LEEDS RHINOS teenager Ashton Golding has spoken of his “incredible” night taking on the mighty New Zealand and his idol Roger Tuivasa-Sheck.
The young full-back got a rare opportunity in Friday night’s epic game as the treble-winning Rhinos tackled the Four Nations champions.
With Steve Prescott Man of Steel Zak Hardaker on England duty, Golding lined up for the Super League champions and earned man-of-the-match for his performance as under-strength Leeds battled valiantly before falling 34-16 against the No1-ranked international side in the world.
But the final scoreline flattered the visitors with Rhinos actually leading 12-10 on the hour and emerging with real credit, especially Golding who thrived against thrilling New Zealand Warriors star Tuivasa-Sheck.
The 19-year-old said: “I loved it. I loved the physicality of the game and it was great to be a part of. Facing him (Tuivasa-Sheck) is surreal really. You see him on TV, he’s your idol and you try and emulate him – and then he’s running at you and you don’t know what to do!
“He’s something else with his footwork. You’re looking left and he’s already around you on the right.
“Honestly, it’s amazing what he does. You just try and wrap your body around him.
“But it was an honour and a privilege to be out on the field with the likes of him and then Moz (Adrian Morley), Ali (Lauitiiti)... It’s unreal.”
Golding’s lightning breaks and determined defence – the slight full-back somehow halted Tuivasa-Sheck with a terrific try-saving tackle at the start of the second period – showed just why the club’s coaching staff have such high hopes for him.
He only has a handful of appearances to his name so far but impressed starting alongside fellow 19-year-old Jordan Lilley, who looked remarkably assured at scrum-half.
“It’s unbelievable playing in these games with Jordan,” admitted Golding.
“He’s been there all my life – we played at Stanningley together ever since we were knee high, came through the ranks here, went to school with each other too and stayed the best of mates all the way through.
“We had to go early against New Zealand and try get them then as we knew they were a good side, one of the world’s best.
“You have to go and attack them; you can’t just play defensively against a team like that.
“We did that and with 20,000 people here it was a great occasion.”