North One East
West Leeds RUFC 31 v Percy Park RFC 22
“It might be a New Year but it’s not a happy start”
Recalling our second half performance away at Morley we all hoped that our season, would not and surely could not produce a crushing low as that; however on Saturday Percy Park produced a performance against a struggling and weakened West Leeds side that did just that…how we lost this game is beyond my understanding and thankfully my remit. I am aware that ‘the- debrief’ has already started and all the Percy Park faithful can hope for is that our players and coaching staff are able to ‘put things right’. What I can say, and what we can all see, is that we are so different away from home. Why is that? ... We are such a good side, full of really talented players who for some reason cannot replicate our excellent home form onto the road. It’s not a time to panic just yet. Eight points separate Park from the leagues twelfth placed side and a relegation place. However this game has to be a wake-up call. The results between teams in this league are such that we cannot just rely on our home form to ensure survival. It really is time that we started putting in some wins on the road.
Percy Park won (just about) every line out, every scrum. Totally dominated the forward area, scored 4 tries to West Leeds 3, played against 13 men and still lost. So then what is the story……..and in the telling I hope you will feel the pain of this very partisan supporter.
From the start Percy Park looked the stronger side. The forwards stole ball and took real yards off the West Leeds defence, giving the returning Jared Deacon a good platform to play off. With Andrew Walker making his first start at fly half we looked energetic. Despite the yards gained we had a tendency to go sideways which put us in direct competition with the West Leeds backs. With ‘wily’ old heads Sam Naeve and Mark Calderwood in their back line they are no slouches and to their credit they used some shrewd and canny tricks to ensure that we did not make any progress. Balls were ripped and tackles made to force the knock on or force the line out. Players flooded in to the breakdown to ensure the ball didn’t come out.
The first score of the day came through a Percy Park player leading with an elbow whilst gaining yards and attempting to move the ball outside of the visitors 22. The call looked harsh but then I do have ‘black and white spectacles’. With the kick on the 25 metre mark, and in front of the posts, it looked an easy 3 points. Although the preparation for the kick looked good the execution wasn’t. The penalty kick went low and wide. A let off, or so we thought. With a fraught blow on the whistle the referee halted proceedings and ordered the retake, punishing Liam Blackburn for having his arms up in the air. This time the player didn’t miss. West Leeds 3 Percy Park 0
Park were straight back at it and continued to dominate the forward exchanges. Michael Langlands was having a field day jumping at ‘1’ and taking the West Leeds ball. From a successful take at the line out Park were held up on the West Leeds try line. West flooded in and forced the knock on. The scrum went against Leeds with ‘Maximus’ taking one against the head. With the ball at the back and safely at the feet of Michael Langlands we pushed over for the score. Unfortunately the conversion hit the cross bar. West Leeds 3 Percy Park 5
As the game progressed Naeve and Calderwood directed their troops to hold up Park and flood in. Park needed to put numbers in there but failed to do so. Collecting a kicked ball the West Leeds full back Jack Marshall caused consternation as he cut through the Park defence at ease. Marshall evaded several attempted tackles as he turned defence into attack making his run from inside his 22 toward the Park try line. Fortunately the move broke down and Park were awarded the 22 drop out. However there was a sober lesson there….don’t kick the ball away ….. It’s going to be run back at you with a vengeance.
A line out to Leeds was knocked forward by Park, as the jumper attempted to disrupt the throw. Scrum to West. On this occasion the West scrum half threw the ball to his second row and the home team were down the ‘blindside’, with ex England League player Mark Calderwood exploiting Percy Parks lack of cover. The try was taken with ease. The home support was on its feet and becoming more vocal. They could sense an upset was on the cards. With the conversion missed ‘West’ were back in front.
Then Leeds were through again. Park were really slow to the breakdown and certainly the numbers were not there to compete. West Leeds went to the 9 and 10 channel. With missed tackles ‘West’ were over again. With the try converted Park were in trouble. Nobody was taking responsibility to ensure that the tackle was made. Park were flat. We needed a response.
Back to the forwards. Crashing the ball up Deacon was on hand to throw a quick ball to Walker, who took a wide line before off-loading to Phil Morse. He, in turn, put Seb Rees into the 22 before coming around on the loop before being stopped by the covering Leeds player as he took the players inside shoulder. With the ball knocked on Leeds went to the second row and kicked the ball down field. With Josh Hedley hitting the player late, the scrum was awarded where the ball landed, square in the middle of the field. The scoring opportunity was lost and the ball back in Leeds possession.
