Leeds Rhinos Development Academy are celebrating a historic achievement, after a dramatic semi-final victory earned them a place in their first ever National Colleges Cup Final.
The Boys team, which is part of the Leeds Sports Connect programme with Leeds City College, defeated New College Pontefract 16-12 after scoring the winning try in Golden Point of the National College Cup Semi-Final on Wednesday 9 March.
The match was hard-fought and ended all level at 12-12 in normal time, with the Rhinos reduced to 12 men after a late sin-binning – setting up an all-or-nothing Golden Point period.
Leeds Rhinos Development Academy Head Coach, and former Leeds City College student, Harvey Whiteley, said: “The yellow card gave New College Pontefract a real shot in the arm and they managed to pull it back late on, scoring a converted try and a penalty.
“Pontefract then pushed hard for a winner in the last seconds but thankfully we managed to hold out and take the game into Golden Point.”
The hosts, still holding a man advantage, kicked off in Golden Point but the young Rhinos marched downfield with the ball.
After brilliant play in the build up from Joe Taylor, Prop Forward Harry Thompson stormed his way under the posts to score the winning try for us. With that, the whistle blew and this sparked jubilant scenes for the victorious Leeds team who have reached their first ever College Cup final.
Half-time talk turns the match
Harvey credited a motivational talk that was given by the coaches at half-time, when Leeds were trailing 0-4, for sparking the fightback that ultimately led to victory.
Both of the Rhinos tries had come earlier in the second half, when there were scores from rising star Mekhi Bridgeman-Reaney and Tyler Dargan, followed by a penalty goal from Ethan Newboult that gave them a 12-4 lead.
Despite the setback of losing a man and being pegged back to 12-12 in the dying moments of the game, the side showed great resilience to come up with the winning score and clinch their place in the final.
Posting on Twitter afterwards, Harvey was full of praise for his team’s ‘outstanding effort’. He added: “Incredible effort from our lads. I am very much looking forward to my first final as a coach.”
Leeds Rhinos Development Academy can now look forward to a Cup Final against either Hopwood Hall or Warrington Wolves Development Academy, who will contest the other Semi Final on Wednesday 16 March.
*Leeds Sports Connect is a partnership between leading local sports providers and two colleges, Leeds City College and Leeds Sixth Form College. The project is designed to give student athletes the best of both worlds by combining professional training with outstanding education.
The project‘s sports partners are: Leeds Rhinos Foundation, Leeds United Foundation, The Hunslet Club, Ultimate Football Coaching Academy, and Let’s Do More, which all have outstanding facilities and coaching regimes.
For more information, please visit https://leedssportsconnect.co.uk/.