Walsall Struggle Again
Walsall 20 Leek 33
Walsall’s poor start to the new year continued as they suffered their first home defeat of the season. Promotion rivals Leek, secured a fairly comfortable bonus point victory which has pushed them closer to the play off position. Unfortunately, Walsall were forced to make changes because of unavailabilities. Teenager Will Hennessey made only his second start of the season, as did hooker Luke Pittaway. While, winger Jack Crowhurst returned to action after nearly a year on the side lines because of injury.
The hosts made a positive start with young Hennessey making a strong tackle that resulted in the team gaining possession. Some good running saw a scoring chance being created. However, their player’s handling and passing skills was exposed when under pressure and this, and other opportunities were wasted. It was then that the visitors secured the first score as McDermott put over a thirty-meter penalty after nine minutes. But Roger Weston soon levelled the scores with a well struck thirty five meter kick four minutes later. The next score saw the Leek pack use their lineout possession to good effect as No8 Joel Booth went over for the first try. Walsall, to their credit, hit back in style with a superb eighty meters try scoring attack. Fly half Matt Wood got his three quarters moving and when the ball reached Crowhurst on the wing, he kicked on. This was chased and collected and then moved to Mitch Carless in support. He kicked on again as he was being caught and then winger Sam Garbutt outsprinted the Leek defenders to win the race for the touchdown. Weston’s conversion gave his team a two point advantage. This period of brilliance was then followed by moments of embarrassment as the hosts failed to clear the ball out of defence on several occasions. Eventually, this resulted in Leek being presented with possession and then flanker Conlon danced his way through some feeble Walsall tackling for a try near the goal posts which McDermott converted. The hosts finished the half strongly with No8 Rod Dickson making a good run before being hauled down. The visitors were penalised, but on this occasion Weston was just wide with his thirty five meter effort.
Walsall used some of their replacements early in the second half. But they soon found themselves further behind as McDermott kicked another penalty after a Walsall scrum was penalised. Five minutes later it was the tackle area that resulted in the hosts being penalised and McDermott added the three points from twenty five meters. It was not long before Walsall started to show more confidence in their attacking play. Centre Rob Angell looked to breakthrough, but for the second successive week, he was stopped by a high tackle. This resulted in McDermott being sinbinned and Weston kicking a forty meter penalty.
Despite only having fourteen players, Leek continued to dominate the game for long periods and showed the hosts how to control and maintain possession. This was in contrast to Walsall as they put themselves under unnecessary pressure as they failed to retain the ball. They lost possession in open play and the visitors were quick to pounce on the ball and move it out wide for winger Graham to get the touchdown with Sam Hunt kicking a good conversion. It was a similar scenario seven minutes later. This time it was Hunt who scored the try, but missed the conversion on this occasion. The final ten minutes of the game saw Walsall produce some rare moments of sustained periods of pressure. During this time Dean Ainger finished off an attack with a thirty meter run after Dickson had again made the initial break. Weston added the conversion to give his team a chance of getting close enough for a losing bonus point, at least. The final seven minutes saw the hosts have virtually all of the possession. The visitors defended superbly, while also being reduced to thirteen players as they suffered a yellow and then a red card! The latter because of a dangerous tackle. Walsall, however, failed to take advantage of their numerical superiority and will, undoubtedly, have to improve their game during the coming weeks.