Saints v Cornish Rebels
History was made on the playing fields of St Helens on Sunday as the first competitive game was played by a team from Cornwall and the Saints, writes Graham Henthorne.
For those of you who may not know the Rebels were only formed four years ago almost to the day by three men in a pub. No literally!
Little did they think on June 1 2013 that they would be partnered with and playing the Saints.
There is a long history of playing the other code in the country’s western-most county, and very successfully I may add which makes the place ripe for the introduction of the better variety of Rugby.
However, the tale of the last three years has been of such monumental success that now no-one wants to face the Rebels with leaves them with little chance of improvement.
So their founding Saint-ophiles coupled with a local Coach in Mike Abbott jumped at the chance to show their fledgling players just what it’s like to play the game at a much greater level than they would be able to experience in the South West. But also to give them a taste of something to aspire to.
What’s in it for the Saints? Cornwall is rugby country and you never know what diamonds there may be in its rough until you look for them.
Now it would be easy to look at the score and wax lyrical about the Saints flowing rugby, and I will, but inevitably you have to temper that against the background of the opposition’s naivety and inexperience.
Still there were some fantastic tries scored from Alex Eckley’s two powerful runs from 40 and 70 metres out to Aaron Smith’s mesmerising weave through a stationery defensive line.
Kevin Brown showed his mercurial talents with two tries in the corner neatly finishing sweeping moves and a long run in after the break.
John Hutchings scored his first brace in the Red Vee showing commendable pace for the second from a quick tap.
Owen Smith, Cameron Brown, Chris Follin and Tom Nisbett were the final scorers in the first period, profiting, especially in Tom’s case from some sublime passing from Elliott Jenkins who was stating his case rather well for a starting birth in a fortnight.
Nisbett was to go over twice more for a deserved hat-trick, Sam Royle and Ben Simms with two both ran well for their tries accompanied by another U16s graduate Joe Sharratt who despite not scoring ran hard.
Final score went to Sean Croston but final name on the scoring roster is Jordan Olmez who, as always with his forward comrades Matty Lees, Callum Hazzard, Jorge Lewtas and Captain Mike Weldon laid the platform for the Josh Eaves and Brad Pinder to play the Saints way.
Now, I’ve not once mentioned our opposition in the last few paragraphs. But don’t be fooled into thinking that they made no contribution to the game. Far from it.
After fifteen minutes centre Peter Jon Mabbott came charging towards the Saints line only to be stopped short. From the play the ball Captain Jamie Prisk was held up over the line. On the last the Rebels showed a little of their renowned flair in spreading the ball wide only for winger Dan Hinton to be bundled into touch.
The final act of the first half saw a high kick on the last go tantalisingly dead in goal after first Scott and then strong running prop Adrius Zachorouvas were held short.
No matter what the scoreboard showed the Rebels never gave up and despite finishing with 12 men they were held short or over the line twice in the final ten minutes.
The strong running of Joint Man of the Match Jack Scott brought expertly onto the ball by hooker Callum Abbott and his Man of the Match colleague Liam Freeman caused problems for the Saints all day.
Couple this with the enthusiasm of the rest of the squad typified by second row Dan Faamatuainu, who drove himself up to Birmingham to play Union on Saturday then continued afterwards to join up with the Rebels that evening and you can see that the future looks good.
There were some harsh lessons learned not only of how to hit but how to wrestle the life out of your opponent in the tackle. But those lessons went both ways with some of the Saints youngsters never having stood up to players that size before.
As Rebels Chairman John Beach said afterwards: “This was our Challenge Cup today and given some of the scores dealt out by some lesser teams than the Saints we have stood up really well. Our lads can go home safe in the knowledge that they have tested themselves against some of the next Super League stars of the Saints.”
These were views echoed by the Rebels small but proud band of travelling support who drove the 700 mile round trip to cheer on their heroes.
As a contest it was a non-starter but as a meaningful warm-up for Derek Traynor’s U19s squad it was a valuable hit-up before the defence of their title starts in earnest. Buts a vehicle for spreading the gospel around the country, supporting the work of Craig Richards and his crew in introducing Rugby League and the Saints to increasing numbers of school children in Cornwall via the RFL’s Embed the Pathway scheme and possibly finding a new Saints star it was a resounding success.
Tries: Kevin Brown 3 (5, 10 & 64), John Hutchings 2 (25 & 68), Cameron Brown (31), Sean Croston (76), Alex Eckley 2 (1 & 50). Owen Smith (22), Jordan Olmez (66), Chris Follin (33), Tom Nisbett 3 (36, 43 &73), Ben Simms (52), Aaron Smith (45), & Sam Royle (55).
Half Time: 32-0
Full Time: 76-0
1. Kevin Brown; 2. John Hutchings, 3. Cameron Brown, 4. Matty Costello, 5. Sean Croston; 6. Jordan Gibbons, 7. Elliott Jenkins; 15. Matty Lees, 9. Josh Eaves, 8. Alex Eckley, 11. Owen Smith, 12. Mike Weldon (C), 13. Callum Hazzard.
Subs: 10. Jordan Olmez, 14. Brad Pinder, 16. Chris Follin, 17. Jorge Lewtas, 18. Tom Nisbett, 19. Sam Royle, 20. Ben Simms, 21. Christian Kellett, 22. Dave Eccleston, 23. Ben Morris, 24. Luke Ward, 25. Aaron Smith, 26. Paul Nash, 27. Joe Sharratt, 28. Ryan Horne.
2. Dillon Loake; 5. Dan Hinton, 3. Decarlo Trerise, 4. Peter Jon Mabbott, 1. Jodi Briskham; 6. James Elliott, 7. Liam Freeman; 8. Jamie Prisk (C), 9. Callum Abbott, 10. Adrius Zachorouvas, 11. Jack Scott, 12. Dan Faamatuainu, 20. George Knowles.
Subs: 14. Connor Willoughby, 16. George Day, 17. Michael Abbott, 18. Bob Blainey, 21. James Griffiths.
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