NSW Country Rugby League Under 16s produced a strong seven try performance at Emerald Headingley to beat Leeds Rhinos Under 16s 32-10.
The opening exchanges were tough for the young Rhinos as the tourists exerted their dominance early on, forcing early errors. It would be the undoing of Leeds as a knock on by hooker Jacob Dakayne gave Country Rugby League a good position to attack. A quick, free flowing set from the visitors towards the try line provided momentum and a wide pass from Bayley Cox sent Keegan Pace over in the corner. Thomas Weaver missed the conversion.
Leeds reacted through Max Simpson after ten minutes. A powerful drive up the middle from Billy Davies was built on by the Rhinos close to the try line. An injury to Country Rugby League’s Keegan Kenny paused play for a moment but Leeds kept the pressure on; Alfie Edgell providing a short pass for Simpson to charge his way over. Kai Morgan converted as the home side hit the front foot.
The Rhinos could have made it back to back tries but Sam Wroe’s effort was called back for a forward pass.
The game looked to be going in favour of the home side but two quick tries from the tourists turned the tables. First, Reagan Hurley was the benefactor from another Leeds knock on. With the Rhinos defending their own line, a swift move out to the left hand side opened space for the centre to drive through and score.
Jock Brazel put daylight between the two sides with his effort on the half hour mark. With Leeds defending their line once more, forward Mark Simon was held up under the posts thanks to great defence. On the next play though, a neat grubber kick from Weaver sat up nicely in the in goal area for Brazel to touch down. Matthew Noakes took over kicking duties to convert and make the score 14-6.
The young Rhinos managed to contain the visitors for the remaining minutes of the half; NSW Country Rugby League taking an eight point lead into the break.
At the start of the second half, errors continued to hamper the young Rhinos. A knock on from kick off put NSW Country Rugby League in a commanding position but Leeds’ defence held strong, only for Max Simpson to lose the ball on the ground to turn possession over once again.
Five consecutive sets from the tourists meant Leeds’ defence had to weather a storm but the pressure eventually turned into points for Country Rugby League ; Hurley taking a short pass from Riley Lack to run through and score his second of the afternoon.
Opposite centre Reef Sommerville added the visitors’ fifth try minutes later. A high bomb was’t taken in by the Leeds winger, allowing Sommerville to pick up the loose ball and power his way over to make the score 24-6.
There was still life in the young Rhinos though as Will Gatus grabbed the home side’s second of the game. A knock on by Country Rugby League from kick off provided Leeds with the perfect opportunity and they executed the play perfectly; Gatus staying in the field of play to dive in the corner. Morgan missed the conversion but Leeds had closed the scoreline to fourteen points.
With minutes left in the game, winger Rowan Mansfield and centre Keegan Pace sealed victory for Country Rugby League. More pressure on the Leeds line and quick hands helped Mansfield score his first of the game, crossing in the corner. Pace capped off the victory as another loose ball from Leeds was pounced upon by the centre, who had an easy finish to complete a 32-10 win.
NSW Country 32 (K Pace 2, R Hurley, J Brazel, R Hurley, R Sommerville, R Mansfield tries; M Noakes 2 goals) def. Leeds Rhinos 10 ( M Simpson, W Gatus tries; K Morgan goal)
Coby Nichol scored Leeds Rhinos U18s sole try as the young Rhinos were defeated 34-4 by NSW Country Rugby League U18s.
From kick off, the Rhinos were on the front foot; Iwan Stephens making a 60 metre break to give Leeds the early territory. Corey Hall, who was on debut for Leeds came close but the ball was turned over.
It wouldn’t be long before the Rhinos got the opening try. Moving the ball through the hands quickly, centre Coby Nichol skipped through the defence to score untouched. Stephens missed the conversion as Leeds took a 4-0 lead.
Country Rugby League took advantage of a Leeds knock on to lock the scores up through Jack Hartwig before the tourists took the lead. A fifth tackle play was misread by the Rhinos and with numbers on the short side, second rower Phoenix Vetenibua-Finnerty was in space to power his way over. Roberts converted to give Country Rugby League a six point advantage.
Both sides remained in an arm wrestle throughout the half. Liam Tindall intercepted a certain try on Leeds’ line to sprint away for a try of his own, but the winger slipped on the turf and lost the ball in the ruck. Tyrone Roberts had a chance to extend Country Rugby League’s lead as the half back picked up a lost ball from Joe Gibbons to break down field but Iwan Stephens produced a strong defensive tackle to deny the number six.
Roberts would prove the creator for Country Rugby League’s third of the half. With Benjamin Lovett held up short of the line, a grubber kick into the in goal area from the half back was missed by Kane Smith and Iwan Stephens, allowing Nathan Kegg-King to drop on the loose ball and make the score 16-4.
Leeds had opportunities to add to their scoreline before half time. Hall nearly set Mackenzie Turner away down the sideline but the referee pulled the play back for the forward pass. As the half time siren sounded to end a close first half contest, the young Rhinos entered the dressing rooms 16-4 down.
The second half started where the first left off, with both sides getting into each other from the first minute. The tourists would extend their lead after seven minutes of the new half as Benjamin Lovett took a pass short of the line to crash over and score. Roberts converted to make the score 22-4.
Following a scuffle between the two sides, the tourists were down to twelve men as half back Rylee Blackhall was sent to the sin bin. With the extra man, Leeds looked to take advantage but a knock on by Jack Mallinson close to the try line turned possession over.
Despite being a man down, NSW Country Rugby League continued to dominate, forcing errors from the young Rhinos in key areas.
Joe Gibbons was sent to the sin bin with ten minutes left for throwing the ball at Mackenzie Atkins and from the following penalty, prop Kane Smith charged his way over from short to extend the visitor’s lead. Roberts converted to make the score 28-4.
Leeds would fight to get a second try but with twelve men in blue and amber couldn’t stop a revived Country Rugby League side, who had Rylee Blackhall back on the field following his sin binning. A wide move to the right looked to expose the gaps in Leeds’ defence and centre Mackenzie Atkins took full advantag to score in the corner. Roberts kicked a final goal to seal a 34-4 victory.
NSW Country 34 (J Hartwig, P Vetenibua-Finnerty, N Kegg-King, B Lovett, K Smith, M Atkins tries; T Roberts 5 goals) def. Leeds Rhinos 4 (C Nichol try)
By Dan Hawkhead (Leeds Rhinos)