LAST season’s unbeaten Saints came crashing down at the first attempt this campaign with a disjointed display against a committed Rhinos side, writes Graham Henthorne.
The Saints looked out of sorts in the first period with passes going astray and communication non-existent at times all of which led to them spending large periods of time defending in their own half and then manfully trying to get away from their own line.
Filling the shoes of Danny Richardson was always going to be a hard task for any of the U19s squad of halves but this was made doubly harder when the more experienced two Rob Fairclough and Brad Billsborough both missed out due to long term injuries sustained last year.
Consequently the Saints went into the game with more than competent but inexperienced replacements in Elliot Jenkins and Jordan Gibbons. The task was made even harder as Jenkins was ruled out due to concussion with the game only a quarter of an hour old.
The Rhinos exerted the early pressure with a neat grubber but great work from Kevin Brown saw he kick diffused and the repeat set saved.
However, the first of numerous penalties against the Saints allowed the Rhinos back into the Saints red zone and they scored in the left corner after the centre got the ball out of a three man tackle which looked to have saved the try.
Brown again was to the rescue saving a try with a last ditch tackle but seconds later he was beaten as the visitors big second row bumped him off as he dove for the line.
The Saints finally got some possession on the half hour and five minutes later a neat grubber on the last was gobbled up under the sticks by Brad Pinder only for the score to be ruled out for offside.
Despite the half time score line no-one felt that the game had gone and were unanimous in agreeing that possession held the key to victory.
The Saints delivered on that in the second half with a figure of 90% but just failed at key moments.
They started like a house on fire with Jordan Olmez and Jorge Lewtas to the fore. Both props tore into the Rhinos and it was Olmez whose step took him through the line and strength allowed him to take three players over with him to register the Saints first points.
The two were at it again from the restart this time only to see Olmez held inches short and led from the front as fierce defence forced the error.
Ten minutes in and the Saints closed the gap to just two with Tom Nisbett’s first try at this level on his debut. Gibbons changed the direction of the attack, fed Matty Costello who committed the defence before passing to his winger who stepped inside and dove over.
Unfortunately just when they needed to keep up the pressure a missed tackle saw the rhinos break down the middle and regather a grubber past Brown to score by the sticks.
This proved to be the killer blow as try as they might the Saints kept falling short turning possession over on the last on no fewer than four occasions with Matty Lees and Joe Sharratt held short.
The calmer heads of the Rhinos halves kept them rolling down field and a penalty for ball stealing was converted with two minutes to go.
However, from the restart the ball was lost over their own line by the Rhinos and pounced upon by Nisbett. Gibbons launched a towering touchline conversion only to be told to take it again as the touch judges weren’t ready. He subsequently missed!
A disappointing way to start the campaign but there is better to come from this team who showed great courage to come back and win the second half as they did.
Tries: Jordan Olmez (42), Tom Nisbett (49 & 78).
Goals: Jordan Gibbons 1 from 3.
Leeds Rhinos U19s:
Tries: Harry Boyes (8), Dan Waite-Pullan (25), Tom Schofield (53).
Goals: Tom Schofield 4 from 4.
Half Time: 0-12
Full Time: 14-20
1. Kevin Brown; 2. Sean Croston, 3. Cameron Brown, 4. Matty Costello, 5. Tom Nisbett; 6. Jordan Gibbons, 7. Elliott Jenkins; 8. Matty Lees, 9. Josh Eaves, 19. Alex Eckley, 11. Owen Smith, 12. Mike Weldon (C), 13. Callum Hazzard.
Subs: 10. Jordan Olmez, 14. Brad Pinder, 16. Jorge Lewtas, 17. Joe Sharratt.
1. Kiedan Hartley; 2. Dakota Wylie, 3. Archie Andrade, 4. Harry Newman, 5. Harry Boyes; 6. Jack Walker, 7. Tom Schofield; 8. Owen Trout, 9. Harvey Whiteley, 10. Spencer Darley, 11. Alex Sutcliffe, 12. Dan Waite-Pullan, 13. Ellis Nuttall.
Subs: 14. Ben Brady, 15. James Barraclough, 16. Muzz Mustapha, 17. Loui McConnell.