Lancashire took an unassailable 2-0 lead in this year’s three-match Academy Origin series thanks to an outstanding second half display at a blustery AJ Bell Stadium.
Trailing 20-16 following powerful Hull FC centre Mano Wacokecoke’s 51st minute try, the Red Rose hit back with four unanswered tries on the back of a dominant pack effort during the final quarter of the match.
On a fast 4G surface at Widnes Vikings’ DCBL Stadium, the first encounter rattled along at more than a point a minute throughout as the sides shared 17 tries between them. This time around, as predicted by Head of England Pathways Paul Anderson, it was a much tighter affair with defences more organised thanks to the stronger relationships and greater understanding established between players in camp ahead of the game.
Lancashire made four changes to the side that defeated Yorkshire 56-34 at Widnes last month. In came St Helens stand-off Ellis Archer to partner Warrington Wolves’ Leon Hayes in the halves, plus Wolves’ Jamie Reddecliff and Zach Eckersley of Wigan Warriors.
Leeds Rhinos duo Alfie Edgell and Riley Lumb were two of eight new faces in the Yorkshire side, alongside Bradford Bulls pair Bailey Arnold and Myles Lawford, Charlie Severs and Nick Staveley of Hull FC, Toby Warren of York City Knights and Wigan Warriors’ Ellis Hobson.
With two more coherent and cohesive units, the start was much less frenetic than Origin I as both packs fought hard for supremacy. With the respective front-rows going toe-to-toe, the first quarter yielded just a try apiece.
The deadlock was broken by Lancashire in the 13th minute when Warrington Wolves hooker Aidan Doolan, scorer of two tries in Origin I, capitalised on a strong surge by St Helens prop George Delaney to force his way over from dummy half, taking several defenders over the line with him.
Yorkshire’s response was almost immediate, a cunning kick from Bradford Bulls’ scrum-half Myles Lawford being pounced on by former Heworth junior Charlie Severs.
On 26 minutes Yorkshire took the lead for the first time, just seconds after Wigan Warriors winger Jacob Douglas had been narrowly denied an acrobatic try in the right hand corner after an inventive move direct from the scrum. Yorkshire counter-attacked from the restart, marching downfield where Denive Balmforth, ignoring options to his left and right, touched down after a rampaging run. George Flanagan’s conversion gave Yorkshire a 6-10 lead.
And the White Rose extended their lead four minutes later through Hull FC’s Lewis Martin, scorer of a hat-trick in Origin I. Flanagan was unable to convert from wide out and into the wind, leaving Yorkshire 14-6 ahead.
Lancashire narrowed the gap just before half time, when Warrington Wolves winger Jake Thewlis finally found space, expertly created by his Wolves teammate Leon Hayes and Wigan Warriors centre Zach Eckersley, to cross on the left.
A 14-10 interval lead was no less than Yorkshire deserved and although they conceded the lead again early in the second half when Warrington Wolves forward Jamie Reddecliff forced his way over, Wacokecoke’s unstoppable surge and Flanagan’s excellent touchline conversion soon put them back in front.
But that was as good as it got for Yorkshire, as they ran out of both territory and ideas in the face of a magnificent Lancashire pack effort in that final quarter.
Wigan Warriors’ Junior Nsemba never quite got the space that brought him three tries in Origin I, but his superb offload to supporting full back Ben Lane, and the St Helens youngster’s equally sublime pass to Zach Eckersley set Lancashire on the road to victory. Hayes converted Eckersley’s effort and once Lancashire were back in front, they never looked back.
On 65 minutes Warrington Wolves second row Nolan Tupea ran a smart angle to cross on the right, Wigan Warriors’ former Hensingham junior Harvie Hill drove beneath the uprights three minutes later, then Thewlis rounded off the scoring to seal the Origin honours for Lancashire this year.
Lancashire tries: Doolan (13), Thewliss (36, 77), Reddecliff (42), Eckersley (61), Tupea (65), Hill (68)
Lancashire goals: Hayes 5
Lancashire player of match: Junior Nsemba
Yorkshire tries: Severs (16), Balmforth (26), Martin (30), Wacokecoke (51)
Yorkshire goals: Flanagan 2
Yorkshire player of match: Alfie Edgell