Rugby League

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SAL­FORD Red Devils coach Iestyn Har­ris is still sift­ing through the wreck­age of his team’s 22-18 Chal­lenge Cup crash at the hands of Leigh.

Mar­wan Koukash’s dreams of a Wem­b­ley trip bit the dust.

There were ca­su­al­ties on the first flight to Wem­b­ley leav­ing Har­ris look­ing a wor­ried man.

‘‘It is bit­terly dis­ap­point­ing to go out of the cup,’’ he said.

‘‘We are go­ing through a bit of a sticky patch right now and it is all about stick­ing to­gether.

‘‘This is what you do when you win and you do ex­actly the same when you lose.

‘‘Tar­gets were set for this sea­son and I felt we got some rough calls from the ref­eree.

‘‘We were dumb at times and it does not help mat­ters when you lose your half-back and play­maker af­ter 10 min­utes.

‘‘We also had a front rower in the cen­tre but our ex­e­cu­tion could have been bet­ter.

‘‘I felt we lacked the killer punch at times but credit to Leigh.’’

Har­ris had the suspended Rangi Chase sat along­side him in the stand and handed Kevin Locke the role of wa­ter­boy.

They all saw Michael Dob­son hob­ble off af­ter just 10 min­utes and play no fur­ther part in what was a crack­ing con­test.

Ju­nior Sa’u would fol­low, clutch­ing his arm, leav­ing Har­ris with 14 play­ers now ruled out ei­ther by sus­pen­sion or in­jury.

‘‘This is what I mean about us hav­ing to stick to­gether,’’ he added.

‘‘It was not easy for us and I also felt the ref­eree let a lot go in the ruck.’’

Dis­rup­tion placed greater em­pha­sis on the young shoul­ders of Theo Fages, who scored the open­ing try and played bril­liantly.

Fages did not de­serve to end up on the los­ing side.

While he was out there, Sal­ford at least had hope.

Heavy re­liance was also placed on Cory Pater­son, who toughed it out, yet the heavy strap­ping on lower limbs sug­gested he too could buckle at any time.

Watch­ing Fages sin­gle­hand­edly take the fight to Leigh was in­spi­ra­tional.

He had an ally in young full-back Niall Evalds.

Th­ese two played their hearts out while the Leigh for­wards en­joyed smash­ing their Sal­ford counter- parts. Har­ri­son Hansen led the mid­field charge but was reg­u­larly met by an un­com­pro­mis­ing four­man re­cep­tion com­mit­tee.

‘‘We had war­riors in de­fence,’’ said Leigh boss Paul Rowley.

“We could also have done bet­ter with the ball and we bombed a few chances. We have taken on one of the big boys and beaten them. We are grow­ing as a club. Phil Ben­tham, the ref­eree, is from Leigh so it was a bit like hav­ing your dad ref­eree the game – we did not get any­thing and were on the harsh end of the 50/50’s.”

Tommy Goulden and Gregg McNally scored to cancel Fages’ open­ing score.

Niall Evalds lev­elled and then scored the all im­por­tant first try of the sec­ond half.

The Reds looked on their way. A mirac­u­lous foil by Fages to deny Liam Kay a try seemed to en­dorse this but Leigh’s spirit again sur­faced against Reds’ walk­ing wounded. How re­fresh­ing it was to see a team play- ing rugby on the sixth tackle as op­posed to kick­ing like ev­ery team seems to do th­ese days.

Rowley’s men have plen­ti­ful spirit.

Ryan Bri­er­ley, a life­long Sal­ford fan, and one-time tar­get, in­ter­cepted to level. The game’s best move then pro­duced the win­ning try for Johnny Pow­nall.

Sal­ford were out but spare a thought not only for Fages but for Evalds.

Th­ese two gave their all but Sal­ford needed more from those around them.

Far more, in fact.

Theo Fages did not de­serve to end up on the los­ing side

Reds boss Iestyn Har­ris

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