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  • Leeds Rhinos
29th February 2020 | KO 14:00 | Kingston Park | U18s Academy Championship

Season So Far

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Under-18s Preview – Newcastle Thunder

Leeds Rhinos Under-18s kick off their season this Saturday with a trip to face Newcastle Thunder Under-18s at Kingston Park, kick off 2pm.

In previous years this fixture has seen some high scoring and entertaining games.

Opposition Profile

Four players from Michael Heap’s side were selected for the England Academy Performance squad when it was announced earlier this month. Jake Anderson, Nathan Clemmitt, Alex Donaghy and Isaac Nokes will join six of Leeds’ young stars in the squad following last year’s 62-0 win over Wales.

TJ Barton in action against Newcastle last season

KEY PLAYER: Former Rhinos scholarship and current England Academy international player Alex Donaghy has already staked his claim for a first team spot following a positive pre-season. The half back scored twice against Leeds in January and has also featured in Challenge Cup matches against Siddal and Keighley Cougars.

Last Time Out

In last year’s Under-19s competition, Leeds ran out 60-18 victors at Kingston Park. Current Under-18s players Oli and Joe Burton, Iwan Stephens and Jack Mallinson all scored tries in the match, with Mallinson also adding two conversions to keep Newcastle bottom of the table. 

Winger Mackenzie Turner is set to play his first game of academy rugby on Saturday. Take a look at his award winning try from the scholarship last year.

Team News

Chev Walker has named a young side for Saturday’s trip to the North East. Eleven players in the squad in their first year of their academy contract, including Oli Field, Joe Gibbons and Ben Mayhew, who played their junior rugby at Wetherby Bulldogs.

Field is also joined by fellow England Youth internationals Luca Atkinson, Coby Nichol and Tom Nicholson-Watton, who all played against Wales, and Leeds team mate Mayhew, in August last year.

Both Joe and Oli Burton start for the first time together since last year’s 38-30 win over Wakefield Trinity with the Under-19s. They are joined by fellow Kippax team mate centre TJ Barton, who scored eight tries in 19 appearances in 2019.

Coaches Quotes

Ahead of the clash, head coach Chev Walker said he was looking forward to standing on the touchline

“Pre season has gone well,” he said. “The boys are looking focused and this game is a long time overdue. It will be a great opportunity for the first year players to get their first minutes because they haven’t really had a lot of game time in pre season. It will be a real opportunity for those players.

“For me as a coach, it’s not all about results. It’s about getting as many players into the first team and getting them ready to play in that environment. At the same time, you don’t want any ‘Ls’ next to your team so it would be nice to get off to a winning start on Saturday.”

More Information

Admission for Saturday’s game is £5 for adults and free for kids (U16s).

Address: Brunton Rd, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE13 8AF


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Newcastle Thunder U18 18 Leeds Rhinos U18 28

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Newcastle Thunder U18 18 Leeds Rhinos U18 28

Leeds Rhinos Academy vs Newcastle Thunder Academy at Kingston Park Stadium, Newcastle. Andrew Stewart scores for Leeds Rhinos.

Chev Walker’s Leeds Rhinos Under-18s survived a late fightback to beat Newcastle Thunder 28-18 at Kingston Park in the opening match of the academy season.

Leeds started the match brightly and scored with under five minutes on the clock. A penalty for holding down helped Leeds up the field and with the line in sight, an offload from full back Joe Burton put Coby Nichol through to score.

The young Rhinos continued to dominate in attack; Joe Gibbons breaking through but the pass from Mallinson was called forward by the referee. Newcastle countered through Isaac Nokes but Burton brought the centre down before the try line. Thunder kept the pressure on the Leeds line but Joe Gibbons provided a try saving tackle on Malike Steele to deny the back rower. From the restart, Joe Burton set Jonah Parsons away through the Newcastle line and the scrum half sprinted 80 metres to score his first academy try in the corner.

For a period, Newcastle got close to getting the ball over the Leeds try line but great defensive efforts kept the Leeds ten points ahead. Ben Mayhew almost scored off after Oli Burton and Oli Field combined on the short side but the Welsh international was held up. Despite Thunder reclaiming possession, the ball was lost by Tyler Hepple in a tackle and the visitors reclaimed the ball. Moving right, full back Joe Burton used his footwork to weave his way over, giving Leeds a 14-0 lead.

The Leeds full back was over again minutes later to put Leeds in firm control of the match. A strong drive from Nathan Snee from the restart and another penalty against Thunder moved Leeds into the home side’s half and quick passes from Joe Gibbons and Mallinson sent Burton through the line to score the Rhinos’ fourth of the afternoon.

With half time looming, Oli Field extended Leeds’ scoreline further; the substitute working the right edge really well to stretch out to touch the all down over the whitewash. Elliot Shaw grabbed a try back for the home side but Leeds held a healthy 24-6 lead at the break.


Andrew Stewart got the young Rhinos off to the best possible start to the second half. With Newcastle struggling from the kick off, Leeds pushed downfield through Rian Rowley and Tom Nicholson-Watton. An offload from Luca Atkinson left Newcastle short on numbers, allowing Stewart to score an easy finish in the corner.

Thunder started to fight back 50 minutes in; Isaac Nokes crashing over on the right edge. Seven minutes later, after Joe Burton had been stopped from breaking clean through, the home side had repeat sets on the Leeds line. Alex Donaghy and Will Todd combined and a ball over the top from Todd found John Grey, who had an easy try.

Three minutes from time, Todd turned from try provider to scorer to close the gap, breaking clean through the line from 20 metres out to score, but it was too much too late as Leeds claimed their first win of 202o.