Slip Sliding Away
West Park Leeds slipped to a disappointing defeat at Leos that saw them slide further down the league standings in the hunt for an elusive promotion spot.
The sides looked well matched in the opening stages but an early break by Chris Bailey-Gibbs was to be one of several that lacked the vital support to apply the finishing touch.
Monty Wainwright took on the home kicking duties but was off target with an early shot at goal, making amends after fifteen minutes to give the hosts the lead. West Park fly half Bailey-Gibbs returned the compliment on the half hour but the game was tense and far from flowing. Two tight defences dominated proceedings while the visitors did an excellent job of incurring the referee’s displeasure whenever they got within strike range.
The deadlock was eventually broken when quick hands stretched the away defence to allow Neil Liu to squeeze in at the corner. The conversion attempt was short but Bailey-Gibbs made no mistake when adding the extras to Luke Gamble’s try after the powerful wingman cashed in on a fumble at the back of a lineout to pick a good line through the away defence to touch down at the side of the posts.
Holding a slender 8 v 10 halftime lead the sizable West Park following was hoping that their men would kick on in the second half but it almost seemed that the more The Sycamores men tried the less they achieved.
Their outside defence was found wanting again early in the second period, centre James Knibbs taking an inside ball to crash over on the left.
Jason Whitehead entered the fray at fullback, departing to the sin bin almost immediately as he was judged to have committed a foul in the tackle. A Wainwright penalty from close range took the home lead to six points. A converted try would still win the day.
The visitors mounted a series of close range scrums, a score looking imminent but once again a penalty relieved the home pressure. Wainwright missed again from further out and with a restored full complement West Park mounted a desperate late series of assaults, aided by a penalty count now rising inexorably in the reverse direction.
Slow but steady progress was being made against an implacable defence until, with time almost up, a loose pass inside was snapped up in midfield by home winger Liu who sped away to the posts, the simple conversion rubbing salt into a gaping wound.
Realistically, the result signals an end to West Park’s promotion chase but it is still important that the season finishes on a high note, starting with Saturday’s home meeting with Doncaster Phoenix.