Over 7,000 in attendance at Emerald Headingley to see Knights take on Jamaica
Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com - 20/10/2019 - Rugby League - Home International - England Knights v Jamaica - Emerald Headingley Stadium, Leeds, England - England line up for their national an them.
International rugby returned to Emerald Headingley, with the newly developed stadium hosting Jamaica Rugby League for the first time against England Knights.
A substantial Caribbean influence in the 7,113 crowd and the pitchside entertainment produced a carnival atmosphere.
The first forty minutes saw Paul Anderson’s impressively organised and motivated Knights take a 28-0 half-time lead.
New Hull KR recruit Greg Minikin scored a hat-trick inside the first 20 minutes of his England Knights debut to remove any doubt about the outcome of this welcome addition to the game’s international calendar, but Jamaica also took plenty of positives out of the contest with a gallant second-half display.
That changed after the break as Mason Caton-Brown stretched over for a hugely popular Jamaica try, converted by James Woodburn-Hall who also exerted a growing influence with his intelligent kicking game.
The Knights had to dig deep in defence after Warrington centre Toby King was sent to the sin bin for a professional foul, and it took 25 minutes of the second half until they added to their interval scoreline, through a second try for King’s Wolves team-mate Tom Lineham.
Joe Greenwood rounded off the scoring by touching down a delicate left-footed grubber kick by his young Wigan team-mate Harry Smith, and both teams received a warm ovation when the final hooter sounded.
The Knights may have faded after the break, but there was plenty of quality about the way they opened the match. Oliver Partington and Rob Butler, a pair of props who have taken contrasting paths to this level from Wigan and Kent respectively, laid a powerful foundation; skipper Sam Powell controlled the attack masterfully from acting half; and new Castleford signing Danny Richardson provided a goalkicking masterclass by converting each of the opening four tries from wide out.
They made a flying start, with slick hands to the right creating Minikin’s first try inside four minutes, Richardson also setting the tone for his goalkicking performance by curling over the conversion.
But Jamaica made them wait and work for the next score, with Ashton Golding producing a number of significant defensive efforts as Powell and Harry Newman were both denied.
The Knights went right again for Minikin to provide his second sharp finish, this time after a neat cut-out pass from the Salford full-back Niall Evalds, eight days after his Grand Final appearance at Old Trafford.
Within three minutes Minikin was completing his hat-trick, this time standing up his opposite number Greg Johnson with a classic winger’s finish, and Richardson adding another classy conversion.
There were two more tries in the closing stages of the first half, the first created by Newman’s excellent centre play for Lineham to slide over on the left.
Then King finished a fluent right-wing move instigated by Kruise Leeming, the Huddersfield hooker who had been introduced for the influential Powell.
It was a real test of Jamaica’s resolve, as they look ahead to their unlikely appearance in the 2021 World Cup. They passed that test with flying colours, and with the prospect of more pedigree additions to their squad over the next 12 months, they are shaping as an exciting new addition to Rugby League’s international stage.