North One East
Percy Park RFC 36- West Leeds RUFC 3
Smith demands and gets a try-umphant Park
Game management and tactics were the conversation topics before the game, with many questioning the manner of our defeat away to Morpeth last weekend. The ‘iron filings’ had gathered around some negative energy, so what was needed was a sparkling display to ‘dispel the blues’ and bring the positive zest back to the playing fields of Preston Avenue. And ‘from the off’ that was exactly what we got! Park played this game with real control, mixed in with a fair dash of elan, that had a very useful West Leeds side playing with their ‘backs to the wall’ and thankful that the score line only reached 36. As player coach Ash Smith commented after the game “Best performance so far. We played with real shape today and executed our game plan well. Everyone played well”
The game ignited in the very first minute. From the kick off West Leeds were pressurising Percy Park in their 22. With a reluctance to clear Park elected to run the ball out. A knock on gave West Leeds the ball and an ‘advantage’ before they in turn dropped the ball which kindly bobbled into the hands of centre Seb Reece. With a kick of his heels Reece set off down the Percy Park pitch closely followed by former Great Britain and England Rugby League winger Mark Calderwood. The race was a foot. With both players running at the gallop the younger thoroughbred outdistanced his opponent to score the try under the posts. With the try converted, Park were in the driving seat and ahead by 7.
Percy Park continued to harry the West Leeds side. With Ash Smith at fly half and young Jared Deacon encouraged to play fast ball off the back of the ruck, Smith began to dictate, sending runners flying into the West Leeds half. Only a fine tackle on wing Jamie Wrigley prevented the Yorkshire side from conceding. The Park pack were scrummaging well and with an effective line out they were able to retain possession. Yet West Leeds are a good side. Having beaten Park ‘home and away’ last season they absorbed the pressure and when opportunity did come their way club captain Sam Neave was quick to get his speedy back line into the game. One such moment witnessed a try saving tackle from full back Michael Grove and a ‘double movement’ from the Leeds side to prevent a score.
Pace and power saw Park through the tackles and up onto the Leeds line. On this instance Park were penalised for a double movement. The Leeds side were rattled and they began to whinge at the referee and argue amongst themselves. A set of circumstances that culminated in a warning from the referee.
A West Leeds line out saw the ball stolen by Jonny Dubois. With Smith demanding the ball Seb Rees crashed into the middle and Austin Phillips took the ball on. Desperate defence from West saw the penalty conceded for failing to go through the middle of the ruck. Park to the line. With ball retained Ethan Wilson bounded over the line to score. It was ruthless stuff and a mile away from their performance on the preceding Saturday. Positive energy was starting to flow through the partisan home support. 14-0 to Park.
A poor pass from Jared Deacon saw Ash Smith attempting to pick the ball off his shoelaces. The error gave the advantage to the Leeds side and Smith given a gentle warning for kicking the ball away in a brief episode of frustration. From the scrum Park were given to be off-side. With the penalty in front of the posts and just outside the 22, the points were on offer. Duly dispatched. 14-3. A warning sign. Leeds were not out of this game by a long way. What we needed was a quick response to ensure that the door did not open and allow West Leeds back into the game.
A towering kick off saw West infringe just outside their ‘red zone’. The scrum was taken. Ball retained. West under pressure. Another penalty. Scrum taken. This time Park were well into the red zone. With a gigantic heave the Leeds pack were shunted back and the Park locomotive trundled forward. With Michael Langlands at 8, keeping the ball at his feet, saw the ‘Black and whites’ motor toward the line. At the right moment Langlands was able to pounce on the ball to score. With the conversion taken 21-3 to Park.
Percy Park were playing and carrying well with options for more than one runner. Joe Wafer was immense with some great tackles and clearly enjoying a purple patch in the game. And it was Wafer who was instrumental in Parks next score. With his team camped on the West Leeds line he showed immense strength to hold up the ball for the equally impressive Marc Cook to pick off the ball to clatter over the line. With the conversion missed it was 26-3 at the turn
Last season we were also in this position leading West Leeds by 22 points to 3, only to capitulate in the second half and lose the game by 26 points to 22. With the negative energy seeping back in, the Percy Park faithful were hoping for a quick start.
From the re-start Leeds knocked on. With Park dominant in the scrum the team were running the ball with shouts of ‘out- out-out’. Jared Deacon was delivering and Smith demanding. And when the penalty was awarded Ash Smith gave the ball a great strike. 3 points and 29-3 ahead. Yet the importance of that kick was far more than Smith would have known. No capitulation this season. The crowd relaxed, the positive vibe came flowing in and when you looked at the faces of the players (many of them played that day) there was a steely satisfaction that it would be a very different season this time round. The ‘iron filings’ had been dispersed and put to bed.
Big Hits from Langlands, Wilson, Wafer and Cook kept the game in the West Leeds half. Astute kicking from Ash Smith kept the Yorkshire side pegged back. Quick powerful running of Centre Charlie Greswold (great to see him back refreshed and injury free) created space for Rees and wing Kieran Sutherland to move into. One such move ceased when the Leeds 7 clotheslined Sutherland and was quickly dispatched from the field having seen yellow. With the penalty in front of the posts Park elected to go for the corner. That ruthless streak was kicking in again. You could see that this game was all about keeping Leeds in their half and under the cosh. Line out won. Penalty. Free ball. Move butchered. Back to the scrum. Ball to the back. Deacon to Greswold and a sublime deft pass to the crashing Rees to score. Conversion taken 36-3.
With confidence abounding Josh Hedley began to carry the ball much to the delight of the balcony support. Many have been waiting for Josh to keep, carry and gain yards.
Yet Leeds did not sit back. When chances did come their way they attacked. And attacked hard. Yet resolute defence and some really gritty work from Austin Phillips and Ethan Wilson kept them at bay.
As the game closed Park kept hitting the lines and pressuring the line out. A vast improvement in the fitness levels was evident and bodes well. At the whistle it was 36 to 3 and a great performance to lift the spirits. Although the faithful are not getting carried away…well not just yet! It’s a long season however they are hopeful of a competitive and entertaining campaign.
With returning and injury free players Percy Park were able to field three sides this weekend. Something that we struggled to do last year. How did we fare? …..The Lions won convincingly 88 points to 33, away at Novocastrians, in the Second team cup with the Pumas losing by the closest of margins in the final seconds of the game by 36 points to 28 having taken an experienced Novo Centurions Side to ‘the wire’.
Next week Percy Park are on the road to York. Hope to see you there. C’mon Park!