Saints Reserves downed 38-32 at home to Hull KR.
If ever there was a game of two halves then this was it. Unfortunately it was the Saints who were on the receiving end of it this time round, writes Graham Henthorne.
But what an advert for Reserves Rugby League this game was with both teams emptying their rosters and providing sides packed with first team experience.
Despite arriving late the visitors were right on the money opening the scoring with a try from a step from Jordan Abdull after spending most of the first five minutes camped in the Saints 20 metres and bringing a try saving tackle from Adam Swift.
The Saints didn’t learn their lesson however, as the visitors increased their lead with the hugely impressive Zach Docker-Clay, operating at hooker for the first period, backing up his teammates break to go under the posts.
As so often happens teams score points on the back of penalties and the Saints did just that after two on the run allowing them to spend time in the Rovers 20. On the last Danny Richardson changed the play from the right to the left for his fellow half back Rob Fairclough to put a grubber behind the line. Jake Spedding reacted best winning the race to touch down.
The visitors weren’t put off, however, and increased their lead with a try in the left corner which looked suspiciously forward.
The Saints finished the final 15 minutes showing just what they can do when they hold possession and put the opposition under pressure for a change.
Matty Costello started the charge scoring with ten to go to the break. Chris Follin was held down the left but as the ball was moved back right to Liam Cooper whose offload found Richardson. His quick pass found Costello still with much to do but a dummy and a step off his right gave him space to dive over despite the attentions of two defenders.
From the kick off the re-energised Saints powered into the Rovers defensive line with Jack Ashworth to the fore. A quick play the ball allowed Aaron Smith to do what he does best running at a retreating line and poking his nose through. His inside ball went over Josh Eaves’ head but was picked up by the supporting Richardson who strolled in.
The Saints were so on top at this stage that they were making ground for fun and the pressurised Rovers had no option but to foul them to stop them resulting in two late Richardson penalty goals which edged the Saints ahead on the whistle.
The call at the break was to continue as we finished the first but all that changed on the third play as Cooper lost the ball cold providing a run in from 20 out that even your correspondent could’ve scored.
From the kick off Rovers knocked on at the first opportunity and the Saints capitalised going back in front. A poor pass put Ricky Bailey under enormous pressure but the full back held on to the ball and from the play the ball a Richardson pass put Spedding free down the left and his out-the-back flip gave Swift an easy dive over in the corner.
But the Saints discipline was to let them down in spades from now on in with penalties and a completion rate under 50% giving the visitors encouragement they didn’t need to attack the Saints line.
Will Oakes’ try put the visitors back in front from a Docker-Clay, now back at stand-off, miss pass and the lead was increased as a missed tackle let Rovers go 60 metres down the left before spreading it right for Cockayne to go in.
With 20 to go Jack Ashworth brought the scores level taking Richardson’s pass to step powerfully through and over.
But the final few minutes were a tale of chances missed. Jonah Cunningham had already been denied a try for a forward pass from Brad Billsborough and the Saints were to be denied twice more before the end.
The first after Cunningham had made a spectacular 60 metre bust from his own 20. He had teammates left and right as he approached the full back but passed it forward to Richardson and the try was gone.
The second as Bailey and Spedding put Swift in to the corner.
Unfortunately sandwiched in between was the match winning try from Jack Logan strolling through poor tackling on the Saints left.
So, honours even over the past two weeks with both sides triumphing in each other’s backyards.
But from a coaching point of view good hard games were they learn a lot about their charges. And from a spectators point of view good hard entertaining rugby generally played by the future players of their clubs
In other words, just exactly what the Reserves is all about.
Tries: Jake Spedding (18), Matty Costello (29), Danny Richardson (32), Adam Swift (44), Jack Ashworth (61).
Goals: Danny Richardson (6 from 7).
Tries: Jordan Abdull (5), Zach Docker-Clay (9), Kieran Moss (25), Matty Marsh (41), Will Oakes (53), Ben Cockayne (59), Jack Logan (72).
Goals: Zach Docker-Clay (4 from 6), Will Oakes (1 from 1).
Half Time: 20-18
Full Time: 32-38
25. Ricky Bailey; 2. Dave Eccleston, 26. Jake Spedding, 4. Matty Costello, 5. Adam Swift; 24. Danny Richardson, 34. Rob Fairclough; 23. Jack Ashworth, 17. Tommy Lee, 32. Matty Lees, 29. Liam Cooper, 12. Mike Weldon, 30. Jonah Cunningham.
Subs: 1. Kevin Brown, 3. Cameron Brown, 6. Brad Billsborough, 7. Elliot Jenkins, 8. Jordan Olmez, 10. Alex Eckley, 11. Chris Follin, 13. Callum Hazzard, 31. Aaron Smith, 33. Josh Eaves.
2. Ben Cockayne; 27. Will Oakes, 4. Liam Slater, 40. Jack Logan, 32. Kieran Moss; 20. Matty Marsh, 16. Jordan Abdull; 17. Mitch Clarke, 18. Zach Docker-Clay, 21. Rob Mulhern, 14. Graeme Horne, 11. Owen Harrison, 30. Joe Cator.
Subs: 3. Niall Sydney, 9. Tom Jubb, 15. Harry Bardle, 22. Adam Rooks, 24. Ben Butler, 25. Harry Hutchinson, 34. Brad Clavering.