set up a nervy finish when Sio scored a second unconverted try following more efficient creativity from fullback Evalds. But Wakefield didn’t panic and closed the game out comfortably in the end.

This was a very good and much-needed win for Wakefield. In a battle-and-scrap affair finding a way to win is very satisfying and it was deserved in the end. They completed out muscled and out-powered Salford in the second half. There was a period of the game where the hosts’ pack couldn’t contain Tanginoa and Navarrete. Halves Jowitt and Miller struggled to link up at times which was understandable but individually they both had good games.

As for Salford, they were poor. Too open defensively, not enough creativity in attack and not a great deal of aggression or leadership when they were on the back foot. They look too easy to play against in both attack and defence and need to significantly improve or it is a long hard season ahead.

Player Ratings

Salford Red Devils

  1. Niall Evalds 7/10
  2. Ken Sio 7/10
  3. Kris Welham 6/10
  4. Dan Sarginson 7/10
  5. Rhys Williams 7/10
  6. Tui Lolohea 6/10
  7. Chris Atkin 4/10
  8. Lee Mossop 5/10
  9. Connor Jones 5/10
  10. Gil Dudson 5/10
  11. Oliver Roberts 5/10
  12. Pauli Pauli 6/10
  13. Luke Yates 5/10
  14. Ryan Lannon 5/10
  15. Sebastine Ikahihfo 6/10
  16. Mark Flanagan 5/10
  17. Joey Lussick 5/10

Wakefield Trinity

  1. Alex Walker 6/10
  2. Bill Tupou 8/10
  3. Reece Lyne 7/10
  4. Ryan Atkins 7/10
  5. Tom Johnstone 7/10
  6. Jacob Miller 7/10
  7. Max Jowitt 8/10
  8. Craig Kopczak 6/10
  9. Kyle Wood 7/10
  10. Romain Navarette 8/10
  11. Matty Ashurst 7/10
  12. Jay Pitts 7/10
  13. Joe Westerman 7/10
  14. Josh Wood 6/10
  15. Kelepi Tanginoa 9/10
  16. Chris Green 7/10
  17. Jordan Crowther 5/10

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