The Power of Five
West Park Leeds travelled to Copley with two main objectives, first to achieve a win over already relegated Old Rishworthians and second to gain the bonus point that would make the retention of their Yorkshire Two place a mathematical certainty.
The visitors started confidently, controlling the game and quickly establishing position deep in home territory. However, there were early signs of nerves with the pace being a little frenetic. With a gusty following wind the chip ahead was employed too often but it was clear that on the fast, dry ground the pace of the visitors was going to create problems for the home men.
The point was proved when the canny Graham Foxton snapped up a loose ball outside the home 22. Breaking right, he was collared by the cover defence but managed to pass inside to fellow flanker Luke Gamble, the converted winger using his impressive speed to make the line. Oli Trace, having missed with a penalty attempt a few minutes earlier, landed an excellent conversion.
Early injuries to key men in main lineout jumper Nick Hartley and star outside centre Stewart McLure disrupted the away side with Number 8 John Fletcher having to drop into the centres where he put in a good shift. Danny Warden did a superb job at the lineout in his partner’s absence.
The hosts did well to snuff out a series of attacks but the second try finally came from a scrum on halfway. Exploiting the blindside, the visitors released winger Ali Booth who scored another high class try, beating three men on a 50 metre run to the line. Fly half Trace landed the touchline conversion and at the interval the job was half done.
Andy Cromack’s high kick to the home 22 was dropped and soon after the fullback swapped passes with Booth before diving over in the corner only for the final pass to be ruled forward. Booth carried to halfway and from the resulting scrum Trace and Fletcher broke away. Openside Gamble, having spent much of the afternoon cleaning up at the tail of the lineout, offered close support, sprinting away to the posts from where Trace nonchalantly knocked over a drop kick conversion.
Ben Fear produced a fabulous run from halfway, finding support from Craig Hardy but the prospect of the two sturdy props making it all the way to the line failed to materialise.
Assisted by a series of penalty decisions, the hosts enjoyed their best spell of the game, eventually plunging over from a close range tap for a converted try to narrow the gap to 7 v 21. The visitors were not deflected from their mission, the bonus point try arriving from a 5 metre scrum. The pack, having established dominance early on, drove over Richard Storey claiming the touchdown to send the away support into raptures. Trace repeated his drop goal party trick and it was effectively game over.
Coach Andy Stewart provided a brief cameo at the end, producing one scintillating run out of defence but quickly running out of steam as befits a man of his venerable age. There was still time for winger James Kear, giving a pretty fair impression of illustrious father John, to break from deep in his own 22 to outpace the cover then step inside the last man for a spectacular end to proceedings.
The final whistle almost certainly condemned the hosts to going through an entire season without a league win. However, the home men were gracious in defeat and with a mainly youthful squad will surely have gained from their Yorkshire Two experience.
West Park face one final game, hosting now relegated Roundhegians on Saturday. After that it will be time to reflect on a season that started off reasonably well, finished on a high note but was pretty dire at times in between. Next season’s league is shaping up to be as competitive as ever and the planning has already started.
Click onto link below for the OR take on proceedings. Quite amusing really