After the joy of the U19s victory over the “Auld Enemy” earlier in the day it was always going to be difficult for the U16s to match the intensity shown, writes Graham Henthorne.
This, coupled with coming off the back of the previous loss to Warrington, made the clash with the Tigers’ an interesting proposition.
But your Saints came through 24-22
The U16s have found it challenging in recent weeks to match the performances shown in the opening rounds of the competition and this game was no exception.
The Tigers roared into a 12-point lead in the opening five minutes scoring on successive sets down their left-hand side.
The raison d’etre of the Scholarship and Academy competitions is not necessarily to win a championship but is to produce the next supply of Super League players to the parent club.
However, if you can do the two at the same time then everyone is happy and the recovery of the Saints over the rest of the half shows a maturity beyond years.
They started by repelling the tigers over the next two sets, then in the next ten minutes they gained good field position culminating in a Taylor Pemberton knock-on with the line begging.
The fightback started with the introduction off the bench of the two props Will Toone and the rapidly improving Zack Lee. Along with Ben Betts, both had drives which put the Saints on the front foot giving the mercurial Lewis Dodd space to attack the line. He ghosted through a gap to the full-back before feeding Harvey McDaid speeding up in support to open the Saints account.
The Saints continued to take the game to the Tigers and on the stroke of the break that man Dodd stepped through the Tigers line and around the full-back to score under the sticks. His second conversion levelling the scores.
The call from the coaching staff was to nil the opposition. But that wouldn’t be the Saints, would it?
We’d rather entertain the paying the public by mirroring the first half and conceding two tries, the second a fortuitous rebound off a Saints foot, in the opening 10 minutes to fall 22 – 12 behind then coming back to win it.
So, let’s start again shall we?
Again the fightback started with Will Toone. Two repeat sets on the Tigers line resulted in the big prop taking the ball up well on the first tackle of the third set. Two tackles later and the ball came back to Toone on the burst 20 metres out (well that was his impression – don’t let him measure you up for carpets!), I made it two but whatever the distance the six points put the Saints back in with a shout.
On the next set they were level as a fourth tackle chip into Hellfire Corner from Dodd coupled with a great chase from Jack Stephenson forced the Tigers to spill the ball over the line allowing Dodd to touch down for the score.
Crucially he missed the conversion leaving the scores level with a quarter of an hour to go.
Having been whooping and hollering at their 10-point lead 10 minutes ago it was a much quieter Tigers side which tried manfully to keep the waves of Saints attack out.
Firstly, Ryan Appleton had a try disallowed for a forward pass which the locals thought was harsh and then Lewis Baxter knocked-on over the line to keep the scores tied.
But with four minutes to go the visitors were penalised for a head high tackle and from 30 metres out to the left of the posts Dodd calmly slotted the winning goal.
The Saints were not at their best in this game against a combative Tigers side led by the dangerous left centre Graham Bradley, but they stuck at it and, unlike the Warrington game, found a way to get back into the dog fight.
As ever Lewis Dodd was the star but the prop quartet of Jamie Pye, Harry Brooks, Will Toone and Zack Lee laid the platform for the others to play off.
This was by no means as good a performance as that against our nearest and dearest earlier in the season but the squad as a whole are growing together and becoming better for it.
St Helens U16s:
Tries: Harvey McDaid (22), Lewis Dodd (34 & 55), Will Toone (53).
Goals: Lewis Dodd 4 from 5.
Tries: Graham Bradley 3 (3, 5 & 38), Taylor Cartwright (44).
Goals: Graham Bradley 3 from 4.
Half Time: 12-12
Full Time: 24-22
1. Harvey McDaid; 5. Theo Robinson, 3. Jack Taylor, 4. Ben Betts, 2. Ryan Appleton; 6. Taylor Pemberton, 7. Lewis Dodd; 8. Harry Brooks, 9. Keenan McDaid, 10. Jamie Pye, 11. Evan Jones, 12. Lewis Baxter, 13. Ethan Caine.
Subs: 14. Paddy Maher, 15. Joe Spencer, 16. Zack Lee, 17. Will Toone, 19. Jack Stephenson.
1. Keanu Bean; 2. Leo Marchant, 3. Jack Johnson, 4. Graham Bradley, 5. Harrison Spence-Horton; 6. Bailey O’Connor, 7. Iwan Orr; 8. Sam Hall, 9. Archie Craggs, 10. Myles Tait, 11. Taylor Cartwright, 12. Nathan Carter, 13. Corey Hodgson.
Subs: 14. Kieron Lawton, 15. Billy Marsh, 16. Louis Collinson, 17. Lewis Ransome, 18. Jacob Horte, 19. Jack Rowbotham.