Leeds Rhinos v Saints
Playing the Rhinos away is always a tough assignment. So giving them a 20 point start is tantamount to suicide.
But that is exactly what the U19s did tonight to lose 34-26.
Getting back into the game to the extent that they took the lead once and should’ve done twice is testament to the ability and character at the heart of this team.
The Saints fell behind in the third minute with the Rhinos forcing their way over after Tom Nisbet, Sam Royle and Callum Hazzard had saved a try on the previous play.
From the restart Royle and Jake Wingfield forced an error with a big tackle but the Saints couldn’t capitalise.
The first chance came the Saints way in the eighth minute when, on the last, the ball was spread left to winger Kev Brown who chipped inside for the supporting Royle only to see the cover intercept.
The Rhinos went back down the field and Nisbet was again called upon to hold the man up on the last.
Nisbet repeated the feat five minutes later as the Saints were finding it difficult to stop the Rhinos massive pack.
Two tries in a three minute period put the hosts 16 points to the good again after they found purchase down the Saints right hand side.
Coach Derek Traynor rang the changes putting Joe Sharratt at centre and Jake Wingfield at scrum half and the Saints started to compete.
The fourth Rhinos try on 27 minutes appeared to have put the game to bed but as intimated the Saints were getting a foot hold into the game and were the next to score.
Their first two penalties of the game catapulted the Saints into the Rhinos red zone. Jorge Lewtas and then Wingfield were held short before on the third tackle Ben Sims powered over.
The second half started with the Saints needing to score first and then seeing how the hosts reacted. And that’s just what happened.
With a relieving penalty the Saints marched downfield and offloads on the fifth tackle from Lewtas and Paul Nash put Jack Welsby in position to dummy his way over.
When the Saints scored again five minutes later the Rhinos were starting to get the jitters. Again on the back of Rhinos indiscipline drives from Lewtas and Sims put the Saints on the front foot and when the ball found its way to Matty Foster on the left he charged through two defenders before wrong-footing the fullback and beating the cover to the line.
Cal Hazzard’s third goal and the Saints were two behind.
The jitters were well and truly knocking the Rhinos as their ball retention hit rock bottom giving the Saints all the possession they needed to take it to their hosts.
The comeback was completed on the hour as a great grubber from Wingfield and chase from the right hand side forced a knock on and ten metre scrum.
Two drives to the left and then on the third quick hands to the right saw the versatile Sharratt, now at centre, put his winger John Hutchings in at the corner.
Aided by another penalty the Rhinos responded with a try in the right corner despite appearing to cross behind the man.
The Saints weren’t done though as they showed massive self-belief to yet again take to to their hosts.
With eight minutes to go that man Sharratt was at it again charging down the right wing. A quick play the ball saw the ball moved left to Foster who showed great courage in forcing himself between two defenders, knowing he was going to get crunched, to reach out to score.
Inexplicably Hazzard missed the goal and we were tied.
The game was lost with a couple of contentious penalty decisions deep in the Saints half. The first, for ball stealing on the last 10 metres out saw the Rhinos into the lead. The second, again 10 metres out saw the Rhinos in for their sixth try inflating the score.
It would have been interesting to see how the Rhinos would have reacted to going behind for the second time had Hazzard’s conversion gone over because they were definitely teetering on the brink.
The first 20 minutes killed the game but the last 60 proved to both teams that the Saints can not only compete but if they have to go there again in the play-offs then the Saints can most definitely win.
For the Saints Wingfield, Welsby and Nash led the team around well and Lewtas, Hazzard, Royle and Alex Eckley worked hard down the middle.
But the standout performers were Matty Foster and Joe Sharratt who worked hard with great determination and were unlucky to be on the losing side.
Tries: Owen Trout (3), Ben Markland (16), Liam Hamill (19), Thomas Holroyd (27), Tyler Dupree (64), Cameron Smith (79).
Goals: Harvey Spence 5 from 7.
Tries: Ben Sims (32), Jack Welsby (42), Matty Foster (48 & 72), John Hutchings (58), .
Goals: Callum Hazzard 3 from 5.
Half Time: 20-6
Full Time: 34-26
1. Kiedan Hartley; 2. Ben Markland, 4. Jack Broadbent, 3. Harry Newman, 5. Liam Hamill; 6. Harvey Spence, 7. Reece Chapman-Smith; 8. Loui McConnell, 9. Corey Johnson, 10. Spencer Darley, 11. Owen Trout, 12. James Barraclough, 13. Cameron Smith.
Subs: 14. Billy Jowitt, 15. Alex Sutcliffe, 16. Tyler Dupree, 17. Thomas Holroyd.
1. Tom Nisbet; 5. John Hutchings, 3. Sean Croston, 4. Josh Simm, 22. Kev Brown; 6. Jack Welsby, 7. Ryan Horne; 8. Alex Eckley (C), 9. Jake Wingfield, 10. Callum Hazzard, 11. Chris Follin, 12. Sam Royle, 13. Joe Sharratt.
Subs: 14. Paul Nash, 15. Ben Sims, 16. Jorge Lewtas, 17. Matty Foster.