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U21's Storm Into Final
Posted by southstander on September 25 2006 - 07:35:43

Michael MoM
By Matthew Horton

The Leeds Rhinos Under 21ís looked to bounce back from defeat against Hull FC at Brantingham Park last week to book their place in the Senior Academy Grand Final as they entertained St Helens in the Final Eliminator. Saints arrived at Headingley Carnegie on the back of a 45-6 victory over Warrington last weekend and fielded a strong looking side with Scott Moore and ex-Rhino Nick Fozzard and in the starting line up.

We bring you all the action here....

30

Rhinos

v

Saints

18

Senior Academy

24th September 2006

U21's Storm Into Final

Leeds got off to the perfect start when they crossed the Saints line within the first 90 seconds of the game. After a St Helens error on their own 20 gave Leeds a scrum the ball was moved right to Ashley Gibson and he managed to get on the outside of the Saints defence to go in at the northwest corner. Gibson was unable to convert but Leeds had the early four point advantage.

It was a fast and furious game with both plays playing at a very high tempo with St Helens trying to keep the ball alive at every opportunity. But the hits on defence were huge as well. A hit by Chris Feather on Nick Fozzard was felt all around Headingley as things started to warm up on the field.

Leeds took full advantage and struck immediately while the Saints defence was trying to reorganise. The ball was moved quickly left with Kyle Briggs and Mike Ratu created the overlap before Ratu sent Ryan Hall in at the corner. Gibson converted to take the lead to 10-0.

Leeds though came up with an error from the kick off to gift Saints a foothold deep in the Rhinos territory. The attacked down the left hand side but a pass from Ian Webster ended up in the hands of Danny Williams and the flyer went 95 metres down the northern touchline to race in for the try. Gibson again added the extras to take Leeds 16-0 in front after 18 minutes.

It then got even better for the Rhinos five minutes later as they attacked from deep in their own half. Again Leeds went to the right hand side, Luke Gale finding Gibson and his sublime offload on the 20 released Williams up the northern touchline again. Williams then rounded the St Helens cover to the distance. Gibson converted again to give the Rhinos a 22-0 lead. Hardmanís spell in the Sin Bin costing St Helens 18 points.

Saints though struck back in the 27th minutes. A high cross field kick from Matty Smith was dropped by Mike Ratu in heavy traffic and Neil Rigby was first to the loose ball and he dived over the line for Saints first points of the afternoon. The conversion from Gaz Langley was off target to reduce the Rhinos lead to 22-4 and that was how it stayed until half time.

St Helens made the perfect start to the second half and hauled themselves back in the game with two tries in the first 10 minutes of the half. As Leeds did in the first half Saints were over the Leeds line with less than 90 seconds on the watch. A kick from Smith rebounded of a Leeds player; Mike Ratu was unable to gather the loose ball in. Ian Webster picked the ball up and sent Craig Ashall in under the posts. Langley converted from in front and the gap was down to 12 points.

Then with 49 minutes on the clock St Helens struck again, after a needless penalty allowed Saints to put the ball into touch on the Rhinos 20 metre line. From the resulting tap restart Paul Leyland picked up the ball and broke through some poor Rhinos defence to crash over the line. Langley was unable to convert but the gap was reduced to 8 points.

Saints were playing some super football and stretching the Leeds defence at every opportunity but somehow Leeds hung on and mistakes were proving costly to Saints. But it was Saints who got the next score in the 58th minute. Leeds coming up with an error to give Saints a repeat set on the Rhinos line. The ball was moved left by Smith and Webster and Tommy Hodgkinson barged over by the side of the posts. The conversion from Langley hit the post and bounced away and the Rhinos lead was now only 22-18.

Leeds were now clinging on for dear life as Saints threw everything at a tiring Leeds defence, but again they held on for dear life. Determined to preserve their lead at all costs. Leeds had an opportunity to extend the lead on 63 minutes after being awarded a penalty but the shot at goal from Gibson hit the post and bounced away. It was edge of the seat stuff as Saints looked to snatch the lead and the Rhinos looked for that score to see them home.

The Rhinos edged closer to home with 4 minutes left after being awarded a penalty for interference at the play the ball by referee Merrick. Gibson this time slotted home the two points from 30 metres out to take the lead to 6 points. Saints then tried a short kick off but it failed to go the ten metres but again the Rhinos coughed up the possession to give Saints one last fling and a chance of extra time but it all came to nothing.

Leeds then clinched the game with the last play of the game. Ian Hardmanís error dropping a kick downfield from Luke Gale under no pressure at all gave the Rhinos a start on the Saints 20 metre line. Leeds looked to tuck the ball up the jumper but Chris Feather spotted an offload to Kyle Briggs. He then found Ayden Faal, he went to ground but was able to regain his feet and reach out to score the clinching score. Gibson converted the try, the final whistle went and Leeds had reached the Grand Final.

As with the earlier Under 18ís game I must pay tribute to both sides for an amazing spectacle. The quality on show from both sides was super and the handling skills shown in the damp conditions were a credit to both sides. The sin binning of Hardman though, was crucial to the outcome of the game.

For Leeds, Lee Smith was industrious at full back and Ashley Gibson looked dangerous with ball in hand with Danny Williams showing his raw pace. The forwards fronted up to a big and experienced Saints pack with Scruton and Feather leading the way. It was always going to be a forward who got the SouthStander.com man of the match and the choice went to loose forward Michael Brown.

Leeds move onto the Senior Academy Grand Final against Hull FC which takes place at the KC Stadium next Sunday 1st October with a 2.30pm kick off.

Match Facts

Rhinos
Saints
No.
Player
T
G
DG
No.
Player
T
G
DG
1
Smith
1
Hardman
2
Williams
2
2
Langley
1
3
Gibson
1
5
3
Littler
4
Ratu
4
Greenwood
5
Hall
1
5
Mirfield
6
Briggs
6
Ashall
1
7
Gale
7
Smith
8
Feather
8
Fozzard
9
Kaye
9
Moore
10
Scruton
10
Leyland
1
11
Hart
11
Rigby
1
12
Brooke
12
Clough
13
Brown
13
Webster
14
Harris
14
Milligan
15
Faal
1
15
Cunliffe
16
Burgess
16
Cooper
17
Tootill
17
Hodgkinson
1

Kick Off:
14:00
Half-Time:
22-04
Referee:
D Merrick


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