THE final match of the Headingley triple header saw the Saints U18’s going into the game trying to salvage some pride for the Saints Academy system with all the other three teams having already been beaten by their Rhinos counterparts.
But no-one should have worried as, despite fielding an inexperienced side, Derek Traynor’s boys did the Saints proud coming away with a fine 42-22 win.
In a total turnaround to the previous action in the day it was the Rhinos who started nervously coughing up possession and the Saints punishing them roundly.
Two good sets saw the Saints on the home side’s line when a neat grubber from Dom Speakman saw Corey Lee dive over for the first of his hat-trick.
A knock on from the home side in Rhino’s territory led to a good drive from James Tilley and when the ball was spread right James Hill went in at the corner.
Good defence on the line from Connor Dwyer and Callum Welsby saved a try only for Jordan O’Neill to drop the ball over the Rhinos line for what would have been Saints third try.
The Rhinos big substitute prop, who caused problems for the Saints all day, then scored the first of his hat-trick after a Saints knock on.
The Rhinos were on a roll and it took a fine tackle from Nathan Skupski and debutant Jamie Tracey to keep them out.
Dom Speakman found himself in just the right place to accept a Rhino’s pass snuffing out the threat before starting back down the other end. Three tackles later and Corey Lee showed his pace running around and through the defensive line to score.
The lead was pegged back with a piece of individual flare from the Rhino’s full back who regathered his own chip before passing out of the back of his hand to the supporting scrum half on the outside.
There was still time for James Tilley to be held short of the line when a dive might have yielded the try.
Having spotted a way back into the game the home side took it with a vengeance. Two tries to the rampaging prop completed his hat-trick and put the home side eight points up and seemingly in control.
But that was as good as it got as the Saints dug deep, found their character and with Brad Ashurst and Connor Dwyer to the fore they turned the tide.
Welsby and O’Neill both drove the ball deep before the ball found Jamie Tracey wide on the right for a well deserved try.
The diminutive Lewis Sheridan then followed his own neat chip and helped Tilley force a repeat set with a good tackle in goal.
From the drop out O’Neill charged to the line and Ashurst put the Saints back in front charging on to Welsby’s pass from dummy half for the score.
That score was the turning point as the final 20 minutes were all Saints.
Ashurst was again to the fore from the kick off and it was his pass to Dom Speakman that gave the scrum half the space to exploit. He went on a weaving run to the right before shooting a bullet pass out to Hill and the winger outpaced the cover for his second.
Corey Lee got his third and Saints seventh after the impressive Tracey had got free down the right. His inside ball found the supporting Lewis Foster on the inside who in turn fed Lee to streak away to the posts.
James Hill was denied his hat-trick by a forward pass before we were treated to a fabulous bit of Brazilian football Speakman-style. He chipped the defensive line and when the ball stood on its end flipping back over the defenders, he dribbled it on then with the outside of his boot “passed” it sideways to Hill. He took it on the flung a hopeful pass over the covering Rhinos player inside, Speakman hacked it on to the sticks only to see Foster streaking up to touch down at the posts for a great try.
This was a victory steeped in character. To go behind at Headingley with a big home crowd at the Rhinos backs and then to come back in the manner that they did shows exactly what this team can do.
There was a fine debut for Jamie Tracey, the back three of Dwyer, Tilley and Skupski were great and Corey Lee is elusive and has the pace to back it up. But none of that is possible without the organisation of Dom Speakman and the work of Brad Ashurst who was outstanding for every minute he was on the pitch.
Tries: Marcus Elliott, James Davies 3
Goals: Marcus Elliott 3
Tries: Corey Lee 3, James Hill 2, Jamie Tracey, Brad Ashurst, Lewis Foster
Goals: Adam Barber 5
Half Time: 14-10
Full Time: 42-22
1. Josh Sunley, 2. Mo Agoro, 3. Henry Mingham, 4. James Duckworth, 5. Gerry Lee-Pierre, 6. Kyle Quinlan, 7. Marcus Elliott, 8. Mathew Blake, 9. Luke Teasdale, 10. Jay Leary, 11. Alex Foster, 12. George Clarke, 13. Colton Roche.
Subs: 14. Ryan Smith, 15. Ben Finder, 16. Dan Patrice, 17. James Davies.
1. Corey Lee, 2. James Hill, 3. Jamie Tracey, 4. Adam Barber, 5. Leon Tatlock, 6. Jack Jones, 7. Dom Speakman, 8. Brad Ashurst, 9. Callum Welsby, 10. Jordan O’Neill, 11. Nathan Skupski, 12. James Tilley, 13. Connor Dwyer.
Subs: 14. Lewis Foster, 15. Adam Hesketh, 16. Chris Webster, 17. Lewis Sheridan.