Castleford Tigers U20s 22 v 52 St Helens U20s
Apart from a manic ten minute spell early in the second half this was as controlled a display as the Reserves have produced all season. The fact that that 10 minute spell could have cost them the game speaks volumes for the way their season has gone.
The Tigers started with a roar with three repeat sets on the Saints line only to fall victim to a superb Saints counter attack. A grubber on the last ricocheted around before being picked up by a suspiciously offside Nathan Ashe who played to the whistle racing 70 metres before being caught from behind. From the play the ball Paul Clough charged onto the pass to score.
On the next set the Saints increased their lead. A good run again from Clough found Scott Hale who was held short but from the play the ball Ashe went through two defenders on the line for the first of his hat-trick.
The Tigers responded with a well taken try catching the Saints out with an overlap on the right but the Reserves came straight back at them and were unlucky not to score as first Aaron Lloyd and then Anthony Walker were held up over the line.
The deadlock was finally broken as the Tigers defence wilted in the heat under the pressure exerted by the Saints. Two repeats sets on the Tigers line was heading for a third when the Tigers full back knocked on into Ashe’s hands for the simplest of touchdowns.
On the stroke of half time some quick thinking from Dan Brotherton saw him notch the fourth Saints try. A Tigers attacking kick rolled dead but the ball was swept back to the 20 whereupon Brotherton targeted the still retreating defenders sprinting past into open space where his speed did the rest.
Three scores up and all we have to do is exactly what we’ve been doing so far and the tries will come. Well, that was the call and ultimately it was proved to be right but not before the Saints had been given the biggest of frights by three Tigers tries bringing them to within two points.
Thankfully the ship was steadied by some back to basics aggressive defence by the forwards and from the moment Scott Hale reached over to score the result was never in doubt.
Joe Greenwood became increasingly influential as the half went on and his runs, punching through the line helped in the next three tries. Firstly Aaron Lloyd darted over from dummy half from a quick play the ball, then good drives from Greenwood and Carl Forster gave Ashe the space to show and go beating the cover from 60 metres out. Finally Forster twisted out of the tackle to crash over after Greenwood had put Josh Jones into the clear.
He was denied a try of his own knocking on over the line but Alex Trumper brought up the half century finishing off another mazy Ashe break.
As I mentioned previously despite that ten minute spell this was probably the most assure display of the season. With Nathan Ashe at his imperious best the Saints played some sparkling rugby. The loss of stand out forward Jordan Hand early on did not deter the pack and Clough, Walker, Greenwood et al stood up and dominated their Tiger opponents.
Coach Ian Talbot also gave a debut to Callum Welsby and to the first of two new Irish recruits Ian Cross who showed well in his first taste of English Rugby League.
Tries: Ben Blackmore, Josh Atkinson, Ryan Brierley 2.
Goals: Ryan Brierley 3.
Tries: Alex Trumper, Dan Brotherton, Nathan Ashe 3, Aaron Lloyd, Scott Hale, Paul Clough, Carl Forster.
Goals: Tommy Johnson 8.
Half Time: 24-6
Full Time: 52-22
5. Joel Gibson; 1. Ben Blackmore, 4. Josh Nathaniel, 3. Josh Atkinson, 2. James Clare; 6. Ryan Brierley, 7. Ben Johnson; 8. Dan Flemming, 9. Tom Carroll, 10. Clark Thompson, 11. Sean Richards, 12. Chris Siddons, 13. Joe Picketts.
Subs: 14. Luke Knowles, 17. Richard Lumb, 16. Charlie Martin, 19. Jon Payne.
1. Adam Swift; 2. Tommy Johnson, 3. Josh Jones, 4. Alex Trumper, 5. Dan Brotherton; 6. Nathan Ashe, 7. Ben Karalius; 8. Jordan Hand, 9. Aaron Lloyd, 10. Anthony Walker, 11. Scott Hale, 12. Joe Greenwood, 13. Paul Clough.
Subs: 14. Callum Welsby, 15. Ian Cross, 16. Carl Forster, 17. Gareth Frodsham.