North One East
West Leeds 52- Percy Park
Percy Park Blues at Blue Hill Lane
On Saturday 8th October Percy Park travelled to Blue Hill Lane the home of West Leeds RUFC for an eagerly awaited first senior fixture between the two sides. With West Leeds showing impressive form in the League, Percy Park knew they were in for a tough test. However they too were confident in their own form and arrived with the strong belief that a result could be achieved. And the game started well for the away side. The Park forwards were dominant in the set piece with the ‘West’ scrum going backwards. The forwards were also dominant in ‘the loose’ punching holes in the Leeds defence creating forward ball for the Park backs to work with. With the Park defence snuffing out any real possession ‘West’ had the signs were there that this was going to be our day. A thought reflected by a very partisan Leeds crowd who were heard to say ‘Crikey we are going to have to up our game today these lads are good’.
Yet it was ‘West’ who drew first blood when Park were penalised almost on the half way line for not releasing in the tackle and the resulting wind assisted free kick at goal crossed the bar to earn the three points. From the restart Park retained the ball and normal service resumed and after a period of impressive ball retention, which had the Leeds team scrambling back toward their line, ‘West’ were penalised for a high tackle. With the wind against him Parks Phil Morse opted to kick for the corner. With ‘line out’ ball secured an impressive catch and drive saw lock Karl Thompson peel off , break through three attempted tackles to power over the West Leeds line. Placing the ball near to the posts to enable a comfortable conversion for Phil Morse.
With real good possession Park were guilty of wasting opportunities that were coming their way by attempting to kick ahead or placing a flat pass to a Park player that was spilled in the resulting tackle. The resulting loss of possession would see West Leeds boot the ball away deep into the Park half and the ‘black and whites’ would have to start all over again. And they did, running great lines off Lome Faatau at ‘10’.
With Faatau running the game at Fly half it was no surprise when he caused a break in the Leeds defence and with the resulting return pass sprinted clear. Then for some unknown reason and with the try line begging the player passed the ball to the West Leeds wing who turned and cleared the ball. The pattern was set. Park pressure followed by a forced error and a boot down the field and it was in this area that the game changed. From one desperate Leeds clearance the ball was recovered by the Park wing who kicked the ball straight back to West who in turn saw a broken field and accelerated into open space deep into the Park 22. With the attacking player bundled into touch. With the resulting Line out lost ‘West’ went under the posts for the score which was duly converted much to the relief of the home support.
In that score ‘West’ showed they had electric and elusive pace in their back line and in any broken play they would come out on top. All Park had to do was keep the ball, cut out the forced mistakes, and with patience they could regain the lead. Yet the poor passes continued resulting in ‘knock ons’ and spilled ball and when Leeds cleared their lines a returned kick would go dead or create broken play. The forced errors were costing possession, terrority and energy. Both home and away support acknowledged that Park had to hold the ball in the forwards and if they did ‘West’ were in for a difficult afternoon. Yet Park continued to give their ball to Leeds and as the half was coming to a close an inspired weaving run from the impressive Leeds left wing carved up the Park defence and to the great relief of the away bench the Leeds player kicked away possession to touch. With the line out almost on the ten West disrupted Park possession and in winning the ball passed left to right to score in the corner.
At the turn ‘West’ were ahead by 17 points to 7. With the wind in our favour it certainly was not time to panic. Leeds were straight into a huddle and you good hear a frank discussion taking place. And as the Leeds Captain acknowledged in his post-game speech they knew they were under the cosh but they had worked Park’s strategy out.
From the re start it was all ‘West’. They kept the ball away from the Park forwards and created broken play where ever possible. With Park continuing to make the same mistakes broken play came easily to ‘West’ and as a consequence the scoreboard was ticking over quicker than a ‘home smart energy meter’!
It was only when Leeds got to 52 points that Park seemed to come back to life with Number 8 Sean Williamson scoring twice in the final minutes. Park need one further score for a bonus point yet the clock was against us and we came away with nothing to show for our efforts.
This was a game of what might have been. In the post-match debrief Percy Park were aware of how they should have played. The disappointment was tangible yet the determination to get back to the training field to learn from their mistakes was also evident. Great displays from Josh Lake, Karl Thompson and Phil Morse were acknowledged by the West Leeds team who honestly believed, in that first half performance, that Park were the best team that they had played to date.
However all was not lost. In the post-match celebrations the North Shields boys showed themselves masters of the after game races and comfortable winners of a ‘nose off’ between the two clubs respective alikados. Much to the amusement of the West Leeds players.
Many thanks to the West Leeds club for their fantastic hospitality and we wish them well in their endeavours. For their journey from Yorkshire Three, via a Twickenham appearance as Vase Champions, to promotion to North One East and level six has been remarkable. And like Park they have achieved all their success through their youth system. We genuinely wish them well.
The day was not without some good news as many former colts and players dusted off their boots by returning to the Park fold to represent their Club, by creating a new Pumas side, at Northern’s McCraken Park. In a fast and entertaining game they came away narrowly between by Northern in a high scoring contest by 57 points to 66.