North One East
Percy Park 22- West Leeds 26
Vital points dropped in relegation fight
Supporting Percy Park is akin to a roller coaster ride at Alton Towers. You climb steadily to the top and from what appears to be an unassailable position, come over the apex at a hurtling stomach churning rate which leaves the supporter traumatised and sat in the bar with nerves frayed calling for a bottle of best brandy to cuddle. Last week we had 90 seconds of ‘madness’ that nearly cost Percy Park the fixture. On Saturday we got 3 minutes and on this occasion we lost. The real unfortunate fact was that Percy Park really were the better side. The better team did lose. With a ‘cooler head’ in those final minutes of a ‘barnstorming’ game Park would have come out on top and instead of sitting in the bottom three, looking up, they could have been placed mid table. And in that sentence there is the consolation. Park can get themselves out of the relegation places. The point differential between seventh place at mid-table and Percy Park in twelfth is only 5 points and with a game in hand all is ‘still to play for’.
In the first half Percy Park were unplayable. With a game plan that kept the ball in the forwards, moving along both the narrow and open side, dragging in defenders, before stretching the game by throwing the ball wide. A plan that had West Leeds reeling. And they played at a ‘tempo’ that had West Leeds truly believing they were going to get well beaten and digging in deep just to stay anywhere near a retrievable score line.
Park were quickly on the scoresheet with a Seb Reece try. Using a ‘free ball’, with West Leeds penalised from coming in from the side, Percy Park moved the ball to their left with centre Charlie Greswold breaking the line and with a fine offload Greswold put his centre colleague Reece in for the score. With Fly Half Michael Grove converting, Park were off and running.
With the game being played at high tempo Leeds were ‘under the cosh’ and giving away penalties in all areas of the pitch. The forward pack led by Captain Jonny Dubois were well in the ascendency in all areas of the game. With possession achieved, Park probed and broke the gain line at every play. Penalties were kicked to the set piece and with dominance in the line out, it was no surprise when lock Josh Hedley rose to catch a ball at the back of the line and launch a rolling maul towards the West Leeds red zone. With Park able to stay on their feet and with forward momentum gained the Leeds players fell off and Sean Williamson crossed for an excellent try. Unfortunatly the conversion was missed.
Park did not sit on their heels and constantly threw everything at the Leeds defence, and they creaked and groaned, giving away a penalty in front of the posts which Michael Grove accepted, putting the home side 15 points to the good.
Prop Joe Wafer was having a fine game. A burst through the line, at a pace Linford Christie would have been proud of, saw one defender in front and with Park coach Lome Fa’atau on his shoulder a deft pass would have put the Samoan international in. The Leeds defender showed great bravery and managed to stop the Park player and the opportunity went ‘begging’. Park managed to keep possession and after a few phases set Seb Reece through the line. With the defence fractured the young centre looked to be in for the score. With Leeds scrambling to get back the player elected to pass and Leeds were able to defend.
Yet a further score was coming and it was only going to be a matter of time. With Leeds chasing the game, any possession they did get they attempting to play the game, away from the forwards and in the middle of the park. They were throwing desperate long balls and on one such occasion Seb Reece read the play perfectly and intercepted the pass. In this instance Reece kept hold of the ball and crossed the Leeds whitewash under the posts to give Michael Grove an easy conversion.
It was all Park. Leeds were getting frustrated and just before the half a little bit of ‘argy bargy’ on the floor saw Park penalised in front of the posts, albeit outside their 22. With an opportunity given to get points on the board the West Leeds fly half Dan Breakwell placed a fine kick over the Percy Park goal.
At the half way point Percy Park were 22 points to 3 ahead.
On the half the Leeds side stayed in their huddle for some time with stern words being spoken.
As the game kicked off Leeds went straight to the middle of the field preferring to use what possession they had in the centre rather than in the forward area. And in doing so looked dangerous. Here was their strength. Park needed to hold on and take the sting out of the game by keeping possession of the ball and get it back into the forward pack. The game ebbed and flowed with Park unable to retain sufficient ball that allowed them the first half dominance. There are no bad sides in North One East and West Leeds showed their mettle by plugging away and kicking any penalty they could at the Percy Park posts. And in doing so kept the score line ticking over till they reached 22 points to 12. They were back in the game and you could see that the pressure of the scoreboard was beginning to effect Parks game. Instead of patience their play became more frantic. Yet time was still running away from the West Yorkshire side.
When the Park forwards did get the ball they were able to put the Leeds pack under pressure. As the game was approached the final quarter a period of sustained pressure in the Leeds 22 saw Park suck in defenders and pass the ball out wide with players running from deep. A score looked inevitable. Yet the referee deemed the ‘play’ to be crossing and with the resulting penalty kick Leeds were able to relieve the pressure. With the line out won Leeds put the ball through the hands into the middle of the field and worked in that area. With Park not holding the defensive line, the Leeds winger Kier Breakwell, moved past his opposite number into space where nobody could catch him. With the try scored, the difficult conversion was taken and the pendulum of fate started to swing. 22-19.
Players and supporters became anxious and the win became more important than patience. Park needed to keep the ball away from the Leeds backs. They were lethal. And when they had the ball a cool head was needed. It became a game of strengths. Each side trying to play where they could be dominant and the Park forwards were unlucky when Eddie Saint dropped the ball over the line. Tension mounted and when Sean Williamson was adjudged to have been held up, and another score flew away, that tension was palpable. Yet time was running out. There was only 3 minutes on the clock. With the scrum awarded Park packed down and won the ball. Leeds were penalised. All Park needed to do was to retake the scrum. Instead a quick tap saw the Park player run into an unsuspecting colleague and Leeds were awarded possession of the ball. A free kick turned into a penalty, as the Park plyer refused to let go of the ball , and to make matters worse was sent back 10 metres for ‘back chat’. With the line out won Leeds did what they do best by putting the ball into the centre of the field. With Park defending and the play becoming frantic, Percy Park were adjudged to ‘failed to roll away’ in the ruck area. With penalty against and with yellow card awarded, Leeds took the tap and with ball in hand motored into the Park 22 and as that ‘pendulum of fate swung', George Carpenter stepped up to score that game winning try. A try that was duly converted and brought a tumultuous game came to an end.
Park had lost by 22 points to 26 and West Leeds were jubilant.
As the players and supporters gathered in the bar afterwards many opinions flowed from all and the West Leeds support was conciliatory and graceful in victory. They, and Park, knew who should have won that game but as they say ‘sport can be cruel’. Although the Percy Park team did have the ‘last laugh’ by beating their opponents in a ‘boat and pie’ race!!
And like the First XV a young Lions side, under the tutelage of the redoubtable Tim Walker ran out of steam in the final quarter against a strong Billingham side.
As they say….’there is always next week’!!