Match Report: Salford overpower Catalans in play-off hunt
By Ethan Davies
Salford made no mistake against Catalans Dragons in their quest for the Super League play-offs.
The result puts the Red Devils only two points behind the French side, who were 5th and occupying the final play-off spot going in to this afternoon’s match. Salford Head Coach Ian Watson had called this the first of three “massive games” for the Greater Manchester outfit, who took all of their chances this afternoon, with Kris Welham, Krishna Inu, Josh Johnson, Derell Olphert, Tui Lolohea, and Niall Evalds crossing for the home side at the AJ Bell stadium.
In contrast, Catalans only scored two tries but also crucially dropped the ball over the line on a further two occasions.
Both sides grew into the game, with a high penalty count in the opening 20 minutes leading to a game lacking in quality. However, the game sprang into life around the 25-minute mark, with Salford stand-off Tui Lolohea reacting angrily to a Antoni Maria challenge. This seemed to invigorate the home team, with Josh Johnson grabbing the first try of the afternoon underneath the posts on his home debut, having signed from Barrow recently. Just six minutes later Sam Kasiano replied for the French side, who had scored an early penalty, meaning they led at the half-hour mark.
However, it was a short-lived lead and one Catalans wouldn’t regain as Derrell Olpherts slid in on the right-hand side after 36 minutes. Just before half-time, Kris Welham, who was making his 300th career appearance, won a battle of wills in the air to hand the Red Devils a 16-8 lead at the interval.
Catalans had defended well up until Olpherts’ score, but perplexingly fell apart just before the half time hooter. However, they began the second half well, with Wiliame racing through a static Salford defence just two minutes in. The game then hung in the balance for a period of ten minutes, before Kris Welham – who Watson called “outstanding” in his post-match press conference – combined with Tui Lolohea to produce another score for Salford.
After David Mead made a crucial handling error for the Dragons on the line, Salford delivered a double blow with full-back Niall Evalds collecting a Lolohea grubber kick, and Welham profiting from some patient passing after a Catalans handling error on the 40m line.
From there, Salford scored again Flanagan wrestling through two challenges after a powerful driving run from Krisnan Inu from kick-off, which took the final score to 40-14.
It was this second-half no-show that led to Catalans Head Coach Steve McNamara saying “some of our efforts… were disgusting” following the game.
The result leaves Catalans 6th in the table on 24 points – the same as Castleford, who beat 2nd-placed Warrington on the same afternoon, and Wigan. Salford remain in 7th place, being just two points behind the Wigan-Catalans-Cas pack in their hunt for the final two play off spots, with only six regular season games left before the play-offs begin in Autumn.