JUNIOR ACADEMY RECORD RUN COMES TO AN END

There will be a new look to the Junior Academy Grand Final tomorrow at the Jungle as there will be no blue and amber on display.

There will be a new look to the Junior Academy Grand Final tomorrow at the Jungle as there will be no blue and amber on display. The Rhinos incredible record of eight successive Championships came to an end last Saturday at St Helens however after a tough season for the Rhinos young team the defeat will stand as a memorable spur for next year’s campaign. By reaching the Grand Final for the second successive year, Saints exacted revenge for last season’s agonisingly narrow defeat at the hands of the Leeds Rhinos. Just two points was Saint’s eventual margin of defeat on that occasion: now they have the opportunity to get their hands on the silverware which eluded them on that occasion. In defeating the Rhinos last Saturday’s Final Eliminator, St Helens scored half a dozen tries but put up a tremendous defensive display that they denied even such a normally fluent attacking unit as Leeds to a single try in each half. In fact, it was the Rhinos who took the lead, just short of the half hour, when Mark Watts finished well for Ashley Gibson to convert, but back came Saints, thanks largely to the introduction of substitute Lee Cunliffe at hooker, who set about exposing some loose defence around the rucks. First he sent Matty Smith over for the halfback to convert his own try, then he found the room to set winger Alex Asher free for a try also goaled by Smith. A Gibson penalty just short of the halftime break trimmed the margin to four points at the break, and the sides exchanged unconverted tries early in the second period to maintain that margin – Saints Rob Burkhill’s touchdown being cancelled out when Matty Ellis touched down for the visitors. The turning point came midway through the half when Scott Moore touched down and Smith improved, and shortly afterwards a chip for the line struck the base of an upright, rebounded into the welcoming grasp of Saints forward Mark Beech, and Smith’s conversion opened up a sixteen point gap. Then, with Leeds scrapping for their lifes, Smith added a penalty before putting the finishing touches to Burkhill’s second try of the game to put St Helens well and truly into Saturday’s Grand Final.