Salford’s fairytale journey came to an end today, denied the chance to write a final chapter by the Champions St Helens who continue to add pages to the encyclopaedia on how to win big games and trophies.
It was not the end to the story Salford would have dreamed of, but they can take heart from the effort they produced to push the Champions all the way who now head over to Old Trafford where they will meet Leeds.
The Saints were pushed all the way though by the valiant Red Devils and their coach Paul Rowley was proud of them after the game.
“Same again, proud every day they turn up,” Rowley said, “The winning and losing never effects whether I’m proud of that group.
“We’ve been on a decent journey this year and it culminated in a decent occasion today but we just fell short so that’s quite heartbreaking.”
He also looked at his side’s performance praising but also noting that they let themselves down in some areas: “I thought Saints were expectedly aggressive and dominated all the first half. They had 12 sets on our line and we had one, and we scored. If we’d have had Brodie Croft and Andy Ackers in there we maybe score more but that’s ifs, buts and maybes.
“In the second half we probably through more proverbial punches and we had planned with that changing our bench a bit.
“Overall I didn’t think we threw enough at them and we weren’t as clinical as weeks gone by. But I thought we were resilient and tough. They didn’t breach us.”
Of course, Rowley could have sat and moaned about things going against them with a potential call for a penalty try late in the game being denied with just a penalty being awarded and a yellow shown to Tommy Makinson for holding back Tim Lafai.
Rowley didn’t want to get into ifs and buts but he felt the wrong decision was made: “Yeah [it was a penalty try] is the short answer. It’s a tough one because I do, but there’s no point in me sitting here discussing ifs and buts.”
Another thing that went against the Red Devils was of course the loss of in form hooker Andy Ackers two minutes in.
Rowley described this as “massive” in the context of the game: “Massive to be honest, after two minutes. Best hooker in the comp to lose him especially after losing Brodie Croft. Going all year with a settled spine until when it matters.”
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