Salford City Roosters are staring a second successive relegation in the face after this latest defeat against the side immediately below them, and their 7th game without victory. On this occasion though, the scoreline does not do justice to the Salford side, who were easily the better team in the first half but just ran out of fit players and luck in the second half. They were not helped either by some strange decisions from the young official. At the end of the day however the difference was that the home side put up a solid defence and the Roosters could not break them down while the Roosters back line was breached too often, too easily.
The Salford team could yet save themselves as they are only one point behind Dewsbury Celtic and safety with four games left to play – all at home, but three of the teams to visit Moat Hall are in the top 4 and chasing a promotion place. Realistically two wins should be enough to pull off the great escape.
Roosters travelled with only 15 players as injuries and other commitments have devastated the squad, and the 15 included veteran Jimmy Lomax – making his first appearance of the season and Jake Carr who turned out for only his second game after answering the call for reinforcements. Christian Higgins and George Kemp ran hard for the Roosters while Martin Judge never missed a tackle all day but the man of the match vote went to Andrew Muscat who played as emergency scrum half in the absence of John Brookes, Paul Morgan and Bradley White.
Roosters started the game really brightly, but in only the 4th minute the first penalty of the game gave the Leeds side their first attack and Cameron Leeming took advantage of some poor defence to open the scoring. Jack Brown improved the try (0-6).
On 10 minutes Klaus Ndinga took a high shot and Alex Edwards went for goal with a long distance penalty that sailed just wide, although the visitors did draw level on 22 minutes. Steve Barry sent a high kick to the corner and Edwards jumped highest to palm the ball back to Lee Salisbury who sent Kemp over 15 metres from the corner. Edwards added a great conversion (6-6) and from that moment on the Roosters took the game to their hosts although each time failing to turn pressure into points. When the half time whistle did blow they found themselves six points behind after more slack tackling on 29 minutes allowed Nial Murphy to break down the middle from half way and score between the sticks, leaving Brown an easy conversion (6-12).
The second period was only 6 minutes old when the Roosters defence creaked again and Chris Burke sent Murphy round the posts for another Brown converted try (6-18) then, on 50 minutes, a fracas ensued when Danny Trimble took exception to persistent fouling and Stanningley had Martin McNiven sin binned for throwing a “cheap shot”. Roosters could not take advantage of the extra man though and 5 minutes later the teams were down to 12 men each in bizarre circumstances. Captain Marc Gilligan asked the referee why he had called a penalty to the home team and the referee told him to come back when he had more time. As Gilligan walked away Muscat asked him what the ref had said to which Gilligan replied “He won’t talk to me”. That comment was deemed enough by the official to sin bin Gilligan.
As the Roosters were trying to re-organise with Gilligan off the pitch Stanningley took advantage within 2 minutes with Scott Pascall off loading out of the tackle for Josh Turner to score a Brown converted try (6-24), and worse was to follow for Roosters as they were reduced to 11 players on 62 minutes. Carr took an elbow to the face while lay on the ground and got up to retaliate with a punch on his attacker. Carr was shown the red card while his assailant went without punishment. Any hope of a Roosters fightback was ended two minutes later when Leeming scored his second try, in the corner, although too far out for Brown to convert (6-28).
All three of the officials missed a clear forward pass when Tom Doyle went over for the home side on 67 minutes (6-34) but the sides were evened up again numerically a minute later after Muscat retrieved the ball from the re-start and McNiven received his second yellow card for holding him down too long. With 10 minutes left to play the resulting penalty led to Muscat handing off a defender and scoring half way between the posts and corner leaving Edwards to slot the conversion (12-34).
Stanningley were worthy of their lead at this point, even though the Roosters contingent were clearly frustrated by some of the refereeing decisions, and with victory assured they began to throw the ball around with confidence and came up with two tries, the second converted by Brown, in the last three minutes. Brown scored the first try after a break by Leeming (12-38) and right on the whistle Josh Jones’ try, converted by Brown made the score look more convincing than it was (12-44).