a hard-fought victory over Kingstone Press League One side Hunslet Hawks in this year’s Lazenby Cup tie will stand Leeds Rhinos’ youngsters in good stead, under-19s coach Chris Plume reckons.
Plume was in charge of Rhinos’ team for the traditional pre-season fixture three days ago, which the visitors won 22-18. Leeds fielded seven first-team squad players, alongside 12 members of their academy and Plume said: “The young fellas are looking to prepare themselves for the next stage of their development and it’s important introduce them to a competitive game against fully-grown adults.
“I was really pleased with a lot of the young fellas. For the last 20 minutes we pretty much had an under-19s team, other than Ash Handley on the wing, who is only just out of under-19s and Jordan Baldwinson.
“We went with 19 players so we spread them out a bit and gave them all roughly the same game time. Cameron Smith and Mikolaj Oldezki – who have just come up into the under-19s – went well and some of the other boys, for example Ben Brady at hooker. What we have got in this crop of academy players is loads of confidence. It is an element of reining them back and making sure they stay composed, rather than kicking them up the backside and saying ‘we need more from you’. It is really good at the moment.”
Plume was also happy with Leeds’ relatively inexperienced pack.
He said: “Mitch Garbutt was good, along with Jordan Baldwinson and Mitch Achurch. The performance was the most important thing, but it is always nice to win. Both squads, the first team and academy, are deep into pre-season.
“To see things in the game we have been practising is really important and good to see.”
Rhinos retained the trophy thanks to a last-gasp try by winger Charlie Brown, who was called up at late notice after Jimmy Keinhorst and Ryan Jones were ruled out due to illness.
“Charlie was aware the night before the game that he might play,” Plume said.
“He is a Hunslet lad, he is only slight, but he is fearless and he’d run through a brick wall. He finished really well in the corner for his try.”
The winning touchdown came from a kick by captain Jordan Lilley, who provided the final pass for two other tries and landed three goals.
“He reads the game really well for his young age,” Plume said of the 19-year-old scrum-half, who made his Super League debut last year.
Plume added: “He comes up with the big plays at the right time and that was one of them at the end.”