Leeds Rhinos retained the Lazenby Cup with a 36-26 win over Hunslet Hawks at South Leeds Stadium yesterday.
Fielding a reserve team, Leeds were impressive in building a 32-10 interval lead and had just enough left in the tank to hold off Hawks' strong second-half fightback.
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Loose-forward Callum Casey's lively performance gave an indication of why he has been called into the first-team squad.
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Liam Hood was excellent out of dummy-half, bagging a try in each half
and rookie scrum-half Rory Kettlewell displayed some promise, in only his fourth game of rugby league.
The former Gloucester rugby union player has pace and good footwork, as well as a kicking game, though clearly he's a work in progress.
It was a good start for new under-20s coach Damian Gibson, who
said: "Hunslet are a good team, they are big and physical and they were close to full strength.
"I was really impressed with the result and some of the individual performances. Kyle Amor was outstanding up the middle and I thought he was our best today.
"We didn't play as well in the second half, but we tried a few different things and overall, I'm happy with the boys."
Hawks saved face by scoring three tries to one after the break, though they would have expected to beat such inexperienced opposition.
They led after just four minutes when full-back Stuart Kain reacted quickly to touch down Paul March's grubber kick, but were then hit by a bust of four tries in 12 minutes as Leeds took control.
Kettlewell dashed over after pouncing on an error by Richie Barnett, then Aston Wilson – son of former Leeds and Hunslet player Warren Wilson – got above the defence to touch down from Tom Carroll's high kick, before a mistake by Tabua Cakacaka let Carroll in.
The best of the early tries was Michael Coady's, the winger diving over at the corner following excellent handling by Kettlewell, Casey and George Elliott.
Two Jack Carvill goals made it 20-6 before a brawl which was placed on report and led to the sin-binnings of Amor and Hawks back-rower Rob Kelly.
The March brothers linked to put Matthew Harding over while it was 12-a-side and Joe McLocklan and Scott Woodcock were both held up over the line by Zak Hardaker, before Hood dived through from acting-half and then Aaron Brown sent Casey crashing in, Hardaker converting both.
Hunslet's fightback began on 50 minutes when Neil Lowe powered over from Joe McLocklan's pass and then Paul March put McLocklan in and brother David converted both to cut the gap to 10 points.
Rhinos were starved of the ball in the second half, but responded when Hood again caught the defence napping from acting-half before Barnett got over the whitewash for a consolation try two minutes from time.
Hunslet player-coach Paul March admitted "harsh words" were spoken at the interval. He said: "I think a few of them thought it was going to be easy, especially when we scored so early.
"Credit to Leeds' youngsters, for 40 minutes they bullied us. At half-time the word coming from the players was 'embarrassment'.
"In the second half we put some things right, controlled the ball and scored some tries. I'm happy with 40 minutes of the game, but we've still a long way to go."
Meanwhile, Hawks have signed 21-year-old former Wakefield Trinity Wildcats centre Matthew Fox from Dewsbury Rams on a one-year deal.
Keighley Cougars and Featherstone Rovers had been linked with Fox, an Irish international who is a direct replacement from Wayne McHugh after he was released for disciplinary reasons earlier in pre-season.
Hawks have paid Rams an undisclosed fee for Middleton-based Fox, which was funded by fans' group HISSA.
Hunslet Hawks: Kain, Barnett, Clayton, Oakes, Harding, Grimshaw, P March, Yates, Haigh, Cakacaka, Blakeway, Kelly, D March. Subs (all used): Woodcock, Lowe, Ratcliffe, McLocklan.
Leeds Rhinos: Hardaker, Chisholm, Elliott, Wilson, Coady, Carroll, Kettlewell, Nicholson, Hood, Amor, Bravo, Carvill, Casey. Subs (all used): Syron, Ward, Brown, D Smith, Stewart. Stott.
Referee: Tom Crashley (Wakefield).