1997 Salford Reds v Adelaide Rams

Published in Thirteen in 2005

3rd August 1997

Not included in the inaugural Super League competition in 1996, Salford Reds immediately set about returning to top flight rugby league. They entered the 1996 First Division rightly confident of being promoted into the second season of Super League having already finished top of the tree in the Centenary Season. Then there was their incredible defeat of mighty Wigan in the Challenge Cup.

Promotion was indeed gained at the first attempt and Salford were back in the big time.

Former internationals John Cartright and Andy Platt were signed and they started the 1997 campaign with three Challenge Cup wins over Castleford, Paris and Warrington and then opened the league season with another win over Castleford by the unusually low scoreline of 4-0. An early indication of their pedigree had been served.

Subsequent wins over Wigan and St Helens saw them enter Pool B of the Super League World Club Challenge in good spirits. Pool B included the lesser lights of the Australian Super League competition so while the Reds’ fans were denied the chance to see Daley, Clyde and Langer up close they had a genuine chance of doing well.

However, like most English clubs, their confidence was short lived. Their venture to Australia saw them soundly beaten by Adelaide 50-8 and by North Queensland Cowboys 44-8. Would home advantage later in the season count for a lot? Could they turn around those deficits and record at least one victory in the competition?

The answers to both were in the affirmative. Wins over Warrington and Paris along with spirited performances in defeats at Bradford and Leeds saw them again approach the ill fated tournament in good spirit. Tries from Peter Edwards and Darren Rogers saw them lose by only ten points to the Cowboys at the Willows. On the third of August Adelaide Rams rocked into town.

Cartwright was back from injury and was to have a big game setting up Rogers’ try with a strong run to the line and a majestic one handed offload to put the winger in the corner. The Reds’ other overseas forwards were equally impressive as Esene Faimalo, Peter Edwards and Lokeni Savelio caused the Rams problems all afternoon.

The team had got close against the Cowboys and started the game in a determined fashion although their concentration couldn’t have been helped by the absurd playing of music throughout the game. “Boom boom boom let me here you say way-ooh” boomed out in the early stages and more was to follow as Bruce Mamando lay on the ground with a suspected broken leg. The music was a sign of the times – some of the many marketing gimmicks that accompanied the advent of the summer era were great, but not this.

The home side only scored one of the three tries in the game. Dean Schifilliti’s dummy half running had sent Chris Quinn to the posts and later had freed Kevin Campion who, via Kerrod Walters, created a try for Danny Grimley.

However Salford went on to produce a second half that was completely untypical of the whole tournament. Trailing 12-8 at the break they kept the Rams scoreless in the second half and it was the Australians’ indiscipline that let them down as props Marty McKenzie and Mark Corvo were sin binned meaning the visitors played for a quarter of the game a man shy. Two penalty goals from Steve Blakeley levelled the scores.

Enter Mark Lee. Coming on with just over fifteen minutes left he potted two drop goals to win the game for his team and send not just the 7,000 crowd into raptures but also most British rugby league fans who had only seen a handful of British wins in the competition.

The Reds remain in Super League, and with a new stadium on the horizon, good times lie ahead. The Rams finished 17th in the 1998 NRL competition and were then booted out of the competition as the governing body reduced the amount of teams from 20 to 17. Having already signed Luke Priddis, Albert Torrens, Jason Ferris and Terry Hermannson the plug was pulled as the players were away at a training camp in preparation for the new season.

SALFORD REDS: Gary Broadbent; Phil Coussons, Scott Naylor, Nathan McAvoy, Darren Rogers; Steve Blakeley, Ian Watson; Paul Southern, Peter Edwards, Lokeni Savelio, John Cartwright, Esene Faimalo, Craig Randall. Subs: Mark Lee, Andy Burgess, Paul Forber, Scott Martin.

ADELAIDE RAMS: Chris Quinn; Jason Donnelly, Danny Grimley, Solomon Kiri, Joe Tamani; Kurt Wrigley, Kerrod Walters; Mark Corvo, Dean Schifilliti, Marty McKenzie, Andrew Pierce, Kevin Campion, Elias Paiyo. Subs: Stuart Topper, Alan Cann, Michael Maguire, Bruce Mamando.

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