A COURAGEOUS display in fiercely hot conditions saw the Saints end the Rhinos 18 month unbeaten run in dramatic fashion at sun drenched Langtree Park on Saturday, writes Graham Henthrone.
As in the previous match the visitors took an early lead as the dangerous, pacy full back went on a weaving 40 metre run to score in the corner.
But unlike earlier the Saints then took firm control of the game.
The Saints went into the lead after a dazzling piece of individual brilliance from Dan Abram. Big Ross McCauley drove the ball hard at the defensive line and a quick play the ball saw Dave Hewitt feed Abram who shimmied the shoulder and shot through a gap. He took it to the full back dummied him right then went left strolling under the sticks for a great score.
This gave the Saints confidence and visibly rocked the Rhinos who had trounced the Saints in the same fixture at U15s level last year.
But the Saints were also doing it in defence to. A big hit from Will Weir shook his opposite number and a great try saving tackle from Tom Davies saw the Saints line remain intact.
Another Rhinos attack was foiled in spectacular fashion on the quarter hour as Dave Hewitt intercepted on his own line and fairly streaked away from the cover to touch down 85 metres later under the sticks.
The forwards were starting to take control. Olly Davies, having a point to prove to his opposite number having kept him out of representative honours, was becoming too much of a handful for the visitors. He and McCauley drove the Saints to the Rhinos line and from the play the ball Connor Smith dove over.
But the Rhinos weren’t unbeaten for nothing and they showed the Saints the value of concentrating for the full 35 minutes scoring twice in the final five minutes to go in only one score away.
The visitor’s offloads had been causing problems fop the Saints all day and the score were levelled as the Rhinos second row Stableford scored the second of his brace.
But the coaching staff had called for the Saints to believe in themselves and, led by Hewitt, they started to do just that. The stand off darted to the line 10 metres out and beat two defenders to reach out to score putting the Saints back in front.
The see-saw swung back again as some poor tackling allowed the Rhinos to draw level once again.
There then followed a succession of four forward passes denying certain Rhinos tries in a ten minute period which saw the Saints overwhelmed down the middle.
But after that you tend to think it might just be your day and that’s exactly what the Saints did. McCauley and Scott Oakes put the Saints within sight of the line and Hewitt popped over a crucial one pointer to put the Saints’ noses back in front.
Will Weir was held up over the line but the match winner was scored fittingly by Olly Davies with four minutes left. Yet another 20 metre drive from Rob Hamon who was immense off the bench all day took the Saints to the visitor’s 10 metre line. On the last Hewitt decided to run it and was rewarded as the big front rower drove to the sticks for the winning try.
There was still time for much drama as poor marking at the short kick off allowed the full back to collect, run 20 metres and put his winger into the corner to bring the scores back within three. The Rhinos refused the conversion attempt to save time leaving 90 agonising seconds left.
The winger was injured in the act of scoring so a five minute break injury break ratcheted up the tension but the Saints managed to survive and win a great game 31-28.
Dec Flannery, Josh Swift, Robbie Hand and Josh Crehan all played their parts in a wonderful pack display that nullified the Rhinos giving Hewitt and Abram the space to weave their magic.
Tries: Dave Hewitt 2, Dan Abram, Connor Smith, Olly Davies.
Goals: Dave Hewitt 5.
Drop Goals: Dave Hewitt.
Tries: Ashley Handley 2, Jordan Whippey, Matty Stableford 2, Shaun Allen.
Goals: Josh Hattle 2.
Half Time: 18-12
Full Time: 31-28
1. Adam Saunders; 2. Raith Stringer, 3. Matthew Whitley, 4. Will Weir, 5. Joe Hilton; 6. Dave Hewitt, 7. Dan Abram; 8. Ross McCauley, 9. Tom Davies, 10. Olly Davies, 11. Scott Oakes, 12. Declan Flannery, 13. Connor Smith.
Subs: 14. Josh Crehan, 15. Liam Knowles, 16. Josh Swift, 17. Robbie Hand, 18. Rob Hamon.
1. Ash Robson; 2. Ashley Handley, 4. Jordan Whippey, 3. Aron Manger, 5. Shaun Allen; 6. Josh Hattle, 7. Robbie Ward; 8. George Milton, 9. Lewis Lord, 10. Joe Hudson, 11. Connor Casey, 12. Matty Stableford, 13. Elliot Minchella.
Subs: 14. Ben Frankland, 15. Ben Passmore, 16. Kyle Akrigg, 17. Jordan Moana.