Academy kick-off 2024 with an away win at Leeds

St.Helens Academy took the trip over to Leeds to take on the Rhinos and started the 2024 Academy Championship season with a win.

A brilliant start for the Saints saw them post the first points of the game on the back of a penalty late on in the Rhinos’ opening defensive set, moving the Saints up-field. The ball was played right to centre Matthew Penketh who stepped back inside the Leeds defence to score near the corner. George Whitby’s conversion just went wide, the Saints led 0-4 after five minutes.

Leeds would strike back quickly, after earning a goal-line drop-out the Rhinos attacked the centre of the field continuously, with the Saints holding them out on their own line before the pressure finally broke with Presley Cassell grounding the ball under the posts. Harley Thomas converted from in front to give Leeds the lead, 6-4.

A fantastic response from the Saints however put them back ahead. An error from the kick-off presented the Red V with the ball inside Leeds’ 10 metres. The Saints played straight from the scrum, Whitby passing right and hitting fullback Louie Roberts out the back who fed Owen Dagnall to dive into the corner to finish a brilliant set play from the scrum with 14 minutes gone on the clock. Whitby’s conversion just missed, 6-8.

Midway through the opening half, the hosts would take back the lead, making the most of an error from the Saints as they looked to come out of their own half, gifting Leeds an opportunity. They worked their way up the field before playing wide to the left to winger Dax Millington who just grounded the ball in the right corner before going into touch. Thomas converted from out wide to put the Rhinos ahead once more, 12-8.

But the Saints would go in ahead at the break, striking just before the half-time whistle. Battling back up the field, the Derek Traynor’s young men once again attacked on the right, with Oliver Garmston collecting the ball in the back row, charging onto it to attack the Leeds line and power over the try line. Whitby converted from the awkward angle, sending our Under 18s ahead at the break, 12-14.

St.Helens Academy would pick up where they left off in the first half, with a try just four minutes after the break. Strong defence forced a mistake from the Rhinos in their own half, the Saints come back down the right edge, with Harry Robertson attacking the line, before dropping the ball off to Jake Davies who crashed over to score, a well-earned try for the loose forward. Whitby converted from the right to extend the Saints lead to eight points, 12-20.

50 minutes in Leeds would reply, after an error from the Saints gave Leeds the ball 10 metres out. Following continued efforts to break the Saints line, Harry Taylor kicked into the in-goal, beating the Saints defence to ground the ball. Thomas converted,18-20.

An immediate strike back came next, this time through Whitby. Some lovely footwork from Robertson by the halfway line saw him break the Leeds defensive line, with the Rhinos fullback still to beat, Robertson found his halves partner back inside to score, with Whitby going over to score. After converting his own try, the Saints then led 18-26.

The Red V scored back-to-back tries and saw the roles reversed from the last try with scorer becoming provider. A break up-field from Penketh set the Saints on another attack. On the last, a lovely grubber kick into the in-goal from Whitby saw him return the favour for Robertson, a dive to ground the ball under the sticks to finish off a brilliant rugby league score. Whitby converted his fourth goal of the evening to extend the lead to 18-32, with 25 minutes left on the clock.

The Rhinos would grab a late consolation try, with Millington going over in the corner again, Taylor couldn’t convert leaving the final score 22-32, and seeing the Saints Academy bring home the win from Yorkshire and get their season up and running!

Match Summary

Leeds Rhinos team: 1. Harley Thomas, 2. Dax Millington, 3. Marcus Qareqare, 4.Harry Taylor, 5. Oliver Smart, 6. Fergus McCormack, 7. Tayler Stephenson, 8. Joe Philips, 9. Mason Corbett, 10. Bobby Hartley, 11. Jacob Stead, 12. Noah Whittingham, 13. Presley Cassell.

Interchanges: 14. Alex Cowley, 15. Joe Butterfield, 16. Jacob Rushforth, 17. Jayemm Oladipupo

18th Player: Dylan Hutchinson

Tries: Dax Millington (2), Presley Cassell, Harry Taylor

Goals: Harley Thomas (3 from 4)

St.Helens team: 1. Louie Roberts, 2 Owen Dagnall, 3 Deacon Swarbrick, 4 Matthew Penketh, 5. Ellis Anderson, 21. Harry Robertson, 7. George Whitby, 10. Morgan Barraclough-Watson, 19. Cole Marsh, 20. Daniel Frost, 11. Oliver Garmston, 12. Billy Keeley, 22. Jake Davies.

Interchanges: 13. Matthew Evans, 15. Oliver Polec, 16. Alfie Tate, 23. Thomas Humphreys.

18th Player: 14. Kian McGann.

Tries: Matthew Penketh, Owen Dagnall, Oliver Garmston, Jake Davies, George Whitby, Harry Robertson.

Goals: George Whitby (4 from 6)

HT: 12 – 14 / FT: 18 – 32

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