Roundhegians 15 v Leos 17
Leos win close fought derby encounter
Leos paid their first visit to Chelwood Drive for a number of seasons,after Roundhegians successful promotion campaign as Yorkshire 3 champions last season.Hegians have found this season more difficult and Leos gained a comfortable early season success at Crag Lane.
Hegians have improved as the year has progressed,including important victories over local rivals Moortown and West Leeds.Leos travelled in confident mood,seeking their fifth win from the last six games,but unusually for this season,suffered three late withdrawals through injuries,but were fortunate to be able to welcome back James Lund, Gareth Chesters and James Haslam.
On another delightful afternoon,Leos took good travelling support,including many distinguished - old - members including Paul Marshall who had flown over from France and Messrs Collard,Brighten,Freeman,Drake and Martin.
Leos established early territorial control,through the boot of Nick Wainwright and an early strike against the head,by the front row of Dave Robinson, James Forton and Ed Connell.However,the home defence was tight,with little space for the normally dangerous Leos threequarters.
In broken play,James Lund was proving his usual elusive self on his return from long term injury,whilst there were glimpses of the pace of Neal Liu,when returning clearance kicks.Relegation threatened Hegians were clearly in determined mood,rarely missed a tackle and were perhaps the hungrier at the break down.
Hegians were the first to score on 17 mins,when Leos were penalised for coming in from the side and their scrum half Alex Jones struck the 30m goal.Leos tried to respond,when James Knibbs Gareth Chesters and James Haslam combined to put James Lund away,but he was held in the corner.
Leos continued to probe via Nick Wainwright and James Henry,but even they couldn't find any weakness in the home defence.Neal Liu and James Lund again attacked down the right,but a good cover tackle put the winger Natahan Lowis into touch.Dispite territorial dominace,helped by the lineout work of James Debenham,Leos lacked the cutting edge of recent weeks which was largely down to the tremendous determination of the hegians side,knowing they needed a victory to prevent there relegation and slide back to Yorkshire 3.
Roundhegians increased their lead on 30 mins,when somewhat generously,the referee allowed two 'flat' passes from the base of a scrum,but their left centre Jack Hoper and wing James Mc Lean combined well to go some 50m and score in the corner.
Against the run of play,the home side were eight points clear and showing exactly what spirit and determination can achieve.Finally Leos showed what they were made of when James Forton took another strike against the head,James Henry quickly fed Mark Winter who attacked the retreating defence,beat his opposite man and side stepped the full back,for an Alan Hardisty try under the sticks showing once more his great turn of speed and agility.The James Henry conversion put Leos one point behind on 37 mins.
With Leos congratulating themselves,they again allowed the kick off to bounce,Roundhegians regathered,drove down their left and although Leos repulsed the initial attack,Hegians had the momentum and drove over at the second time of asking from close range via captain andrew childs.The difficult conversion was added by Alex Jones to put Hegians 15 - 7 clear at half time.
Its fair to say that Coach Greenwood was not impressed with the first half attitude and left the players to relect on their performance,before contributing a few choice words of his own during the half time break.
The situation wasn't helped by hooker James Forton having to leave the field at half time, with a shoulder injury having had a great impact in the front row in the first 40 minutes and was replaced by prop Simon Dowling so disrupting one effective part of the Leos game.The versatile Dave Barden took over the line out throwing in duties.
The Leos attitude immediately appeared to improve,helped by enthusiastic drives from Simon Dowling and supported by fellow props Dave Robinson and Ed Connell.It was clear however that Hegians had more to play for and won two penalties early in the half,but both went wide.
James Knibbs tried to inspire Leos with determined runs,Stuart Baker became more involved,Nick Wainwright looked for runners off the mauls and James Henry secured better field position,yet still the home defence held firm.
A powerful run from Gareth Chesters finally broke the first line of defence,Simon Dowling took the ball on and as Nick Wainwright was about to pick up and score,Hegians killed the ball,just 15m out.Only a penalty resulted via James Henry but the margin was down to five points on 55 mins.
Leos then put together their first trademark attacking rugby of the game.The first wave of attack came via Will Levitt, James Lund and Mark Winter,but was repelled.
The clearance was claimed by Nick Wainwright and Stuart Baker who again attacked the heart of the Hegians defence,but the ball was somewhat mysteriously turned over and hacked down field.however,the third wave consisted of Neal Liu eluding three defenders,handing on to the powerful Gareth Chesters,who,although taken to ground,brilliantly off loaded to the supporting James Haslam,for the former County schoolboy player,to show impressive power and speed to round the last elements of a defence and touch down under the posts.
The 58min conversion by James Henry,finally put Leos ahead at 15 - 17.
The normally reliable James Henry was then wide with a penalty shot,given for holding on at the ruck,followed shortly thereafter as a long distance attempt,shaved the outside of a post from 40m.
Richie Howells replaced Will Levitt for the last 10 mins,as the home side made a final attempt to snatch victory.Leos had to defend for five minutes,with important tackles around the fringes from both Ed Connell Dave Barden ,Dave Robinson and solid mid field defence from James Knibbs and Mark Winter. Eventually Nick Wainwright got his hands on the ball,allowing James Henry to clear.
The game was still not safe,as the home side won a long distance penalty,but the 45m attempt fell wide and short.Nick Burdon replaced James Haslam for the last moments,before the final whistle giving Leos a narrow two point victory.
An enjoyable but hard fought game, but now hegians are staring at relegation and it does set up what may well prove to be a relegation decider with West Park Leeds on the final saturday of the season.
Leos entertain Doncaster Phoenix next week in the final home game of the season,before a couple of midweek away games to finish the long season.With Neal Liu guaranteeing his availability for both these games,he was somewhat coincidentally nominated as your correspondents outstanding individual and Man of the Match!
Report Peter Cooke
Leos Tries: Winter, Haslam, Conversions: Henry x2 Penalty: Henry
RoundhegiansTries: McLean,Childs Penalty: Jones Conversion: Jones