Leos 20 v Ripon 15
Leos secure desrved win over a resilient Ripon side
With the end of the season in sight,cricket starting next week and under a glorious blue sky,Leos welcomed Ripon to Crag Lane,for what is always a competitive fixture.
With the ever inspiring James Knibbs dispatched to London on work duties to save the NHS, Tom Bindloss in India, Tim Fforde in America and various other unavailabilities,Leos were forced into half a dozen personnel changes and a number of positional changes,but were still able to field a competitive team.
With the spine of the team intact, Roger Wood came in at full back,Dave Barden switched to centre and former skipper Nick Burdon added experience to a youthful back row.No doubt Ripon too were missing players at this stage of the season.
The game opened in enterprising fashion,with both sides willing to move the ball,but defences were up quickly,forcing a number of handling mistakes.Scrums were even,but James Debenham was again winning quick ball at the lineout,giving Nick Wainwright time to release his backs.
Ripon favoured the more direct approach and it took resolute fringe defence from Ed Connell, James Haslam and Nick Burdon to keep them at bay.Ripon used the breeze to good effect,but Roger Wood was proving safe under the high ball,with Stuart Baker running it back with his usual enthusiasm.
Few tackles were being missed,but Leos appeared to have extra flair in the threequaters.This was demonstrated on 21 mins,when Leos were awarded a mid field penalty,Nick Wainwright reacted quickest with a tap,burst the first line of defence,before finding his half back partner in support,James Henry drew his man,before accurately finding Ryan Patel on his outside,the former Hegians scrum half showed impressive speed to outpace the cover defence and race 40m for the opening try.
There was still little between the sides,with Jordache Myercough and Dave Robinson working hard at the mauls,Will Levitt and James Haslam doing the dirty work on the ground and James Forton and Nick Burdon making important tackles.The first fluent,flowing rugby came from broken play,when Will Levitt made a half break,Nick Wainwright fed the rumbling Dave Robinson, Dave Barden James Henry and Stuart Baker added pace,before a Leos player was held up over the line.
The resultant scrum was however rock solid,with even a slight nudge,allowing Nick Wainwright to exploit the blindside,before putting the powerful Stuart Baker in at the right corner,for a 10 - 0 lead after 29mins.
The game was opening up and with James Debenham imperious at the lineout,James Henry made a clean break in midfield,turned the ball inside,only for the supporting Will Levitt to demonstrate the hands of his father,watching on the touchline,and spill the ball with the line open.Robin explained to all who were prepared to listen,what he would have done with such an oppourtunity.
The half ended with Leos on the front foot,as first James Haslam,Nick Wainwright and Nick Burdon combined down the right,before Dave Bardon,Ryan Patel and Mark Winter were held in the left corner,with last ditched tackles from the impressive Ripon back row.
Ripon were sure to come back strongly in the second half and reduced the margin as early as the 45th minute,when driving work by their forwards was rewarded with a penalty and duly slotted from 30m out.
The visitors now had renewed purpose and camped on the home line for a further 10 mins,with Leos unable to clear their lines.The pressure was bound to tell and on 54mins a Ripon forward forced his way over from close range,to further reduce the margin to just 2 points.
John Howells, Coutts-Tucker,a true Leos name and Simon Dowling replaced Nick Burdon,Ryan Patel and Ed Connell - saving himself for an important squash match - respectively.
Leos finally found some field position and won a penalty,enabling the sure boot of James Henry to extend the lead to five points on 61mins.
However,Leos failed to regather the kick off and earned Ripon a penalty,which went just wide.A further Ripon attack had to be grounded over the line by the quick thinking John Howells,before a couple of enormous clearance kicks by James Henry,finally relieved the pressure.
The game was probably won on 70 mins,when the genial Irish referee from East Yorkshire,played a good advantage,allowing Dave Robinson,James Forton and James Haslam to make ground,before Coutts-Tucker popped up in midfield to supply the scoring pass to Mark Winter.The James Henry conversion gave Leos a twelve point lead,going into the final stages.
Ripon wanted at least a bonus point from their visit and duly earned it,when from a scrum,their centre ran a good angle to go under the posts,with the conversion added.They had time for one final attack down their right,but Mark Winter was in position to field the chip through and send the ball into touch.
An enjoyable game,played in good spirit,with perhaps an end of season feel to it.Leos now move on to Roundhegians,who will be desperate for a win,to save themselves from possible relegation.
Incidentally,the Leos RUFC site now has some 600 signed up members.Any players or supporters can register for free,merely by clicking on Members Sign Up and leaving their e- mail details,thereby receiving lots of additional information/reports and keeping in touch with Members in far flung places.
Leos:Tries Patel,Baker,Winter,Conversion: Henry Penalty Henry