Leos 54 v Doncaster Phoenix 17
Leos prove too strong for Doncaster Phoenix
For the final home league game of the season,Leos welcomed Doncaster Phoenix to Crag Lane on Easter Saturday,for the rearranged game.Ironically,after the driest April in 100 yrs,the pitch was probably harder than back in January,when the surface was deemed unplayable.Otherwise however,conditions were again ideal for open,fast flowing football.
Leos welcomed 2nd XV skipper James Scott to take the hooking role, Jordache Myerscough returned to the second row and Tim Fforde was back from America to take up a place on the bench.
An enormous drive from the Leos tight five at the first scrum,laid the foundations for what was to come.The Phoenix ball was disrupted,but they managed to clear their lines through player coach Storey.
Leos handled accurately from left to right and and a lovely delayed pass from Mark Winter put strong running winger Stuart Baker through an enormous midfield hole,to sprint 40m to the line on just 6mins,with James Henry adding the extra two.
Phoenix looked stronger in attack than defence and they responded with a Storey penalty on 10 mins,given for an off side offence at the ruck.
However,from the next scrum,another dominant drive,gave James Henry time and space to cleverly disguise his pass to Mark Winter who sliced through the visitors defence for the second try on 12mins.Phoenix were proving safe on their own lineout ball and had their own dangerous runners but were never really able to penetrate the Leos defence.
The Leos forwards had however already taken control of the game,with James Scott looking particularly comfortable on his seasons debut.He accurately found James Debenham at the lineout,the strong running Ed Connell peeled round the back,brushing off defenders like a latter day Fran Cotton,before Jordache Myerscough and Dave Barden continued the drive. Nick Wainwright released James Haslam,who proved too strong for the visitors with another good try. Leos were now nineteen points clear on 20 mins,when James Henry added the conversion.
The bonus point was secured on 25 mins,when the referee,former dual code international Gary Pearce,played a good advantage,allowing Nick Wainwright and James Knibbs to get the ball wide to speedster Neal Liu,who burst the first line of defence and then had too much pace,comfortably winning the race to the corner.A tremendous Henry touchline conversion put Leos 26 - 3 clear.
A couple of penalties gave Phoenix their first real field position, the visitors earned a 5m lineout.The ball was secured and they drove over,with a forward touching down and Storey reducing the margin to 26 - 10.
Leos were not to be denied however.They immediately responded,when Jordache Myerscough Dave Robinson and Will Levitt effectively counter rucked,turning over Phoenix ball and allowing Nick Wainwright the freedom to exploit open spaces.James Knibbs and Neal Liu handled swiftly to Stuart Baker,but Club Chairman and part time touch judge Gabriel,ruled that the winger had put a foot on the line before touching down.
It made little difference however as halves Nick Wainwright and James Henry co ordinated the next attack, Ed Connell and James Scott took the ball forward,Neal Liu linked from full back, Dave Barden popped up in the centre, timed his pass perfectly,for James Lund to beat his opposite number,before out pacing the cover defence,for a classical wingers try.The James Henry conversion gave Leos 33 points in as many minutes.
The final penalty of the half went to Doncaster,but as they tried to run the ball out of their own half, Mark Winter,doing his Gary Schofield impersonation,intercepted and strolled under the sticks,for Leos sixth try of the half duly converted by James Henry and a scoreline of 40 - 10.
Even Coach Greenwood was moderately satisfied with the first 40 mins of fast flowing,open,Barbarian style rugby but still demanded a repeat in the second half. This was arguably Leos best 40 minutes of the season with some wonderful free flowing rugby by backs and forwards combined.Doncaster were a shadow of the side that won the corresponding home fixture earlier in the season.
Phoenix emerged with greater spirit and determination and aided by a string of penalties,spent the opening minutes attacking the Leos line,but important tackles by Will Levitt, James Haslam and James Knibbs,kept Doncaster at bay
Another powerful scrum by the Leos front five,won the ball against the head, Nick Wainwright footwork defeated their back row, before James Henry and James Knibbs continued the counter attack,but strong defence again denied Stuart Baker in the right corner.
As in the first half,Leos merely switched the point of attack,James Lund found space,intelligently chipped the ball forward and as James Knibbs overran the ball, Will Levitt popped up to touch down on 52mins. James Henry added his sixth conversion.
Leos made changes,with Tim Fforde and Gareth Chesters replacing James Debenham and Will Levitt but the game became increasingly scrappy,with the visitors looking to slow the game down at every oppourtunity.
Simon Dowling made a brief cameo appearance,replacing Dave Robinson,but in his first involvement managed to turn his ankle and was carried from the pitch!!! - nevertheless,an impressive 33 secs will no doubt have cost Simon his £5 subs.
Dave Robinson returned,but Doncaster gained improved field position and showed their committment,when for the second time,they produced an effective driving maul,to reduce the margin to 47 - 17 on 62mins.
The game began to drift but there was still time for the impressive centre pairing of James Knibbs and Mark Winter to strike.More solid scrum ball,Tim Fforde broke,James Knibbs accelerated - I know,difficult to believe,but true - a lovely soft inside ball to Mark Winter,who shrugged off a couple of attempted tackles,to complete his hat trickwith James Henry tagging the 2 points.
The game ended as it had started,when a dominant Leos scrum,disrupted Doncaster ball,Tim Fforde and James Haslam combined,but James Lund was judged to have been held short and the referee blew up a little early,with a scoreline of 54 - 17.
Leos move to sixth in the table and now finish the season with two midweek away fixtures,starting with Huddersfield YM on wed evening.
Elsewhere,a win for Dinnington and defeat for Selby,sends Selby down with Bradford Salem from Yorkshire 1,for what looks likely to be an even more competitive league next season,with Goole likely to be returning to Yorks 2,together with Wath.
Reporter Peter Cooke
Leos tries:Baker,Winterx3,Haslam,Liu,Lund,Liu conversions: henryx7