Wigan U19s defeat Leeds Rhinos 14-6 to be crowned Academy Champions
Wigan win ninth Academy Grand Final in the last 11 years
- Scores from Sam Grant, James Worthington and Sam Halsall give Darrell Goulding’s side the win
Wigan Warriors U19s were crowned Super League Academy Champions after defeating Leeds Rhinos U19s 14-6 in a tense final at the DW Stadium.
After taking the lead through centre Sam Grant in the first-half, Leeds Rhinos hit-back via a try through second-row Alex Sutcliffe to lead 6-4 at the break.
Wigan fought back scoring two second-half tries, the first was a fine winger’s finish from James Worthington whose effort edged the Warriors in front to lead 8-6.
With the game on a knife-edge, centre Sam Halsall rounded off a fine team move on the right-hand edge to score. Harry Smith landed the all-important conversion to give Wigan a 14-6 lead of which they wouldn’t give up as Darrell Goulding’s side celebrated a deserved win.
Wigan headed into the game full of confidence having defeated the Rhinos 24-0 in a recent clash at Orrell St James’ ARLFC earlier in the month. The academy finale would bear no similarity to the pervious clash in terms of the score-line, yet the battle between the two side’s was as fierce as the previous meeting.
Wigan ran into an early lead, after Sam Grant was the beneficiary of some confusion in the Rhinos’ back division after a Harry Smith grubber was fumbled behind the Leeds try-line. Grant was the quickest to react and the centre grounded the ball down for the game’s first try. Smith was unable to convert from out wide.
Leeds grew into the contest after the Warriors first try and through their forwards Sutcliffe, Trout and the impressive Mustapha from the bench, they were a constant threat.
The Warriors middles stood firm, Liam Byrne and Morgan Smithies in particular, fronting-up well and they had to call on their defensive resolve to hold-up the Rhinos over the line on two occasions.
The Rhinos efforts were eventually awarded, when Sutcliffe cut a great line from his stand-off Harvey Spence to power over. Spence converted to give Rob Burrow’s side the lead.
Both teams prodded and probed to no avail as the first-half ended with the Rhinos taking a slender two-point lead into the break.
The Warriors, under the stewardship of former Wigan centre Darrell Goulding, refused to press the panic button despite trailing at the break. Steered around the field by influential half-back Harry Smith, they looked to build pressure on the Rhinos line.
Wigan’s patient approach would bear fruit when James Worthington showed his evasive qualities to edge his side in front. After Harry Smith sent out a wild cut-out pass to his centre Sam Halsall who under the duress of his opposite number Jack Broadbent did well to offload to his wing. Worthington though still had it all to do, and he finished with aplomb despite the attentions for two Rhinos defenders. Smith again couldn’t convert the difficult touchline conversion meaning the Warriors led by two points.
The pressure of the contest was beginning to tell as both sides were guilty of errors heading into the final ten minutes of the game. So, it came as a welcome relief when Sam Halsall secured the win when he finished off a fine team move to score with five minutes left to play. Smith, crucially, converted to give the Warriors a eight-point buffer and despite some desperate play from the Rhinos, the Cherry and Whites would hold-on to lift the Academy trophy in front of their home faithful.
Wigan Warriors U19s 14-6 Leeds Rhinos U19s
Wigan Warriors U19s: 1. Joe Brown; 2. James Worthington, 3. Sam Halsall, 4. Sam Grant, 5. Cian Tyrer; 6. James Barran, 7. Harry Smith; 8. Liam Byrne, 9. Aiden Roden, 10. Ethan Havard, 11. James McDonnell, 12. Joe Shorrocks, 13. Morgan Smithies.
Interchanges: 14. Caine Barnes, 15. Samy Kibula, 16. Ben Kilner, 17. Dec O’Donnell.
Tries: Sam Grant (4’), James Worthington (53’), Sam Halsall 75’ Conversions: Harry Smith 1/3
Leeds Rhinos U19s: 1. Liam Whitton, 2. Ben Markland, 3. Harry Newman, 4. Jack Broadbent, 5. Kiedan Hartley; 6. Harvey Spence, 7. Reece Champan-Smith; 8. Mikolaj Oledski, 9. Corey Johnson, 10. Spencer Darley, 11. Alex Sutcliffe, 12. Owen Trout, 13. Loui McConnell.
Interchanges: 14. Harvey Whitley, 15. Tom Holroyd, 16. Muizz Mustapha, 17. Tyler Dupree
Tries: Alex Sutcliffe (29’) Conversions: Harvey Spence 1/1
Man of the Match: Morgan Smithies