Five things: The Salford revolution is up and running

Neil Barraclough

One – The Salford revolution is up and running

A great Sunday at the AJ Bell Stadium: huge pre-match hype, Marwan Koukash getting the fans going, the Red Devils parachuting in and a record crowd to boot all set the perfect backdrop for a game that proved surprisingly tense.

Salford’s players have been mocked as mercenaries by plenty of fans from other teams, but on this evidence Brian Noble has moulded a team full of spirit and character, if not quite cohesion just yet.

Gareth Hock, Lama Tasi, Harrison Hansen and Junior Sa’u all appeared to enjoy bashing anything in a Wakefield shirt and, while Trinity’s comeback won’t please Noble, the way Salford hung on will.

Salford in 2013 would not have won that game; it says much about what Noble has managed to instill that they clung on.

“It’s early in the season and it’s a great lesson,” said Noble. “The starting 13 weren’t here last year, so it’ll take a bit of time to get our game sense.”


Two – Battle royal at Belle Vue

Thursday’s match at Wakefield takes on even greater significance after Bradford’s defeat against Castleford.

A decision on any Bulls points deduction – or otherwise – is due in the middle of this week, possibly the day before Francis Cummins’ men travel to face a Wildcats team likely to include debut boy Jarrod Sammut.

On the evidence of Sunday’s effort at Salford, Wakefield are certainly not the easy beats many tipped before the season began.

Paul McShane was strong in an 80-minute stint while Pita Godinet was a lively presence just six days after arriving in the UK.

Pairing Godinet and Sammut together promises one of the most unpredictable half-back pairings in recent history. It should be fun to watch, at the very least.


Three – There’s no defence for that

Apologies straight away – and with expectation that I might be branded a bit of misery – but as exciting as Hull v Catalan was on Friday night, did a match with 15 tries bother anyone else?

Thrilling? Yep. Tense? Definitely. High quality? Not sure.

Lee Radford said: “There’s obviously some issues to fix up defensively.”

Catalan boss Laurent Frayssinous admitted: “We made some soft and poor decisions.”

Frayssinous had earlier done a fine impression of his fellow countryman Arsene Wenger, insisting he did not see the ugly incident that left Aaron Heremaia screaming in pain after Olivier Elima appeared to deliberately twist his ankle.

Elima will find out on Monday whether he has been called up to face disciplinary action. He could always try the “I touched his shoulder first” defence…


Four – A Saint in waiting

Amid all the hype surrounding Luke Walsh’s St Helens debut, one man could be forgiven for wondering what his future holds.

Step forward Lance Hohaia, full-back for the Kiwis in their 2008 World Cup final win but now almost one of the forgotten men of Super League – a fate that his considerable talent does not deserve.

Credit to Nathan Brown then, for paying tribute to the New Zealander despite him not being involved in Thursday’s win at Warrington.

“It breaks my heart not playing Lance,” said Brown.

Lance Hohaia deserves to play every week. He’s a terrific little player and a great bloke. It’s not nice to leave him out, but we can’t find a spot for everyone.”


Five – Championship challenges

The Championship has arguably established itself as the most competitive division in British rugby league and Sunday’s results show no sign of that stopping in 2014.

Five relegation spots and massive cash prizes for the top two certainly help, too.

Crusaders, Dewsbury, Keighley and Leigh will certainly be delighted with their starts. 

It should be another absolute belter of a year for those who look outside of Super League.

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Follow Neil Barraclough on Twitter @neilbarraclough