This evening Quins RL will meet Salford City Reds in their first home game of the season. The Reds were one of the surprise packages of Super League XI, making the end of season playoffs for the first time. Head coach Karl Harrison, a prop forward with Hull, Halifax and Great Britain, has moulded a team in his own image since taking the reigns in 2002, a tough, hardworking side with a touch a class.
Salford’s attack is likely to be orchestrated by the two Luke’s; scrum-half Luke Robinson, an astute signing from Wigan, and quicksilver standoff Luke Dorn who will need no introduction to Quins fans. Dorn will be making his first to the Stoop since making way for new signing Scott Hill at the end of last season and nobody will be in any doubt about the strike threat he offers.
Up front Salford offer plenty of size, aggression and graft with props Coley, Haggerty and Korkidas, but the heartbeat of the side is undoubtedly long-serving hooker and skipper Mal Alker. Hometown hero Alker is a perennial contender for Super League’s top tackler and will run himself into the ground for the Reds cause. Ex-St Helens forward Mark Edmondson signed off-season from Sydney Roosters will also provide a solid all round presence. In the backs John Wilshere, David Hodgson and Aaron Moule bring plenty of craft and experience to the Salford attack.
Last season Quins won two out of three Super League encounters with Salford, in the first game they scraped a single point win with a Henry Paul drop-goal at the Willows, the second game also at the Willows saw Quins blown away 34 – 0, whilst the third encounter at The Stoop was Quins final game of the season and saw the home team comfortably ease past a Reds side with one eye on their inaugural appearance in the playoffs.
The Reds will be starting this season in a buoyant mood, the club’s proposed move away from the antiquated Willows ground to a new purpose built stadium in Barton being given Council backing in late 2006 and there is a sense of optimism that they can kick on to greater things in the next few years. A narrow home loss to Leeds Rhinos was the result of their opening game of the season, but they pushed Leeds all the way and will fancy their chances against the Quins.
Quins themselves will go into the game in a confident mood, the surprise win against St Helens last weekend coupled with the recent signings of winger Andy Smith from Bradford and prop Richard Villasanti and the decision of inspirational skipper Rob Purdham to extend his stay in the capital have quietened fears about recruitment. The signing of “Villa the Gorilla” has come too late for this weekend’s game, but Andy Smith is in the 18-man squad and could well make his debut for the club.
Tickets for the game will be available on the gate at The Stoop, kick off 6:00, for those unable to make it the match will be screened live on Sky Sports from 5:45.