1st XV - Report
Table Top Clash Ends in Victory
Oblivious to a reputation for travelling poorly into South Yorkshire, Leos travelled to Barnsley for a 1st v 2nd clash which was an advert for Y2 Rugby.
Fielding a side with no fewer than 10 changes from last week’s somewhat turgid win over Selby, Leos welcomed back skipper Big Dave Robinson and Martin McIntosh to the front row. Jordache Myerscough returned to partner James Debenham in the Row, with Monty Wainright, Mark Winter and Si Worrall forming an exciting three-quarter triumvirate.
In the impressive surroundings of Barnsley’s new Shaw Lane development, a venue which uniquely manages to combine the virtues of top-class new facilities development with the authentic feel of a “proper” rugby club, Leos were thrilled to find a fast, dry pitch and clement weather. The new club blazers were largely eschewed in favour of the new “stash” which had arrived in mid-week, despite the hiccup of a washing instruction label oversight on the part of the manufacturers. Resplendent in this new-found bountiful supply of man- made fibre, the squad were responsible for an involuntary illumination of the Barnsley Christmas lights as a result of the static electricity generated by the chafing of polyester-clad bodies. The function suite at Barnsley’s ground was crammed with wedding guests, and Leos hoped that this was not some bizarre portent for our campaign for promotion from Yorkshire 2, a quest in which we have often been the Bridesmaids, but never the Bride.
Barnsley elected to play with the strong wind at their backs for the first half, but Leos were quickly into their stride, retaining possession over multiple phases and working their way steadily upfield. The adjoining Barnsley Cricket Club has given Yorkshire several luminaries over the years, including Dicky Bird and Geoff Boycott, but even Sir Geoffrey would have cast an admiring eye over the redoubtable defence offered by Leos whenever Barnsley had the ball. After 15 minutes, however, Barnsley opened their account with a penalty conceded in front of the posts. Leos then suffered their most calamitous injury of the season when a lineout maul slewed suddenly into touch, sideswiping the Leos linesman who, having avoided physical contact of any sort over a 30-year playing career, suddenly found himself an involuntary part of the day’s play and was forced to retire from flag-bearing duties. Luckily, Vice-Chairman and Financial Services Guru John Howells was on hand to take up the flag, and subsequently turned in an entirely adequate performance.
The loss of their talismanic touchrunner seemed to spur Leos into action, and it was new recruit Chris Lewis who sparked the revival. Chris was enjoying his best outing in a Leos jersey since joining over the summer having graduated as a Medic, and the young Doctors’ ball-carrying skills bore fruit when he took an inside ball off Jimmy Henry. The angle of his initial run, the change of direction, and the subsequent charge into the heart of the opposition was so impressive that the sequence is shortly to be released as a book (“The Line, The Switch & The Forward Drove” by C.S.Lewis). The ball was quickly released and ex-Leeds Rhinos player Si Worrall scored the try. Ex-Spearmint Rhinos “Playa” Henry missed the conversion.
Barnsley, however, are not in their exalted league position for no reason. Their outstanding No.6 Joe South was proving a real handful, repeatedly making yards downfield to set up promising positions. From 2 such drives, Leos incurred the displeasure of the match official, and Barnsley struck back with 2 penalties. The game could have slid away from Leos at this stage, but on a couple of significant occasions, flankers Will Levitt and Dave Barden were able to turn over possession. Barden in particular is developing an ability to steal possession at almost the speed and deftness of hand with which he snaffles socks, shorts and multitudinous other items of club property to which he has no legitimate claim.
The teams therefore changed ends with Barnsley enjoying a narrow 9-8 lead.
With the strong breeze now at their backs, Leos were able to change the complexion of the game with astute tactical use of the conditions by Fly Half Henry, i.e. hoofing the ball vast distances downfield at every opportunity. Jimmy was also demonstrating a commendable capacity for helping all involved in the game with a constant stream of advice and comment offered in an attempt to inform and entertain teammates, opposition and spectators alike. This feature of Jimmy’s game is fast making him a hugely popular figure at every ground in Yorkshire 2.
Renaissance Lock JD was providing a stream of quality possession from the lineout. There are rumours that at the end of the current campaign, James is planning to take part in the Whitbread Single-Handed TransAtlantic Challenge, so watch out for more details of Debenham’s end-of-season sail. Skipper Dave Robinson was also to the fore with a series of Raging Bull charges into the heart of South Yorkshire.
Enjoying by now both territorial and possesional domination, it was only a matter of time before Leos pressure told, and Henry himself scored a try at the posts, converted by Wainwright. The floodgates were now open, and Worrall added a second score try following a Mark Winter break. Tombola tom Bindloss dotted down in the corner following a Sonny Bill Williams-esque offload from Jordache Myerscough that only a surgeon’s hand could master. Henry crossed again, and Leos were out of sight by the time the game entered the final quarter.
The final score, and arguably the pick of the bunch, followed an amazing contribution by the outstanding stuart baker. Fielding a speculative punt and showing an incredible lightness of foot for a powerful guy, reminiscent of Jonah Lomu at his peak, the burly winger stepped left and then right before showing his oppo a clean pair of heels (a pair of Jimmy Choo stilettos which sadly had to be returned to the shop), scorching 50 metres downfield before deftly offloading to Mark Winter, who crossed with ease. This ability to swing both ways is fast becoming a feature of Try-Maker Baker’s play. The try was also remarkable in that both the creator Baker, and the scorer Winter (who, on occasion has been a little less than ecstatic at having to ply his trade out of position) are products of Beverley, situated in East Yorkshire between Hull and York. Thus was our Winter of Discontent made Glorious Summer by this son of the York Road.
Barnsley, whose resolve never wavered, answered with a slick try and conversion of their own, and the game, sympathetically and expertly controlled by the outstanding Glen Cockroft throughout, ended with the scoreboard recording a Leos 39-16 victory.
Whilst not seeking to patronise, the day was also remarkable for, and made more enjoyable by, the welcome and sporting nature of the players, coaches, officials and supporters of the Barnsley Club, one day, all Rugby Clubs will be made this way.
Next week sees Leos return to Crag Lane for a local battle with neighbours Yarnbury. All considerations of form, recent results and league position are entirely irrelevant, and Leos expect a tough encounter with a team seeking to regain the title of top-placed Leeds Y2 side, claimed by Leos at the end of last season following a trial at the European Court of Human Rights in The Hague.