Opposition Profile: Salford Red Devils

Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com - 09/08/2020 - Rugby League - Betfred Super League - Salford Red Devils v Hull FC - Emerald Headingley Stadium, Leeds, England - Salford's Tui Lolohea is congratulated by Dan Sarginson on his try against Hull FC.

This week’s round of Super League fixtures head to Warrington’s Halliwell Jones Stadium and the Rhinos will be looking to bounce back from defeat to Wigan against a Salford side that hasn’t played since round eight.

Lets take a look at Ian Watson’s side:


Overview

After a year of incredible highs that saw Ian Watson’s team compete for their first division Championship title for the first time since the 1930s, last year’s Grand Finalists Salford Red Devils have had a mixed start to their 2020 campaign.

The departure of Jackson Hastings was always going to leave a hole but 12 new recruits in the off season has enabled Watson to create plenty of new partnerships and combinations across the field. The experienced Kevin Brown has been the first-choice partner for Tui Lolohea in the halves, with Chris Atkin also available. Powerhouse props Sebastine Ikahihifo, Pauli Pauli and Luke Yates also pack plenty of punch up front.

Their try scoring abilities hasn’t been affected either as Ken Sio, Tui Lolohea and Niall Evalds currently occupy three of the top ten try scorers in Super League so far this season. The addition of Morgan Escare, who fills in for the departing Evalds, can only be a benefit as the full back has plenty of pace and experience to help out Salford’s back line.

Salford reached their first Super League Grand Final in 2019 but lost out 23-6 to St Helens at Old Trafford.

Prior to lockdown, Salford had one win in six matches to sit 10th in the table. Their sole win came in their final match; overturning a 14-2 deficit at half time to beat Wigan 18-14. Clashes against Huddersfield, Leeds, Wakefield and Catalans all ended in defeat though, as well as their opening match of the season when current Champions St Helens dismantled the Red Devils 48-8.

On their return to action, Salford outplayed Hull FC to open the round eight triple header at Emerald Headingley; Tui Lolohea scoring 22 of Salford’s 54 points at his former stadium to take a valuable two points for Ian Watson’s side. They were due to play Catalans in round nine but positive COVID tests against their previous opponents Hull FC meant their fixture had to be postponed.


Last Time Out

Salford restarted their Betfred Super League campaign in style at Emerald Headingley, thrashing Hull FC 54-18. Former Rhino Tui Lolohea recorded 22 points, which included two tries and seven goals. Wingers Ken Sio and Rhys Williams scored doubles and Chris Atkin, Luke Yates, Kris Welham and Evalds were also on the scoresheet as Ian Watson’s side moved themselves to within two points of FC in the Super League table.


Key Players

JOEY LUSSICK

Position: Hooker

Super League Career Tries: 12

Former Clubs: Manly Sea Eagles

Former Australian Schoolboys representative in 2013

Bio: During all the highs of 2019, hooker Lussick went relatively under the radar. His partnership with Jackson Hastings proved to be key for the Reds but now working with the likes of Lolohea, Kevin Brown and Chris Atkin, he has stepped forward to help lead Ian Watson’s side from dummy half.

KEN SIO

Position: Wing

NRL Career Appearances: 98

2020 Super League Tries: 8 (1st)

Former Clubs: Parramatta Eels, Hull KR and Newcastle Knights

Bio: Now in his second Super League stint, winger Sio has proved to be one of the best finishers in the competition. Joining Hull KR from Paramatta Eels back in 2015, he scored 23 times in 42 Super League matches before returning back down under. On his return he has shown great form and leads Super League in tries.


Previous Meetings

The majority of Super League meetings between Leeds and Salford have seen the Rhinos come out victorious on most occasions.

The Rhinos recorded their biggest win over Salford in 2015, running 13 tries past the Red Devils at Headingley. Zak Hardaker, Carl Ablett and Ryan Hall all scored twice while Danny McGuire, Adam Cuthbertson, Kallum Watkins, Brett Delaney, Joel Moon, Jimmy Keinhorst and Josh Walters also crossed the whitewash in a 70-6 victory.

In 2009, both matches between the Rhinos and Red Devils were important for both clubs. Having lost the last 22 league games against Leeds, Salford got their first Super League win over the Rhinos at Headingley in April, thanks to tries from Mark Henry, Robbie Hunter-Paul, Jordan Turner, John Wilshere and current Rhino Richie Myler. Later in September, having defeated League Leaders’ Shield rivals St Helens the week before, Brian McClennan’s Leeds side secured their first piece of silverware with a 30-24 win over Salford at the Willows prior to their Play Off campaign.

Leeds’ 70-6 drubbing of Salford at Headingley in 2015 is the Rhinos’ biggest win over the Red Devils. Ten different Leeds players scored on that day including Zak Hardaker, Ryan Hall and Carl Ablett, who all scored twice.

Since 2009, Salford have only won four more league games against the Rhinos – three of which have come in the last two years. Robert Lui inspired a 14-10 win at the AJ Bell Stadium in 2016, which was followed by a tight 8-0 result for Leeds in the reverse fixture, before last year the Red Devils won matches at the AJ Bell and Emerald Headingley for the first time in Super League.

Last Ten Meetings vs Leeds

Salford Red Devils 8 Leeds Rhinos 22 (SLR3, 3/5/20) 

Leeds Rhinos 12 Salford Red Devils 20 (SLR28, 6/9/19) 

Salford Red Devils 28 Leeds Rhinos 16 (Rnd 14, 03/05/19)

Salford Red Devils 14 Leeds Rhinos 46 (Rnd 3, 17/02/19)

Leeds Rhinos 18 Salford Red Devils 16 (Qualifiers, 14/09/18)

Salford Red Devils 38 Leeds Rhinos 22 (Rnd 23, 27/07/18)

Leeds Rhinos 20 Salford Red Devils 00 (Rnd 8, 02/04/18)

Leeds Rhinos 44 Salford Red Devils 2 (Super 8s, 15/09/17)

Salford Red Devils 24 Leeds Rhinos 50 (Rnd 21, 09/07/17)

Leeds Rhinos 20 Salford Red Devils 14 (Rnd 3, 24/02/17)


Record against Leeds

Salford’s record against the Rhinos weighs heavily in Leeds’ favour. Nearly 75% of matches played between the two sides have see Leeds take the two points and in Super League alone, Salford have only won five matches.

The sides first clashed at the Willows in 1997, subsequently kick starting a 22 match unbeaten run for Leeds against the Red Devils in the league that lasted until 2007. That excludes 2003 and 2008 when Salford were relegated into the second division. Despite a 30-20 win for Salford in April 2009, Leeds started another run of 13 wins at both Headingley and The Willows/AJ Bell Stadium.

Between 1997 and 2007 (excluding 2003 and 2008 when Salford spent a season in the second tier of rugby league) Leeds held a 22 match unbeaten run against the Red Devils.

Over the last two years, the Red Devils have won three out of six matches played against the Rhinos. Last season in particular, Salford took league points from Leeds in a 28-16 result in May and a 20-12 win at Emerald Heaidingley in September. The latter win was only the second time in the Super League era that Salford have beaten Leeds at Headingley, with the first coming in 2009.


Head to Head


Last Game Against the Rhinos

Having beaten Hull KR convincingly at Emerald Headingley, Leeds claimed back to back Super League wins and a first away win of the season in their round three victory over Salford. Having suffered early tries from Niall Evalds and Tui Lolohea, the Rhinos kicked into gear as Luke Gale, Luke Briscoe, Mikolaj Oledzki and Jack Walker sealed a 22-8 result.