Academy Three From Three

DAY 13 – Both teams came out to face a big crowd at the Cabramatta club, swelled by the Saints’ travelling parents and families.

The Parramatta side were visibly larger than their young academy Saints side – but your Saints didn’t disappoint in a real classic.

As the game got underway Saints struggled to gain any field position and it came as no surprise when they finally succumbed to another barnstorming run from the Eels big second row who fed his centre to score outside after five minutes.

It ttok a while, but Saints were slowly finding their feet on this hot, humid Australian afternoon and on 16 minutes great vision by Rob Fairclough spotted Parramatta were short on the right – the half back finding the impressive fullback Matty Costello who in turn attracted the centre and wing before feeding Jordan Gibbons to go in unopposed.

A period of sustained pressure by the home side and some indiscipline by the inexperienced Saints resulted in the referee awarding the Parramatta side a number of penalties (which hopefully the boys will learn from).

This meant the Eels gained good field position and scored two quick tries, one converted, to give them a deserved 16-6 lead.

Good leadership qualities from (on the day captain) Brad Billsborough and some strong carries from the reliable Matty Lees and powerful Levy Nzoungou and George Lewtas kept Saints in the arm wrestle though, and at the half hour mark a well-worked try down the right again saw Gibbons go in for his and Saints’ second try.

16-10 down at halftime, coach Derek Traynor told his charges to cut out errors and gain field position. He also told them to keep playing in the correct parts of the field.

And it seemed to work as the second half couldn’t have started better for Saints.

A fumble by Parramatta gave Saints good field position and the half back partnership of Elliot Jenkins and Rob Fairclough duly obliged in putting Matty Costello away who in turn fed the impressive and improving Lewis Furlong to score.

Gibbons converting to level the scores.

The next 20 mins became an arm wrestle with no further scores and both sides tired in the heat and came up with some basic errors.

But with only two minutes left Parramatta showed how much the game meant to them by going for a drop goal to make the score 17-16.

Cometh the hour… with no time at all left on the clock Saints came up with a massive defensive effort and forced their opposition to knock on.

A quickly formed scrum ensued and two plays later Saints put on the play of the game, Fairclough out the back finding his new half back partner in Jack Unsworth who in turn found a sublime short pass to the hard working impressive second rower Chris Follin who showed his pace to score in the corner.

Conversion was missed but who cares! This young Saints academy side never know when they are beaten.

At the end of the game former coach and now Parramatta’s director of football Daniel Anderson picked out a couple of lads for ‘best’ and ‘fairest’ in Chris Follin and Lewis Furlong.

Special mentions also have to go to Rob Fairclough and Matty Costello too.

Coach Derek Traynor described the victory as one of the best ever on any tour, against a big, committed and well organised Parramatta side.

The toughest challenge is yet to come with Penrith at the Pepper Stadium this weekend!

By Eric Frodsham

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