SAINTS u20s 28 v 30 Castleford Tigers u20s – Sometimes life’s not fair and this was definitely one of those occasions for the players and coaching staff of the Saints Reserves.
Having battled hard over the past few weeks to get to the play-offs injuries and deserved call-ups to the first team prevented Coach Ian Talbot from fielding his first choice side.
However, take nothing away from the 17 players who took the field, 10 of which are still eligible to play for the U18s, they could and possibly should have won today but a penalty three minutes from time put an end to the Reserves season.
James Hill opened the scoring diving over in the right corner after full back Greg Wilde had held up the defence before putting him into the space.
The Saints dominated the opening quarter but just couldn’t add to the lead. Anthony Walker was forced dead in goal and from the resulting tap a missed tackle in the middle gave the Tigers an easy try.
The final quarter was all Cas as the visitors took advantage of the Saints poor ball control to score two further tries. Both came down the Tigers right and both from good work from stand off Brierley feeding his centre Nathaniel to score.
It was crucial the Reserves finished on a high and deep into stoppage time they managed to do just that. Stephen Lucas broke through the line only to be stopped short but from the quick play the ball Danny Jones forced his way over. Danny Yates converted to reduce the arrears to 8 at the break.
The Tigers went further ahead on their first set of the second half sweeping the ball wide right from a scrum on the left.
But the Saints dug deep and took the play to the visitors. Corey Lee was denied a debut try from Jordan Case’s forward pass after Marcus Baines and Yates had broke down the middle.
The Tigers couldn’t stay with the increased work rate of the Saints and three repeat sets on their line was more than they could handle. Alex Trumper was held short but Greg Wilde went in at the left corner from the play the ball.
Good work down the left from Josh Jones drew the defence over so that when Ben Karalius switched play Joe Greenwood could put Trumper into space for the try.
The Tigers were finding it impossible to get to grips with Jones and his work again gave Karalius the space this time to go through himself for the score. Crucially the conversion was missed again leaving the scores level going into the final quarter.
The Saints took the lead with 15 to go as Jones finally got his reward. Warren Thompson, back from his stint on loan at Swinton, drove down field and Jones stepped his way under the sticks for the go ahead try.
But tiredness after the first half tackling stint began to set in and the completion rate slackened off giving the Tigers a sniff. They took advantage of a knock on on half way scoring down the left.
A big effort was required, but despite great try saving tackles from Greg Wilde and a gang tackle on the last the referee saw a ball steal 20 metres out and Cas’s stand off continued his 100% kicking record to break the Saints hearts.
So close and yet so far. Despite the best efforts of Man of the Match Josh Jones the Reserves just couldn’t hold on to the lead when it mattered.
This will be the first time in four years that the Reserves have not contested the Grand Final, but in a season plagued by injuries and call-ups to players now playing starring roles in the First team this has been as good a season as could be hoped for. Many a team would not have coped at all with what this team has had thrown at them and that should be remembered by all.
Tries: Greg Wilde, James Hill, Josh Jones, Ben Karalius, Danny Jones, Alex Trumper.
Goals: Danny Yates, Jordan Case.
Tries: Josh Nathaniel 2, Curtis McDonald, Ben Johnson, Joe Picketts.
Goals: Ryan Brierley 5.
Half Time: 10-18
Full Time: 28-30
1. Greg Wilde; 2. James Hill, 3. Josh Jones, 4. Mark Percival, 5. Corey Lee; 6. Danny Yates, 7. Ben Karalius; 8. Danny Jones, 9. Aaron Lloyd, 10. Anthony Walker, 11. Alex Trumper, 12. Joe Greenwood, 13. Warren Thompson.
Subs: 14. Marcus Baines, 15. Jordan Case, 16. Jordan Hand, 17. Stephen Lucas.
18. James Clare; 5. Tommy Newbould, 4. Josh Nathaniel, 3. Josh Atkinson, 2. Curtis McDonald; 6. Ryan Brierley, 7. Ben Johnson; 8. Jonny Payne, 9. Tom Carroll, 10. Clarke Thompson, 11. Charlie Martin, 12. Chris Siddons, 13. Joe Picketts.
Subs: 14. Casey Canterbury, 15. Dan Fleming, 16. Shaun Richards, 17. Jack Smith.