Leeds Rhinos U20s 28 v 24 St Helens U20s
The Reserves were beaten in the dying seconds of a pulsating game by the Rhinos, writes Team Manager Graham Henthorne.
Clinging to a two point lead, the Saints were on the attack looking for the decisive score themselves when the ball went to ground. It was picked up by Leeds speedster Jamel Chisholm who weaved his way in and out of the Saints over 80 metres. He was finally brought down by the covering Dan Brotherton but the Rhinos spread the ball to the gap he’d left out wide for the winning try.
It was cruel luck on the Reserves who had been much the better side for long periods but just couldn’t turn pressure into points.
A good first set of six was finished with a kick to touch from Aaron Lloyd which was touched by the home winger on its way to touch. From the scrum on the 10, Josh Jones fed Tommy Johnson who beat the cover to score in the left corner. Tommy Makinson hit the first of his four conversions and the Saints were off.
Slack play at the back letting a speculative bomb bounce and be hacked on without a Saints hand being laid on it, gave the home side the easiest of tries to level it.
But the pack, led by Jordan Hand and Carl Forster kept the Saints in the game and when Adam Swift put Tommy Makinson through a gap on the left he coolly committed the full back before feeding Brotherton who outpaced the covering Chisholm to score in the corner.
Unfortunately, Swift’s pass was his last of the night as he was helped from the field with a suspected broken ankle.
The injury inevitably affected the team structure and the Rhinos, sensing their chance, scored twice in quick succession capitalising on basic errors from the Saints.
The half time whistle came at the right time for the Saints. Coach Ian Talbot had the chance to emphasise that despite some poor execution and defence at times the Saints were only 4 points behind and the game was theirs for the taking.
Within five minutes of the restart Makinson had levelled the scores again with a well taken try in the corner. A Rhinos knock on brought a scrum on the 40 from which makeshift stand off Josh Jones fed Makinson on an arcing run outside his opposite number.
A Makinson penalty edged the Saints ahead but soft defence from dummy half on the line allowed the Rhinos hooker to snatch the lead back for the home side.
Joe Greenwood and Jordan Case were prominent for the Saints working well out wide in unfamiliar positions but the reintroduction of Forster and Hand gave the go forward needed to put the Saints on the attack.
With 10 minutes to go the lead changed hands again as 2 penalties piggybacked the Saints to the Rhinos line where Scott Hale ducked his huge frame between two defenders to score.
The Saints, with Marcus Baines and Ben Karalius prompting, spent most of the last few minutes on the attack until that fatal pass too many gave the Rhinos the final chance.
There were many glum faces in the Saints dressing room as the players realised they’d snatched defeat from the jaws of a victory they deserved, especially having to cope for the most of the game without such an influential player as Swift.
Best for the Saints in a much improved team performance were Carl Forster and Josh Jones pushed hard by the Jordan’s, Hand and Case.
Leeds Rhinos U20s:
Tries: George Elliott, Liam Hood 2, Brad Singleton, Jay Pitts.
Goals: Tom Carroll 3, Liam Hood.
St Helens U20s:
Tries: Tommy Johnson, Tommy Makinson, Dan Brotherton, Scott Hale.
Goals: Tommy Makinson 4.
Half Time: 12-16
Full Time: 24-28
Leeds Rhinos U20s:
1. Jimmy Watson, 2. George Elliott, 3. Aston Wilson, 4. Jake Normington, 5. Jamel Chisholm, 6. Tom Carroll, 7. Sean Casey, 8. Matty Syron, 9. Liam Hood, 10. Brad Singleton, 11. Jay Pitts, 12. Callum Casey, 13. Jared Stewart.
Subs: 14. Aaron Brown, 15. James Brown, 16. Stevie Ward, 17. Matty Nicholson.
St Helens U20s:
1. Tommy Johnson, 2. Simon Atherton, 3. Josh Jones, 4. Tommy Makinson, 5. Dan Brotherton, 6. Adam Swift, 7. Ben Karalius, 8. Jordan Hand, 9. Aaron Lloyd, 10. Carl Forster, 11. Danny Jones, 12. Scott Hale, 13. Warren Thompson.
Subs: 14. Marcus Baines, 15. Joe Greenwood, 16. Jordan Hand, 17. Jordan Case.