At this time the home side were playing away from the Percy Park pack and in doing so made healthy inroads to the Park ‘D’. Tackles were being missed. Camped in the visitors ‘22’ West left the ball at the back of the ruck. Michael Langlands came through the middle and got his foot to the ball. Penalty Leeds. With the kick dispatched Leeds were ahead by 18 points to 5. This was not in the script. Come on Park!!
The half was approaching. A little word to the man upstairs and a hope for a positive reaction. Park took the ball up. As we put the ball to the middle, West Leeds were up quickly with two players on the Fly half. Keep possession had to be the key phrase. As the ball came back a forward carry took us deep into home territory. Instead of putting the ball ‘up the jumper’ the ball came out and stuck. We were making hard work of it. But Leeds were desperate and penalties came. With a free ball Park went wide again and on this occasion put in full back Mattie Boustead for the try. By this time the nerves were frayed and the concrete terracing was getting a hammering: yet we had the try on the half. Although the conversion was missed the score was 18-10 and the coach had the team in a huddle.
As the game commenced ‘the word on the street’ was to support the carrier and be more enthusiastic in defence. All good stuff. Now let’s put it right.
From the off Leeds showed that they were the more enthusiastic side. When they had possession they kept the ball away from our forwards and when they didn’t have possession targeted the ‘9 10’ and ‘10 12’ channels with real zeal. When we did get the ball to the centre it was kicked away into areas where it was easily ran back at us. And they punished Park with that man Calderwood scoring again in the corner. With the conversion kicked low and flat, but over the pole, Leeds were ahead by 25 points to 10.
Park needed to keep ball. Throughout we were dominant in the scrum and at the line out. The travelling support felt ‘if we could keep the ball’ we would and could get something. From a line out Park rolled…we looked too high and West Leeds were underneath us. The whistle blew. Leeds had infringed. Penalty. Park were at the line. Whistle blew. Penalty. Sam Neave off on a yellow for some skulduggery. The instruction from the bench to ‘up the pace’. This was our opportunity to make up the points deficit. From the scrum the ball came out and Andrew Walker found himself up against two. With the ball ripped and forward. Scrum Leeds. Foot up. Free Kick Park. Ball out wide to Michael Grove. Through the tackle and at the line. Whistle. Penalty Park. Scrum. Ball away at ‘8’. This time the roll is lower and Leeds have got no answer so they pull it down. Penalty Park. Yellow card to the West Leeds Second row. Park up against 13 players. Scrum. Ball out wide…forward pass…by this time the West Leeds President had ordered an ambulance for the Percy Park faithful…it was nerve racking stuff!!...West Leeds back to 14 with Sam Naeve returning to the field…..and they slowed it down refusing to set in the scrum…lying on the floor ….anything to kill the time…and as the penalty clock wore down Michael Grove managed to get over in the corner to score . With the conversion missed West were ahead by 25 points to 15 and both teams were back to 15.
Park rang the changes and debutante Ethan Clarke (returning to us from Blaydon) took to the field. Park upped the tempo and were awarded a try. A try that came from our scrum dominance as we shoved the home team of their ball. Unfortunatly I didn’t see who scored it as my notes and pen were flung in the air with something like delight. With Grove converting…it was 25 to 22 with 9 minutes to go. Come on Park!!
Leeds kick off. They retain the ball just wide of our posts. As we go in for the tackle Park infringe with a swinging arm. With the penalty taken 28-22. Percy Park needed to keep the ball, yet somehow orchestrated Leeds having meaningful possession on our 22. As Park threw themselves into the rucks the referee was at the whistle and to his pocket, as Ethan Clarke was dispatched to the box for a no hands tackle. Mind I think the referee got the identity of the player wrong…but to the box he went. Time was against us and we didn’t have possession. Although we kept them out the referee saw that Park had gone offside. With a free ball Leeds went wide although some fine defensive work from Boustead and Grove kept them at bay. Back to the penalty and the call for ‘last play’. The kick was taken and the game ended with Percy Park losing by 31 points to 22. Fortunately rugby is a very sociable game and West Leeds are a hospitable crowd. A few companionable drinks between players and their opposite numbers put the world back into some form of equilibrium.
Next up York at home kick off at 2:15pm. Come on Park!!