A disappointing first half performance ultimately cost the Saints in this table top clash against the Rhinos. The defeat leaves them in third position with the visitors leapfrogging over them.
Saints invited the Rhinos to attack with some unfortunate mistakes in the first half and found themselves a daunting 20 points behind at the break.
As early as the third minute the Rhinos showed us a glimpse of what was to come as they went 40 metres through the right side of the Saints defence before a despairing tackle from Matty Foster saved a try. But from the play the ball the Rhinos had numbers down the left and scored through second row Walters, their best on the day.
The Rhinos increased their lead on quarter time with the left winger diving through a poor tackle from Jack Welsby to score in the corner.
The game could and should have been different had the Saints scored minutes later. Lewis Dodd’s footwork took him through the line on a 30 metre run but poor support meant he took the tackle. The Saints kept up the pressure but the chance was lost as John Hutchings found himself bundled into touch in the right corner.
The game was ultimately won with two converted offload tries in the last 10 minutes of the half. Walters scored his second benefitting from an offload which came despite four Saints players being involved in the tackle, the second as he himself offloaded and his half back scooted unopposed to the posts.
The second half started with more of the same from the Rhinos as yet another offload in the tackle resulted in a barge over close to the posts.
But this sparked the Saints into life. They found a way to put the game plan into action and all of a sudden started to trouble the Rhinos.
Drives out of defence from Nico Rizzelli and Hutchings got the Saints onto the front foot. Jack Welsby’s show and go 40 metre run brought him to the fullback. He committed him before passing inside to the supporting Dodd who went the final 30 to the posts and the Saints were on the board.
Finally the Saints were barring up down the middle and kicking well to turn the big Rhino’s pack around and make them come off their own line. The Saints had certainly found their mojo and back to back tries five minutes later caused considerable panic in the visitors ranks.
From a high bomb Jumah Sambou knocked the ball back and it was scooped up by Welsby. A jink, a step and a hand-off and he was off on a 70 metre run down the left. He passed inside to Rizzelli but the centre was caught just short of the line. A quick play the ball to the right to Welsby saw him feed Ryan Horne whose overhead pass gave Tom Nisbett the chance to put Hutchings in at the corner.
From the kick off this time it was Rizzelli who broke the Rhinos line. He went through the middle and finding his Captain Sam Royle on his inside. The Skipper found himself with 60 metres of open space in front of him but with all number of blue jersey’s converging on him. Sensibly he didn’t panic, just kept on running and took the tackle. A quick play the ball to the left and Dodd’s miss pass fittingly put Rizzelli in to score the try he started.
Dodd’s conversion meant the Saints were only 10 behind and most of the Rhinos players took an age to get back to the middle to restart the game. The momentum was all with the Saints but a couple of poor grubber kicks later and the pressure had been relieved.
The Rhinos made the game safe 10 minutes from capitalising on a Saints mistake. There was just time for one final reply from the Saints at the final whistle as Jake Wingfield and Hutchings carved out a chance for Matty Foster 40 metres out. But his exhaustion from his, as ever, 80 minute all out performance meant that he was hauled down inches short and the chance was lost.
The Saints won the second half and more than competed in doing so. A slow start ultimately cost the Saints on the night, and this needs to be addressed for the bigger games over the course of the season.
Sam Royle, Matty Foster and Jake Wingfield worked hard in the pack ably supported by Nico Rizzelli’s tireless running. Jack Welsby showed his class in spurts today but Lewis Dodd was involved in all that was good about the Saints.
Saints U19’s Team: Jack Welsby; Tom Nisbett, John Hutchings, Nico Rizzelli, Jumah Sambou; Ryan Horne, Lewis Dodd; Jamie Pye, Paul Nash, Sam Royle (C), Matty Foster, Lewis Baxter, Jake Wingfield.
Interchange: Keenan McDaid, Harry Brooks, Joe Sharratt, Warren Smith.
Tries : Lewis Dodd (47), John Hutchings (54), Nico Rizzelli (56).
Goals : Lewis Dodd 2 from 3.
Leeds Rhinos U19’s Team: Liam Whitton; Liam Tindall, Tom Barton, Jack Broadbent, Iwan Stephens; Jack Mallinson, Callum McLelland; Loui McConnell, Corey Johnson, Muizz Mustapha, Sam Walters, Owen Trout, Jarrod O’Connor.
Interchange: Oliver Burton, Tom Holroyd, Harry Georgiou, Sam Moorhouse.
Tries : Sam Walters (3 & 30), Iwan Stephens (19), Callum McLelland (37), Harry Georgiou (42), Liam Whitton (71).
Goals : Jack Mallinson 3 from 5, Iwan Stephens 1 from 1.
Half Time : Saints U19’s Team 0
Leeds Rhinos U19’s Team 20
Full Time : Saints U19’s Team 16
Leeds Rhinos U19’s Team 32