Salford v London

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Rugby league has a new coaching superstar.
Yesterday was the first time I’d met the London Broncos coach Joe Grima, but what an impression he left! He was honest, open and it was refreshing to have a coach who, despite a defeat, was smiling away and happily chatted to the gathered press at the A.J. Bell after his defeat to Salford Red Devils without reserve.
For my money, I hope he’s still in charge when (if) the Broncos head back to the top table following this seasons relegation. You can hear his post-match comments in full below, but he had a lot more positives to take from the game than certainly I expected.
On the other side of the coin, Iestyn Harris looked like his dog had just been shot despite a ten try haul that included a pair of hatricks, one for Greg Johnson and one for Josh griffin, who scored a total of thirty points, for his side and a much improved performance after the drubbing they and the clubs fans suffered the previous week, losing 42-6 to Wakefield. After last week, Harris had said that it was not possible to perform like that in a Salford shirt and as usual, the clubs owner Dr Marwan Koukash, was very vocal on social media about his feelings.
As it was, I thought Salford looked incredible for long spells of the game, and it was only in the last quarter that London started to make headway as the week’s hard graft that Harris had put his players through after last week began to take its toll and Salford began to look laboured.
As Iestyn said himself, he feels that after a real pre-season, Salford will have all the plays in place and the fitness to go toe to toe with any other club in the league. Given the undoubted beasting that the players endured over the last week, I don’t doubt it either.
As one fan commented to me, the club have the right man, the right players and all they need now is a chance to put plays together in the off season and gain the confidence in each other as a team that they sometimes look like they are missing on the pitch.
Either way, for me, the stand out man of the entire day was Joe Grima. The game needs more personalities like him at the helm of clubs. Coaches who are not scared of telling the truth or who are looking to hide behind referee’s decisions on the back of a bad result. London, I salute your club and wish you well for the future. You have the nucleus of a good young team who looked as if they will do well in the Championship, and should make the playoffs for a top table spot in 2016. Your signings have been astute and well thought through, with no panic buying of big names to buy your way back, but solid, reliable players with experience and a good blend of youth, I think the future of Rugby League in London is looking brighter by the year.
Please don’t let Joe go though!
Smiling Joe Grima

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Warriors (and officials) make hay in Salford

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First of all, congratulations to Wigan Warriors. They played an outstanding game of rugby league at the A.J. Bell stadium. Also well done to referee Phil Bentham. For almost five minutes, he managed to make all his own decisions. After that, every chance he got, he asked Mr Thaler to make the decision for him. Eight tries were sent upstairs… At the rate it’s going, TV games will be running to well over 90 minutes unless the RFL start to make the officials use the technology a little more judiciously than at present.
Salford on the other hand looked lethargic, fuggy and struggled to hold onto the ball for a full set from minute one. How they held Wigan at bay for the majority of the first 40 is a mystery. For coach Harris to say that he didn’t think there was a lot between the teams really is trying to put the gloss on an otherwise miserable night for fans of the Devils. Don’t get me wrong, when the team did actually get back and look out for each other, they looked defensively very strong, but the old weaknesses out wide and also down the centre were often shown up when they struggled to get back onside for their own plays of the ball. I hope it was a lack of fitness and not a lack of hunger for the game, because if it’s the latter, then Dr Koukash has wasted a sizeable chunk of his money. The usual players looked like they wanted more, Morley, Chase, Gleeson, Tasi all looked hungry from the get go, but by the end of the game, Salford looked out on their feet and it was only an unusual lack of awareness in the Wigan defence that allowed Salford to slip over to stop them from being nilled at home.
Aside from the repeated calls to the screen, this was not a night to give your average Salford fan much reason to hope. They have not now won in 7 matches and lie in 11th place in the table.
Big names do not a team make. Salford need to look at the opposition and see that their team made up of local talent, schooled with one aim, to play for the club, shirt and town is what they should be looking to emulate, rather than buying glory.
The fans deserve better. Dr Koukash promised better, in fact, it’s probably time the elephant in the room was mentioned….
Getting rid of Brian Noble was possibly the biggest single mistake made at the club this year. Nobby had just started to get them to look like they were firing on all cylinders and was asked to move sideways. Iestyn Harris is an admirable man, an honest man, who no doubt has a great future ahead of him in coaching, but to be put under the pressure that he is under from both above and on the terraces to produce results, in your first full time coaching position is nothing short of madness. I hope the Dr gives him the time needed to turn Salford into the club that they deserve to be. I also hope that they look to the surrounding area and get a decent academy up and running, and start to bring back some of the players that are currently being lost to other teams from local clubs and schools.
It’s great to see so many kids on the pitch at half time, but how many of them will want to grow up playing to a half empty stadium, just because it’s their home town club? Not many. But it’s there that the future of the club lies, not in players who are looking for a payday.
As it was, I left the ground feeling like the next home game against Bradford could be one that decides if Salford are dragged right into the relegation mire. If Wakefield and Bradford string together a couple of results, Salford could easily be looking at next season being one out of the top flight, and that would really be a blow to the faithful.