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With the sides level on points at the top of the table but separated by a massive seventy-one points difference and five league positions, the winner of tonight’s clash between the Salford Red Devils and Wigan Warriors would be two points clear at the top of the table.

Wigan are unbeaten so far in 2024, having played a game less than their opponents, while Salford have won three from their four games, including the shock scalp of St Helens in an away fixture for the first time in decades.

But Wigan were the strong favourites, to take the win and maintain an all competition fourteen game, winning streak running all the way back to 23rd of July 2023 when the Warriors lost to Hull KR in the Challenge Cup Semi Final.

An early Wigan knock-on from Luke Thompson allowed a Salford push for the line and force a goal line drop out but it came to nothing thanks to solid Wigan defence.

More uncharacteristic Wigan handling errors meant that they were on the back foot in the early exchanges but the sides both kept their lines intact. There was little imagination in the last twenty from either team with some poor kicks which were easily dealt with by the defences.

A knock-on from Patrick Mago on twenty-eight gave Salford a scrum thirty from the Wigan line and a Wigan hand in on the last tackle gifted the home side another six, but a hard pass bounced off Kallum Watkins chest and the attack broke down.

Ryan Brierley went close to getting the opening score on thirty-five when he took an offload and chipped over the Wigan defender with the line beckoning, but he was unable to gather and the ball which drifted dead in goal.

The deadlock was finally broken with the clock showing thirty-nine minutes when Liam Marshall chased a Jai Field grubber to the left corner to collect and ground. Harry Smith was wide with the conversion attempt as the half time hooter sounded. There had been nothing to choose between the sides in an end to end first half.

David Nofoaluma spilled a Smith high kick on forty-three and Salford were then offside from the scrum before being penalised for a tackle off the ball and on the third tackle a long pass from Bevan French found Abbas Miski to dive over in by the right corner flag. Smith smashed this one between the uprights for a 10-0 lead.

On fifty-one the Red Devils opened their account as Sam Stone chased a Marc Sneyd grubber to collect and ground before sliding dead in goal. Sneyd added the conversion for 6-10.

Salford were level on sixty-two as Ethan Ryan jumped to palm back a high and hanging Sneyd kick into the hands of a grateful Tim Lafai to drop over the line and score. Sneyd added the extras, Salford into the lead.

On seventy minutes Harry Smith was sin-binned as he obstructed a Salford’s Brierley as he chased a Sneyd grubber.

With five minutes remaining Salford prevented the Wigan power play score as Liam Farrell was hauled down just short, but on Salford’s first play they were forced back into their own goal area and a drop out. A disastrous Sneyd short drop out went into the hands of Jake Wardle of the Salford defenders, the Wigan centre with a walk-in try. With Smith off the field Adam Keighran took the kick and found the target.

Salford were offside from the kick-off; the game had slipped through their fingers.

A minute from time, Bevan French went over for the fourth Wigan try of the night, and the one which put the result beyond any doubt, and he drifted through the Salford line to run the angle and score. The final hooter sounded as Keighran added the extras for a ten point Wigan win which puts them clear at the top of the table and extends their unbeaten run to fifteen games.

A strange game with a scoreless opening thirty-nine, Wigan in charge followed by a great Salford fight back for them to take the lead, before Salford ran away with it thanks to two awful Salford mistakes. Wigan probably deserved the win on the balance of play, but Salford will be ruing the one which got away.

Salford Red Devils: Brierley, Nofoaluma, MacDonald, Lafai (T), Cross, Atkin, Sneyd (2G), Dixon, Bourouh, Vuniyayawa, Stone (T), Watkins, Shorrocks. Subs: Ryan, Wright, Wright, Dudson. 18th Man: Morgan. 

Wigan Warriors: Field, Miski (T), Keighran (G), Wardle (T), Marshall (T), French (T), Smith (G, SB on 70), Thompson, O’Neill, Byrne, Isa, Farrell, Ellis.  Subs: Dupree, Mago, Hill, Forber. 18th Man: Nsemba.

Half-Time: 0-4.

Full-Time: 12-22.

Score Progression: 0-4 : HT: 0-8, 0-10, 4-10, 6-10, 10-10, 12-10, 12-14, 12-16, 12-20, 12-22 :FT.

Lead Exchanges: Wigan – Square – Salford – Wigan.

Referee: Chris Kendall.

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Posted by RLFANS News Hound on Thu 14th Mar 2024 9:50 PM | Views : 4261 | Replies : 0 | BACK TO STORIES