The Leeds Rhinos Development Academy, with Leeds City College, claimed their first win of the AoC Premier Division last week, defeating Hopwood Hall College 30-22 at Leeds Rugby Academy.
A hat trick from Jack Flanagan plus scores from Tyler Dargan and Josh Beevers, bother of Leeds Rhinos Women’s star Caitlin Beevers, helped Dan Hardy’s men edge out the visitors, who themselves put in a battling performance.
This week sees the side- who are part of the ground-breaking Category 3 Academy between Leeds Rhinos Foundation and Leeds City College- take a break over half term, allowing Hardy to reflect on their first four games of the season.
“We’ve had a really encouraging start to the year,” he said. “We were always going to be up against it as it’s a really competitive league. The standard of player is incredibly high and is a massive step up from what we dealt with last year in the Yorkshire regional leagues.
“The first game we played was against Hull FC Development Academy in the ‘Magic Wednesday’ event held at Featherstone Rovers. They are a well-established academy who have really strong links with the Super League club and Bishop Burton College, but we only lost by four points in the end so it was really close game to start the season.
“Then over the next two weeks, we played the top two teams in the division, Wakefield College and Furness College up in Cumbria. They were both in the play-off final last year and we didn’t really disgrace ourselves at all against them.
“We competed really well and a lot of things were learned from those two games, especially in terms of where we are aspiring to be in order to be a force in this division and for the lads individually to see what it takes to be effective.
“They carried that forward and last week against Hopwood Hall we came out with a pretty good win. I think the scoreline didn’t really do us justice in terms of how dominant we were for long periods of the game.
“We did slip off a little when we went down to 12 men, which didn’t help, but I was really pleased with the majority of the performance and hopefully they’ll have a little break now over half term and come back raring to go.”
Hardy has been satisfied with his side’s success already in 2019 and has been impressed by how the players have bought in to the programme.
“We’ve been at it seven or eight weeks, starting pre-season pretty much the first week of September. To be honest, I was really impressed with the buy in from the start, both on the field, in the gym and their engagement with the online classroom we’ve got for the video analysis aspects.
“We were asking quite a lot of the players straight away but they all engaged with the programme and they can start to see it paying off now.”
Although the Academy’s First Team have two weeks to prepare for the visit of Salford Red Devils Development Academy, the Second Team are involved in the College Knockout Cup; a competition that Hardy is looking forward to seeing the side compete in.
“It’s really good because the one thing that we’ve stressed is that our philosophy with having a two-team structure is that we don’t have a premier team and an ‘also-ran’ team.
“To have a successful First Team, we’ve got to have a successful Second Team too and we want to see an upwards transition that will really push the standard up amongst both groups.
“To have a cup to play for adds another little bit of spice into the training sessions because you can start to see the banter flowing between the two sets of lads and I’m hoping, should we win this week, they don’t draw each other, because I want to make sure I’ve got 40 fit players by Christmas!”
The next game for Leeds Rhinos Development Academy First Team is against Salford Red Devils Development Academy at Leeds Rugby Academy on Wednesday 13th November, kick off 2pm.