19s Into Final

SAINTS made it four wins out of four against the Hull FC this term and booked themselves a place in the Grand Final in the process.

The visitors fielded their customarily big, strong team but the Saints were bereft of their Welsh contingent on the flanks due to Calvin Wellington’s injury and Regan Grace’s suspension. The team lost very little, however, as their places were suitably filled by the experience of Matty Fleming and the youthful enthusiasm of Matty Costello.

There was always the possibility that the previous three great wins would induce both a false sense of security in the Saints and a more determined attitude in the visitors.

In fact that seemed to be the case as the Saints seemed to start a little nervously whilst the visitors got quickly into their stride.

The Saints bombed the first chance as Fleming undid the good work of his 50 metre weaving run by forcing a pass to Olly Davies who knocked on. FC took the opportunity gifted to them scoring on the overlap in the right corner.

Both teams went through a period of assessment as the forwards charged into each other before the first penalty to the Saints gave them enough momentum to score their first points. Drives from Matty Lees and Levy Nzoungou got the Saints to the line and a quick play the ball saw Fleming’s miss pass put Costello into the corner. Danny Richardson’s great touch line conversion gave the Saints the lead.

But if anyone had any doubts about this being a semi-final they were well and truly dispelled as the visitors, led by stand-off Harry Tyson-Wilson, came roaring back. It was his last tackle grubber which fooled the Saints cover into standing and watching it spin away from the in-goal line to be touched down to give the visitors the lead again.

This rocked the Saints but they reacted swiftly and ultimately took control of the game in the final fifteen minutes of the half.

Firstly good hard defence led by the destructive Matty Lees forced the error in the FC half. Drives from Ricky Bailey, Dave Eccleston and Davies saw the Saints camped on their line and on the fifth Richardson produced a little bit of magic to ghost through the line, take it to the full back before giving a great inside ball to the supporting Ben Morris to regain the lead.

Rob Fairclough put Saints hearts back into their mouths giving what should have been a beautiful try scoring pass straight into the hands of the visitors but then made amends with a courageous saving tackle over his own line four tackles later.

On the stroke of the break the Saints produced the killer blow. From a scrum on the FC 20 the forwards got the Saints closer to allow Richardson time to jink his way past some tired defenders to score by the sticks.

Saints had been working at an 85% completion rate in the first half and were fully aware that they would have to be as squeaky clean in the second period if they were to go on to win and that’s what they produced as they put the game out of reach of the visitors.

Saints started the second half well and were son on the attack. Jake Spedding continued his recent resurgence in form and confidence as he was held up over the line on the fourth. On the last, with everyone expecting a ball out the back for a kick, Jonah Cunningham deftly brought Liam Cooper on the charge on his right and the big second row bulldozed his way over the line.

There was a glimmer of hope for the visitors as they exploited a defensive misread to go in down the left reducing the arrears to ten but the Saints weren’t going to let this slip and upped the ante in defence.

Frustration got the better of the Hull stand off as he was sin binned for a cynical elbow to Fairclough’s jaw and the Saints took advantage of the extra man to put the game to bed.

Drives from Davies and Nzoungou put the Saints on a roll and from the play the ball Bailey’s arching run committed the winger enough to give Spedding enough space to outpace the cover to score in the corner.

The last act of the game was almost a carbon copy as Bailey again put Spedding away to score in the corner in front of the massed ranks of home support.

Although the score doesn’t necessarily suggest it this was truly a playoff semi final of the highest quality. The Black & Whites have consistently provided the Saints with their sternest opposition throughout the year and the Saints have found different ways to beat them. This was no different as a magnificent team effort from 1 to 17 enabled the Saints to progress to the holy grail of a Grand Final. Some, in the form of Matty Fleming and Olly Davies have been trying for four years to get there, the likes of Rob Fairclough and Matty Costello have achieved it at the first time of asking.

What none have done is win it and there was no lack of determination amidst the euphoria of reaching that goal to go on and achieve the ultimate goal and emulate last year’s first team by winning it all.

Match Summary:

Saints U19s:
Tries: Matty Costello (17), Ben Morris (27), Danny Richardson (38), Liam Cooper (45), Jake Spedding (67 & 74).
Goals: Danny Richardson 5.

Hull FC U19s:
Tries: Connor Bower (7 & 24), Callum Smith (56).
Goals: Reece Dean.

Half Time: 18-10
Full Time: 34-14


18. Ricky Bailey; 2. David Eccleston, 16. Jake Spedding, 4. Matty Fleming, 22. Matty Costello; 6. Danny Richardson, 7. Rob Fairclough; 8. Ross McCauley, 9. Josh Eaves, 23. Levy Nzoungou, 11. Olly Davies, 13. Morgan Knowles, 21. Joe Ryan.
Subs: 10. Matty Lees, 12. Liam Cooper, 15. Ben Morris, 20. Jonah Cunningham.

Hull FC:
1. Jack Sanderson; 2. Josh Poskitt, 3. Connor Bower, 4. Zeus Silk, 5. Callum Smith; 6. Harry Tyson-Wilson, 7. Reece Dean; 8. Masimbaashe Matongo, 9. Josh Wood, 10. Matty Liggins, 11. Ash Bastiman, 12. Jordan Lane, 13. Brad Clavering.
Subs: 14. Ross Osborne, 15. Charlie Weaver, 16. Brad Harrison, 17. Jez Litten.

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