ON paper this looked to be a very tricky game indeed, writes Graham Henthorne.
No team that originates in Hull doesn’t play with pride and passion and facing that on the back of a long journey to and from the South of France could have spelled problems for the Saints.
But the U19s weren’t having a jot of it as they weathered the opening 10 minute surge from the visitors, aided as much by their own profligacy with possession, and then turned on the style to beat City of Hull Academy 42-10.
As has been said the visitors were camped in the Saints half for much of the opening stanza forcing repeat sets and being held up over the line on one occasion.
But as soon as they knocked on at the Saints 20 metre line the spell was broken and the Saints stated to weave magic of their own.
Three relieving runs later Regan Grace found himself at the play the ball. Seconds later he had weaved his way through a mesmerised defence over 40 metres and committed the full back before feeding the supporting Ricky Bailey to go the final 30 to the sticks.
From the kick off Grace was at it again. This time drives from Mike Weldon and Cameron Brown had put the visitors on the back foot giving Grace a fast play the ball to work with as he again wove his way up field. On the last Rob Fairclough’s pinpoint cross kick allowed Jake Spedding to challenge his opposite number in the air and the big centre continued his scoring streak plucking the ball from the grasp of the winger to score in the back corner.
The Saints bombed a gilt edged chance as a great delayed pass from Fairclough put Ben Morris through. The big second row probably could have made it on his own but chose to pass to the supporting Jonah Cunningham who unfortunately was caught from behind and injured in the process.
Not to be deterred the 19s continued to pour pressure onto the visitors defensively forcing poorer and poorer kicks from which they flowed in wave after wave of attacking flair.
Dave Eccleston scored the first of his three on quarter time finishing the set he started with a great relieving run out of defence. Five tackles later and a great round the corner pass from Brown saw him in.
The next set saw him at it again putting the Saints on the attack straight away. From the play the ball Bailey’s miss pass set Grace away and he majestically rounded the winger before sailing through the covering two defenders with sheer pace.
He scored his second and the Saints fifth on the half hour finishing a handling move in the corner.
The half finished with a warning for the U19s as some complacent tackling let the visitors through and it was only a brilliant last ditch cover tackle from Weldon which kept them scoreless.
As ever the objective in the second half of a game such as this is to replicate the dominance of the first and as ever it’s very difficult to achieve.
However the half started with a piece of individual brilliance from Dave Eccleston. He took Bailey’s pass from a last tackle clearance kick, broke the line and veered towards the right touchline. With only the full back to beat he slowed to give the impression of waiting for support before pressing the accelerator pedal and out-stripping the cover to the corner for a try any winger would be proud of.
Three penalties on the bounce gave the visitors momentum which was too hard to stop and they opened their account with a try down the right.
That was soon forgotten as the Saints continued their dominance. From a Hull scrum on the Saints 20 Owen Smith dis-possessed the attacker one-on-one before embarking on a 70 metre scamper downfield. He knew he would probably not make it to the line but waited and positioned himself to be able to feed Eccleston screaming up on his inside to go the final 20 metres to the line for his hat-trick.
Grace completed his again out-sprinting his opposite number to the corner after a great pass from Bailey revelling in his elevation to Captain in place of the injured Liam Cooper.
Fittingly it was thee Captain who scored the saints final try strolling over unopposed. Brad Billsborough completed a miserable day with the boot missing his sixth attempt, this after a flawless performance in France.
The visitors put some gloss on their score with a lucky try in the final minute but this couldn’t detract from the comprehensive victory.
The forwards laid the platform as ever for the victory with youngsters Alex Eckley, Callum Hazzard and Chris Follin putting in performances way ahead of their tender years .
But this game was definitely a case of the backs taking advantage and running riot and the City of Hull side couldn’t cope with the pace on show.
Next up for the 19s are local rivals Widnes Vikings who will no doubt be determined to down the Saints.
Tries: Ricky Bailey (11 & 71), Jake Spedding (14), Dave Eccleston (20, 45 & 55), Regan Grace (25, 31 & 66).
Goals: Brad Billsborough 3
City of Hull U19s:
Tries: Harry Hutchinson (52), Will Jubb (77).
Goals: Liam Harris 1/2.
Half Time: 26-0
Full Time: 42-10
1. Ricky Bailey (C); 2. Dave Eccleston, 4. Cameron Brown, 3. Jake Spedding, 5. Regan Grace; 6. Brad Billsborough, 7. Rob Fairclough; 8. Alex Eckley, 9. Aaron Smith, 10. Jordan Olmez, 11. Mike Weldon, 12. Ben Morris, 13 Jonah Cunningham.
Subs: 14. Brad Pinder, 15. Callum Hazzard, 16. Chris Follin, 17. Owen Smith.
City of Hull:
1. Lochlan Fitzgerald; 2. Harry Hutchinson, 3. Brad Spriggs, 4. Kieran Buchanan, 5. Max Riseman; 6. Bobby Downs, 7. Liam Harris; 8. Charlie Weaver, 9. Will Jubb (C), 10. Joel Marquez-Laynez, 12. Billy Wardell, 19. Joe Cator, 13. Kieran Moran.
Subs: 15. Ben Butler, 16. Owen Harrison, 17. Chris Smith, 20. Callum Baker.