Doncaster Phoenix 14 - 24 West Leeds
In their final home match of the season Doncaster Phoenix's performance was a microcosm of their entire 2010/11 season, with an on the whole disappointing display interspersed with patches of great play.
Over the years West Leeds have proven a tough nut for Phoenix to crack, and so it proved as the visitors got off to a flying start at Castle Park. After the home forwards gathered the kick-off, fly-half Dan Storey's attempted clearance kick was charged down and regathered by the West Leeds second row, with a clear 20 metre run to the line a certain try looked on the cards, however a brilliant tackle by the Phoenix skipper Chris Conway saw the ball held up over the line. A 5 metre scrum was repelled by the Phoenix pack, however following 10 minutes of continued pressure, West Leeds eventually broke the Phoenix defence with a driving maul for a convereted try.
West Leeds continued to exert pressure over then next 15 minutes, helped in no small part by a string of Phoenix penalties. The pressure again proved too much for Phoenix to handle as the West Leeds winger seized on a loose Phoenix kick before kicking ahead and winning the sprint to the loose ball to regather and touch down under the sticks 0-14.
Despite being on the receiving end of a barrage of West Leeds pressure for the first 35 minutes of the game, Phoenix only conceded a further 3 points in the half from a West Leeds penalty in front of the posts.
In the final 5 minutes of the half Phoenix finally began to gain a foothold, as a Storey penalty was followed by several strong runs from the backs and a couple of nice touches too from the pack. From one such run, the West Leeds winger was sent to the bin for cynically killing the ball when Phoenix were on the attack. The resulting penalty was kicked to the corner and Phoenix attacked up one side of the pitch before quickly switching the play to send winger Wayne Barnes over the line, only to be called back for a foot in touch. Phoenix though had a penalty advantage and the final kick of the half saw Storey convert to bring the half time score back to 6-17.
In the second half Phoenix came out of the blocks the fastest and enjoyed large amounts of posession, however despite making several good breaks, too often wrong decisions at vital times were taken and posession was given cheaply back to West Leeds.
Phoenix finally managed to score their first try in three matches when, following some good running from scrum-half Tim Elliot, the ball was spun out to young centre Jordan Ajimati who jinked past his opposite number before showing a good turn of pace to fly over for an unconverted try out wide.
More Phoenix pressure then saw a penalty kicked by Dan Storey to bring the Doncaster side within striking distance at 14-17.
At this point it was all Phoenix, and it seemed only a matter of time before they took the lead. However, West Leeds showed great spirit to work their way back into the match, and after a couple of good kicks to the corners, a Phoenix knock on gave West Leeds a scrum on the Phoenix 5 metre line. After putting together several phases, they eventually worked an opening for the final score of the match to leave the scores at 24-14.
This was a disappointing loss for Phoenix in their final home match of the season - despite showing in patches the kind of rugby they are capable of playing, they were unable to put it together often enough to get the result against a West Leeds side who are battling to stay in the division.
Unfortunately, this has been a familiar theme throughout the season, as Phoenix have shown on several occasions what they are capable of; in particular the home victories against Yarnbury, Moortown, Skipton and Hullensians and the win at Ripon as well as 4 extremely tight matches against champions-elect Pocklington and Huddersfield YMCA. However, some disappointing losses against weaker opposition demonstrates a lack of consistency which Phoenix will have to address if they want to be in the promotion mix next season.