THE Saints lost out by a single point (18-19) in the first of two excellent Scholarship games at Langtree Park on Saturday, writes Graham Henthorne.
Whilst a draw was probably a fair result no-one could have complained at the rugby played.
The Rhinos took an early lead with a little bit of luck going their way. A cross kick on the last was batted back and fell straight into the arms of the winger who dove in at the corner.
The defence was called to answer minutes later as the Rhinos were denied tries most notably by a great recovering tackle from Raith Stringer.
The Saints first attack came from a dummy half run from Aaron Smith who looked dangerous every time he ran at the line. A quick play the ball saw the Saints close but a forward pass stopped the move.
The Saints finally took the lead on the quarter hour after quick play the balls from both half backs Morgan Knowles and Lewis Fairhurst which saw the Rhinos on the back foot. Fairhurst took advantage dummying his way past the full back to score at the posts converting his own try for the lead.
However, two quick tries saw the lead swing back to the visitors. The first was again lucky as some wild passes on the last stuck finally falling into the grateful arms of the stand off who strode to the line. The second was courtesy of an overlap down the left.
The Saints were looking to facing a big deficit at the break but on the stroke of half time David Eccleston pulled the Saints back into contention diving into the left corner from Dan Huxley’s offload. A splendid touchline conversion from Fairhurst brought it back to two.
The Saints were first on the board in the second half and back in front as Jake Spedding reacted quickest when Fairhurst’s last tackle stab trickled over the line.
Some poor tackling saw the Rhinos full back waltz straight down the middle of the Saints defensive line to score but the simple conversion was missed, something we were to see later as well from the visitors, leaving the scores tied.
The Saints lifted their game defensively led by big hits from Lewis Hatton and Knowles but were indebted to Jordan Darwin for a fine try saving tackle in the right corner.
Ant Sherratt was denied a try just being pushed into touch after quick hands had given him the sniff of the line.
Then with three minutes on the clock the Rhinos stand off and best player coolly slotted home the winning one pointer.
There was still time for one last hurrah form the Saints and that oh so nearly came as one the fastest on the pitch Darwin picked up a loose ball 60 out only to be just pushed into touch with the line at his mercy.
No disgrace in defeat in this one. The forwards led by Joe McLoughlin, James Nicholl and Chris Worrall stood up to their bigger counterparts and with Jonah Cunningham and Kiye Rigby scooting out of dummy half the Saints were always a threat.
Tries: Jake Spedding, Lewis Fairhurst, David Eccleston.
Goals: Lewis Fairhurst 3.
Tries: Ashton Goulding, Kieron Walpole, Jordan Lilley, Joe Sanderson.
Goals: Jordan Lilley.
Drop Goals: Jordan Lilley.
Half Time: 12-14
Full Time: 18-19
1. Bobby Williams; 2. Ryan Lynch, 4. Kieron Herbert, 3. David Eccleston, 5. Dan Huxley; 6. Morgan Knowles, 7. Lewis Fairhurst; 10. Joe McLoughlin, 9. Aaron Smith, 8. James Nicholl, 11. Lewis Hatton, 12. Chris Worrall, 15. Jonah Cunningham.
Subs: 13. Jake Spedding, 14. Kiye Rigby, 16. Anthony Sherratt, 17. Jordan Darwin, 18. Ben Calland.
1. Ashton Goulding; 5. Kieron Walpole, 3. Billy McDermott, 4. Tommy Brierley, 2. Dan Fairfoul; 6. Jordan Lilley, 7. Joe Sanderson; 8. Sam Hallas, 9. William Poching, 10. Daniel Douglas, 11. Nathan Barker, 12. Colby Wilson, 13. Jacob Ware.
Subs: 14. Danny Halshaw, 15. Jonny Holmes, 16. Macauley Baron, 17. Elliot Devaney, 18. Matty Jackson.