Salford City Roosters followed up their first victory of the season with their first away win of the season, but once again they made much harder work of it than they needed to. They completely controlled the game for an hour and built up a 22 point lead, yet still ended up hanging on for the points as a very young Wigan St. Judes side, containing 5 of their under 18’s, clawed their way back to within one score, and it came as a great relief to the Roosters when the referee blew the final whistle. The goal kicking of Bradley White proved decisive in the end as the teams finished with 5 tries each.
The Roosters welcomed back Tom Smith and Tom Pratt to replace injured Jake Lynch and Marc Gilligan and although all the points for Roosters came from the backs it was largely down to the efforts of the forwards, and man of the match Mark Thomas particularly, that the Salford side prevailed.
Roosters started brightly from the off and forced a goal line drop out on 8 minutes when Thomas off loaded out of the tackle and Bradley White sent a low kick to the corner that was chased by Andrew Muscat and George Kemp, panicking winger Gareth Thomas into kicking the ball dead, then they took the lead on 14 minutes. Steve Barry and Muscat were both stopped on the try line before White dived over from dummy half, forcing the ball down despite the attentions of 4 defenders. White missed the conversion attempt (4-0), but made no mistake with his next kick, on 18 minutes after Marc Jones sent Muscat racing 35metres from the halfway line to draw full back Darrion Ball and send Kemp round the posts to score (10-0).
Salford forced another drop out on 23 minutes when White chased his own kick and Ball came to the rescue for St. Judes, although it was the home side who scored next, just 3 minutes later when Connor Parkinson escaped the clutches of Muscat and White to touch down, albeit too far out for Thomas to convert (10-4).
Roosters increased their advantage on 32 minutes when Barry flipped the ball backwards out of the tackle and as it hit the ground Muscat kicked it towards the wing where home winger Thomas hesitated, seemingly expecting the whistle for a infringement, and Kemp took advantage to score his second try. White converted brilliantly from the touchline (16-4) but St. Judes responded immediately. In the 36th minute Nathan Jones broke across the halfway line and sent Gavin Rodden clear to score halfway between the posts and corner flag. Confusion followed the try as both touch judges put their flags up to indicate a conversion by Thomas but the referee waved it away (16- 8).
As the first half went into injury time Roosters forced a third drop out when Morgan followed up his own kick, forcing Jones to kick the ball to safety. Luck was with Salford as the drop out was booted straight into touch and White converted the resulting penalty from in front of the posts (18-8).
Five minutes into second half Roosters were awarded another penalty in front of the home sticks when Lee Salisbury was stripped of the ball by two tacklers and White nudged the visitors further ahead (20-8). From the re-start though, White caught the ball, but with a foot in touch, conceding a drop out and this signalled the start of a better period for the Wigan team. First Paul Morgan and Smith pulled off a try saving tackle on St. Judes man of the match Joey Brady and then Smith bundled Nathan Moore into touch as he was about to touch the ball down in the corner. Roosters survived the pressure though and hit back with two tries in 4 minutes, and another from Muscat in between turned down for a forward pass.
The first, on 56 minutes, Came as a result of quick hands across the pitch involving White, John Brookes and Morgan leading to a try in the corner from Smith that White improved superbly from a tight angle (26-8). The second came after St. Judes’ Dec Parkinson’s pass to Brady on half way went to ground and whilst they failed to drop on it Smith booted the ball on twice before following up to score in the corner. This time White missed the kick (30-8).
Once again Roosters failed to deal with the re-start and the ball was allowed to bounce dead. From the drop out Paul Pendlebury “scythed” his way through the visiting defence without anybody getting a hand on him to score net to the post on 62 minutes, leaving Thomas an easy conversion (30-14).
After that try it was as if the two teams had changed shirts because the Salford team were forced to defend for their lives as St. Judes piled on the pressure, believing that they could still get something out of the game, and that belief looked more realistic on 68 minutes when Barry Rothwell took advantage of some weak tackling to score next to the post. In an effort to get the game restarted quickly however Thomas rushed his conversion and “fluffed” what should have been a formality (30-18).
Three minutes later the Roosters supporters looked on in disbelief as Connor Parkinson score another home try, only this time Thomas took his time and converted (30-24) to set up a very nervous last 9 minutes. A neutral might have put his money on St. Judes winning the game now but Roosters held on for the final whistle where they breathed a huge sigh of relief and the home team were left wondering why they couldn’t have started the game like they finished it.
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