Saints crowned Academy Champions 2023!

St.Helens secured the 2023 Under 18's Academy Championship with a strong 22-6 win over Warrington Wolves in the Academy Grand Final!

Derek Traynor’s young Saints got to the Grand Final by finishing the regular season at the top of the table, and earned a home Semi-Final against fourth-placed Hull FC who they saw off 28-8. It had set up an exciting fixture against Wigan Warriors who won the other Semi-Final against Warrington Wolves, but following a decision made by The RFL Board after the Warriors used twelve interchanges as opposed to the permitted eight in that victory, Warrington were re-instated in the Grand Final.

The game began with real intent from both sides, but the Saints struck first with their well earned early pressure thirteen minutes in. A sensational break in the middle from half-back Harry Robertson getting the team rolling, and on a short side play prop Alfie Sinclair fed the ball to Max McGucken who tipped it on to Owen Dagnall for a dive into the left corner and the opening points. McGucken could not convert though, giving the Red V a 4-0 lead.

For the remainder of the half, the game ebbed and flowed either way, but Saints defended their line valiantly. Louie Roberts at fullback dealt with the Wolves’ kicking game nobly, and took a catch away from the danger zone near the 20 minute mark.

As was to be expected, nerves for such a big game for these young men meant there were a number of errors made by both sides, but the Saints repeatedly kept turning up for one another in defence. Highlights in the first half included; Sinclair knocking a ball loose off a huge collision, Ben Will vaulting himself to a kicked ball to ensure we only conceded a goal line drop out, and when the pressure was at the other end Saints forced a drop out of their own by holding Wolves up and driving them back 15 metres into the in-goal.

In the dying embers the Saints would get the final points of the opening half, as Dayon Sambou threw an outstanding flick offload to Will which gave him just enough room to dive in at the right corner. McGucken from the other sideline this time would nail the conversion to send Saints into the break 10-0 up.

Into the second half an much like the middle period of the first, it was a arm wrestle with some errors in play, but the Traynor’s men would post more points on Wire to control the game.

Warrington camped on their own line, Sam Oakes on the spin passed to Robertson, who met an onrushing Harvey Braddish hitting a great line to steamroll over a Wolves player and score the first points of the second half, which McGucken added the two onto, 16-0.

The visitors would get their chances, a big one stopped by England skipper Jonny Vaughan after a line break. Dayon Sambou, who had been terrific throughout, had to come off the field though due to a knee injury, and we wish him well with his recovery.

Whilst Warrington’s time to grasp the game from Saints ran out, the efforts did not relent, both teams kept firing into one another in a real physical battle.

With just under ten minutes to go, St.Helens all but ensured a title win with a second Braddish try. A high cross-field ball was not taken cleanly by a Wolves man, Harvey was on hand to pick up the scraps and ground the ball for a twenty-point lead, with McGucken making it 22-0 quickly after.

The visiting Wolves finally got on the score sheet with just under two minutes to go, second phase rugby created a chance for Adam Whalley which he took well, Noah Booth added an easy kick near the sticks, 22-6.

Ben Will thought he had grabbed a brace following an incredible strip of the ball and darting 30m run from Dagnall, Will dived in the corner again following it but was judged to have knocked on.

The full time whistle was blown and St.Helens Academy had done it, the Under 18s Academy Championship is ours following a strong win in the 2023 Academy Grand Final!

Match Summary

St.Helens Academy

Starting 13: Louie Roberts, Ben Will, Dayon Sambou, Jonathon Vaughan, Owen Dagnall, Harry Robertson, Max McGucken, Noah Stephens, Ciaran Nolan, Alfie Sinclair, Harvey Braddish, Jerry Carty, Leon Cowen

Interchanges:ย Daniel Frost, Samuel Oakes, Jake Davies, Cole Marsh

18th player:ย Deacon Swarbrick

Tries:ย Dagnall (13), Will (39), Braddish (51, 72)

Conversions: McGucken 3/4

Warrington Wolves Academy

Starting 13: Cai Taylor-Wray, Dylon Braddish, Zack Gardner, Arron Lindop, Jake Thewlis, Adam Whalley, Noah Booth, Logan Raughter, Lewis Barrattt, Noah High, Ewan Smith, Nolan Tupaea, Samuel Marshall

Interchanges:ย Benjamin Hartill, Alfie Mather, Stephen Antrobus, Joseph Bajer

18th player:ย Peter Scott

Tries:ย Whalley (78)

Conversions: Booth 1/1

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