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