Season Review: Salford Red Devils
The Red Devils campaign proved to be a far cry from their 2019 heroics. A first Grand Final appearance quickly became a distant memory after Salford struggled to get going early on in a year of highs and lows for Ian Watson’s side.
It was yet another year of rebuilding for the Red Devils squad, losing a host of stars during the off season in what has become a regular unwanted occurrence at the club.
Nevertheless, a close-knit core group of players remained - along with some astute new recruits for the 2020 season – including England internationals Kevin Brown and Dan Sarginson.
The 2020 season was a tale of two halves for Salford - a frustrating start to the year culminated in just one win in their opening six games. That victory came against high-flying Wigan Warriors in round seven, generating some optimism around the club as the season headed into an enforced break.
And the Red Devils quickly picked up where they left off when the season resumed, decimating a well-fancied Hull FC team in their first match back. A 54-18 win reminding many observers that despite the Red Devils slow start, they are not to be underestimated.
An emphatic Challenge Cup run saw Salford’s Super League form take an inevitable dip as they pursued Cup glory during a busy playing period.
In a year which demanded even more from Super League players, Salford’s squad depth was stretched thin. Ian Watson’s side was left battered and bruised during a gruelling influx of fixtures, resulting in an inability to field a team late in the season against Warrington Wolves.
Despite that, the Red Devils managed to win an impressive seven games after the lockdown. An even more remarkable feat alongside a tough Challenge Cup Final run.
Wins against the likes of Hull FC, Warrington Wolves, and St Helens showed Salford’s imminent threat despite their smaller squad.
The Red Devils were deducted three league wins at the end of the year due to a backdated financial issue which resulted in them finishing third bottom, a harsh reflection given their efforts late on in the year.
The loss of influential head coach Ian Watson will arguably be the most damaging departure in recent years and leaves the club in a position of rebuilding once again.
Player of the year
Dan Sarginson arrived at Salford following an off-season move from Wigan Warriors and proved to be an instant hit for the Red Devils side.
A player who has built his game on his effort and work-rate, Sarginson added value to Salford in both attack and defence. He averaged a hugely impressive 19 carries and over 120 metres per game - and showed great versatility slotting in at full-back as he deputised for Niall Evalds during large parts of the season.
Sarginson's huge efforts throughout the season resulted in him earning the Players’ Player Award at Salford as well as a call up into Shaun Wane’s England Squad.
After a torrid start to the 2020 season, the Red Devils welcomed Wigan Warriors to the AJ Bell, in round seven, on Friday the thirteenth. A horror start for Salford resulted in a half time score of 2-14, leaving the Red Devils in the depths of despair and facing yet another gruelling defeat.
That nightmare start quickly turned into a dream second period - a Dan Sarginson inspired performance saw the Red Devils quickly regroup and produce a heroic display in the last 40 to beat the Warriors 18-14.
A victory against the League Leaders rejuvenated the Red Devils as they headed into the enforced break - producing a more consistent second half to the season - which resulted in a Challenge Cup Final appearance and some pleasing Super League results.
A magnificent comeback from @SalfordDevils against Wigan! #SuperLeague pic.twitter.com/4o5Ha5PCXR
— Betfred Super League (@SuperLeague) March 13, 2020
The Red Devils recovered after a slow start to the season to finish the year well. Losing a host of key players undoubtedly effected their start to the year - but the side showed great resolve in their response.
Even with limited resources and a smaller squad than most, the Salford team gave a good account of themselves in 2020 - reflected in a Challenge Cup Final appearance and several impressive victories during the back-end of the year.