31st August 2019, 13:52 | englandrl
A new-look England Youth side held off a determined Welsh challenge to earn the spoils at West Wales Raiders' Stebonheath Park in Llanelli.
The match was very much in the balance until just before half time, when England capitalised on successive blunders at the back from Wales to turn a narrow 16-12 lead into a more convincing 14 point interval advantage.
First the outstanding Wakefield Trinity and Lock Lane forward Patrick O'Donavan crashed over following winger James Ruffley’s spill, then full back Daniel Moss of St Helens and Blackbrook took full advantage of a similar mistake from opposite number Ewan Skuse, with Wigan Warriors and Orrell St James hooker Joe Charnock converting to stretch England’s lead from four to 14 points.
Isolated mistakes aside, an inexperienced Wales side featuring four Cardiff Blue Dragons players were competitive throughout against an England side virtually unrecognisable from the one which twice defeated France earlier this summer.
Only one player, Coby Nichol, was in the England squad for the French tests and it was the Leeds Rhinos and Siddal centre who opened the scoring on nine minutes after City of Hull winger Harvey Barron had been denied minutes earlier on the right flank.
Charnock superbly added the first of his five conversions to make it 6-0 for England, only for Wales to hit back straight from the restart. Strong defence, a feature of the Welsh game throughout, forced an error as England attempted to clear their lines, and the Welsh backs kept the ball alive brilliantly allowing stand-off Josh Atkinson to squeeze over in the left corner. Kyle Huish’s majestic conversion levelled the scores at 6-6.
England, more powerful upfront and smarter around the ruck, continued to probe, yet it was Wales who scored next. Huish launched a massive 40/20 to turn defence into attack and from the very first play-the-ball the excellent Ben Mayhew took Lewis Pinder’s sharp pass to score beneath the sticks. Huish converted to give his side a 12-6 lead, but it wouldn’t last long.
Leeds Rhinos and Wetherby winger Sam Little put a toe in touch as he dived over on the left, but soon after Leeds Rhinos pair Luca Atkinson and Oliver Field linked well to create space for Wigan Warriors and Newton Storm forward Kavan Rothwell to cross.
Charnock was wide with his conversion, but on the half hour England hit the front once more with Nichol showing impressive awareness and pace to score his second try and giving Charnock a simple conversion.
At 16-12 with half-time approaching the game was very much in the balance – only for those two unforced errors to prove decisive.
Wales turned round into the wind determined to force their way back into game yet it was England who drew first blood through Tom Nicholson-Watton to stretch their lead.
Moss then scored his second try while Wales were reduced to 12 men when Wigan Warriors’ Lewis Pinder was sin-binned, but the try of the half – and the match – belonged to Welsh winger Jermarie Chatham, whose sensation footwork and turn of pace over 30 metres gave his side some consolation for a wholehearted team effort.
Ultimately, an England team drawn from nine different academies and including many new faces were full value for the victory.