Defeat leaves Salford doomed to Qualifiers
AT the end of a week in which former owner Marwan Koukash financed the signing Salford hope will preserve their Betfred Super League status, the club was mathematically consigned to a spot in the Super 8 Qualifiers with defeat to Castleford.
Aussie Jackson Hastings is expected to arrive within the next seven days, and with Niall Evalds close to a return to fitness, there will be a spine around which Ian Watson and his staff can build in that stage of the competition, which is ultimately a battle against relegation.
Before then, the focus will be getting fit bodies on the field consistently, with the noticeable fatigue of a small squad struggling with injuries as much a factor in this defeat to Castleford as the lack of cohesion in attack.
But overall, it represented a significant improvement from last week’s comprehensive defeat to Hull KR.
“We spoke about a response,” said coach Watson. “Individually and collectively as a team, making sure we were better, making sure we were setting ourselves up going forward.
“We wanted a performance and we got it. We had 17 players and that’s it. We’ve got two players who shouldn’t be playing and they’re getting jabbed up. We’re in a tough situation.
“The boys have done outstanding, with the effort they’ve shown and their commitment to it, especially on the back of a tough result last week at Hull KR.”
It was predominantly a tight game in which Salford had the better of the opening exchanges, muscling up hard in defence and forcing regular errors from a Tigers side renowned for their ability with ball in hand.
Yet despite having the bulk of the possession, the Red Devils offered little threat close to the line and found themselves behind after half an hour when a kick charged down into Paul McShane’s face bounced up kindly for the visiting hooker and he found Jake Webster, who strolled over untouched.
Salford hit back just before the break when Jake Bibby touched down a short grubber kick from Rob Lui.
Ed Chamberlain - again selected at fullback - converted spectacularly from the touchline.
That meant the scores were level at half-time, but they wouldn’t be for long, Cas crossing twice in five minutes through Michael Shenton and Webster.
Kieran Gill then acrobatically touched down a long pass from Quentin Laulu-Togagae.