THERE is simply no chance Leeds Rhinos youngster Ashton Golding will let a man-of-the-match performance at St Helens go to his head.
It is rare you ever see a scoreline as low as 6-4, the result by which the West Yorkshire club lost Thursday’s opening Betfred Super League game of the season.
However, with determined full-back Golding remarkably producing three try-saving tackles alone, it was perhaps no surprise it was so tight.
The rookie’s display earned rave reviews from head coach Brian McDermott who hailed his performance as “outstanding”.
But, having grafted so hard to get a regular shot at first-team action – Golding has taken the No1 jersey following England international Zak Hardaker’s season long-loan to Castleford Tigers – he refuses to get carried away by such compliments.
“It’s something I’ve been working towards and I’m going to keep working,” said the homegrown talent, who had made just nine starts last year and spent time on dual-registration terms with part-timers Featherstone Rovers.
“It’s one performance out of so many to go and I need to really nail my performances now.
“I was nowhere near perfect and I have to keep going with that.
“For me, try-saving is like scoring tries so I’m delighted coming up with a few of them.
“But I’d always take a bad performance for a win any day of the week.
“I’m a fan of the club, advocate of the club and love the club so it is massively disappointing (losing).
“It was close and as close as the scoreline shows.
“We had a couple of opportunities to run away with the game, then they had a couple, but all were snuffed out and it ended one try apiece.
“It’s a bitter pill to swallow but we have to deal with it, go back to the drawing board and build on the positives we’ve seen tonight.”
Some sceptics have wondered whether Golding has the physical presence to cut it when it comes to the defensive aspect of the full-back role, especially given how dominant 2015 Man of Steel Hardaker was in that regard.
However, in twice holding up Saints players – powerful second-row Dominique Peyroux and Tommy Makinson – over the line when tries seemed certain in the first half, the diminutive No 1 demonstrated just how much strength he does possess. Those twin blocks saw Rhinos go in 4-0 ahead and Leeds-born Golding admitted: “I’m always going to put my body on the line. If it takes me coming out with an injury I’ll do it; we don’t want any four points over that line.
“That line is a fortress and everything to us so I was very pleased I came up with the ball tonight.”
Golding debuted for Leeds as a 17-year-old off the bench at London in 2014, his only appearance that campaign, before featuring just four times the season after.
He described wearing the No 1 shirt in Super League for the first time, though, as an “unbelievable moment” that left him “slightly emotional.”
Golding, who also coolly handled a succession of high kicks, added: “Playing alongside Rob (Burrow) in his 500th (career) game was outstanding, too.
“He’s a real hero of mine and it was something special.”
Leeds head to newly-promoted Leigh Centurions next Friday for a second successive away fixture which is sure to be challenging for its own reasons being their opponents’ first home game in the top-flight since 2005.
“We know there’s no chance of it getting any easier versus Leigh,” added Golding.
“There’s no dips in this league. Every week will be really challenging.
“We understand that and are prepared for it. The intensity on Thursday night was high and it will stay like that next week.
“No doubt Leigh will bring a whole load of fire towards the game so we’re expecting it and looking forward to it.”
Leeds eventually went down to Theo Fages’ converted 43rd-minute try on Thursday but McDermott was not disheartened especially as they were without captain Danny McGuire (quad) who could return at Leigh.
“Danny was very close to playing but I thought Sutcliffe and Burrow were very good,” said the coach.
“They took the line on. I thought it was a strong performance for the first game of the year.
“Saints tactically were good; the kicking game was the difference between the teams as they had some excellent kicks out of their area and their kick-chase was great.”