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1st XV - Match centre

West Park Leeds
Pocklington
Sat 23 Apr 15:00 - Northern Division - Yorkshire Division Two Full time

I've Got a Flair

West Park Leeds produced a display of dogged determination and no little flair to stop the league champions in their tracks.

The opening stages saw pretty much one way traffic as the out of sorts visitors conceded a string of penalties. Sam Booth opening the scoring with a kick from the 22 after just three minutes. The lead was extended when Stewart McLure broke to the away 22. The move seemed to have died but the centre managed to offload to flanker Graham Foxton who timed his run from deep to perfection then showed real pace to burst under the posts to give Booth a simple conversion.

Five minutes later a well-struck Booth effort from the left increased the lead to 13 points. The game could have been almost over had not Andy Cromack been recalled by the referee for a home scrum when put clean away by McLure while a couple of other chances went begging when the last man clung on instead of releasing the ball.

Pocklington finally awoke from a lethargic start but hooker Richard Storey pulled off a clever interception only for the ball to be turned over inside the 22. Sam Booth produced a great tackle on the opposition fullback while Luke Gamble, operating out of position at openside flanker, did the same.

The visitors eventually got on the scoreboard with the first of Nick Bennett’s five penalties five minutes from the interval. Right on halftime another penalty was kicked to the corner. The Pocklington pack drove over from the line out, the try being awarded to Chris Morton although the prop appeared to lose control of the ball in the act of grounding.

Pocklington changed their tactics in the second half, kicking deep and taking the game to the hosts who seemed to go into their shells for a spell. Three further Bennett penalties allowed the visitors to edge in front just after the hour mark but West Park weren’t done yet. Turnover ball just outside the 22 saw the home backs move the ball infield to Ali Booth. The winger ghosted through the centres then stepped on the gas to sprint round behind the posts for a sensational try.

Booth’s conversion took the hosts three points clear but within two minutes another Bennett penalty had tied the scores. The visitors had bombed a clear try scoring opportunity but the hosts had two more chances to win the game. First fly half Cromack kicked ahead a loose ball near halfway. Ali Booth collected, easily winning the race to the line – is there a faster winger in Yorkshire Two? – but was ruled to be, marginally, in front of the kicker. Namesake Sam Booth then burst through midfield, looking set to go all the way with support on the outside but being brought down by a try saving tackle.

In the final analysis the two points achieved may prove vital in preserving the club’s Yorkshire Two status but this performance showed that the squad is more than capable of living with the best the league has to offer.

We wish Pocklington well on their promotion to Yorkshire One. In the meantime West Park travel to Old Rishworthians on Saturday looking for the win that could ensure they are free to pursue a similar ambition next season.

Below is the somewhat more downbeat opposition report -

Pocklington's Yorkshire Two championship winning season ended in something of an anti-climax with a draw in their last league game at West Park Leeds.

Several factors could be pointed to. With the title already in the bag, perhaps the game was less important for Pocklington than West Park - who had belatedly found their best form to drag themselves out of the relegation dogfight - and perhaps most crucially, several players were showing signs of fatigue and injury from their seven-a-side exertions the previous day.

Yara sponsored Pocklington made a sleepy start and quickly found themselves behind as West Park kicked a third minute penalty. Pocklington continued to be on the back foot as they were regularly penalised by the referee and made a series of handling errors. It got worse for the visitors as they missed a first up tackle in midfield and West Park poured through for a converted try. And when West Park kicked a second penalty it put them 13 points up in as many minutes.

Pocklington had to dig deep into their reserves of stamina and battle back. They finally started to keep the ball and skipper Matt Webber gave them some go forward with a series of strong carries. A couple of turnovers took them onto the attack and Nick Bennett opened their account with a penalty on the half hour.

Pocklington's improvement continued and a good back move saw them come close as they got the ball wide left. A penalty was kicked to the corner and from a lineout catch and drive prop Chris Morton got the try.

But Pocklington were still some way from their clinical best and their inconsistency was shown with the last move of the first half as a promising attack ended with them giving away a needless penalty to allow West Park to clear.

Bennett's second penalty got his side back to 13-11 and the momentum looked to be swinging Pocklington's way. Scrum half Ben Rees was prominent in a couple of raids down the right that ended with flanker Ben Stephenson being held up in goal by desperate home defence. From the scrum centre Joe Holbrough cut through only to have the ball knocked from his grasp as he went for the line. Finally Pocklington turned the pressure into points and Bennett's third penalty put them ahead for the first time.

Lock Tom Peters made an important tackle to snuff out a home breakaway, then fullback Bennett and fly half Henry Mitchell drilled long kicks back into the corners. Good offloads and forward driving again stepped up the pressure for Bennett to make it 17-13 with another penalty. With their season long ability to close out the game the betting was now on Pocklington. But disaster struck from the restart, another straightforward tackle was missed and West Park romped in for another converted try.

Pocklington went back onto the attack, Joe Holbrough's strong run set up the position and Bennett's fifth penalty success tied it up a 20-20. The premature final whistle soon after ensured the honours were shared and left Pocklington scratching their heads - not knowing whether to be relieved for twice coming from behind to get back on terms, or frustrated for not going on to win after getting their noses in front in the last quarter.

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League round up

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League table

# Team Pl Pts
8. Hullensians 26 63
9. Ripon 26 57
10. Doncaster Phoenix 26 57
11. West Leeds 26 45
12. West Park Leeds 26 42
13. Roundhegians 26 36
14. Old Rishworthians 26 6

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