The first 10 minutes of the season's curtain raiser saw both teams start cautiously. Understandably, given the first game nerves and a flurry of penalties as both sets of players were adjusting to the nuances of the new RFL rules.
In the 12th minute, Ashton came up with a brilliant piece of play. Cottington passed to Green who then found the supporting Hill who looked certain to score but Salford's enthusiasm in defence forced a knock-on. Ashton, although unlucky not to capitalise, showed signs of what they're capable of.
At the 14th-minute mark, Ashton seized an opportunity with a scrum deep in Salford territory. The ball swiftly moved left through Green to Cottington, who executed a powerful run, spinning out of the tackle to finish strongly. Ward's conversion put Ashton ahead 6-0.
Ashton's now had some momentum and in the 16th minute, a 40 metre break from Ashley, followed by a combination between Rustage and Ormshaw, who was unlucky not to score himself, set the stage for Broderick who scored from a scoot close to the line. Ward's conversion extended Ashton's lead to a comfortable 12-0.
The Bears continued to showcase their dominance, coming close to scoring again in the 24th minute. Unfortunately, Ormshaw's try was ruled out when the referee signalled for a forward pass.
Despite another period of excellent play, including a sublime pass from Hampson to Ward, Ashton were thwarted again as the half drew to a close. Ward was denied a try as the Salford's defence remained resilient, and the referee disallowed a potential Ashton score for a knock-on. Ashton finish the half 12-0 up but are frustrated by the fact that they didn't convert more of their dominance into points.
Salford commenced the second half energetically, forcing a drop-out straight from the kick-off. The Roosters maintained pressure on Ashton's line, testing the Bears' resolute defence.
In the 7th minute of the second half, Ashton found themselves struggling to get out of their half due to a combination of penalties and unforced errors.
Salford persistently pressed in the Ashton 20, camping in the Bears' territory for a considerable period. However, Ashton's unyielding defence held firm, denying Salford any breakthroughs.
In the 18th minute, Ashton finally turned the tide. They pushed Salford back over their own line, regaining possession in an excellent field position.
The 20th minute presented another contentious moment for Ashton. Hill seemed to have scored after a brilliant move and pass from Green. However, the referee disallowed the try, citing another forward pass, much to Ashton's frustration.
Salford capitalised on this, scoring in the corner in the 24th minute. A well-executed switch of play took advantage of tiring Ashton defenders. The conversion was missed and The Roosters were now trailing 12-4.
The momentum, however, shifted unexpectedly. In the 27th minute, Salford, benefiting from a high penalty count, attempted a now familiar switch of play. Sayer expertly intercepted a pass, running 30 meters to score under the posts for Ashton. Ward's conversion increased Ashton's lead to 18-4 and took the wind out of the Roosters' sails.
In the 31st minute, Ashton mounted another strong passage of play. Cottington's break unlocked Salford's defence, and Green's perfectly weighted kick created chaos in behind the Roosters defence. A retreating Salford defender fumbled, and Spruce pounced on the ball, securing the win for Ashton with an opportunistic try. The score-line was now 22-4 to the Bears which was more reflective of their control of the game.
Despite the new rules leading to another flurry of penalties that gave Salford a glimmer of hope for a consolation try, Ashton confidently closed out the game and are through to the next round of The BARLA National Cup.
Final Score: Salford City Roosters 4-22 Ashton Bears
Man of the Match: Callum Cottington