Turn Turn Turn
In a game with more twists and turns than the Cresta Run at St Moritz West Park Leeds eventually overcame the determined challenge of visitors Doncaster Phoenix.
The visitors struck first with a Richard Greaves penalty from 25 metres but the hosts replied with a try featuring handling of the highest quality. Hard working flanker Sam Hopton sparked the score from inside his own half. Alistair Booth continued the move up the left wing, feeding inside to centres Stewart McLure and Andy Cromack who sent Number 8 John Fletcher striding over for a magnificent team try.
Chris Bailey-Gibbs added the conversion but when he missed touch from a penalty following the restart Phoenix ran the ball back, culminating in Number 8 Sheehan going over in the right corner to regain the lead.
Phoenix were enjoying the lion’s share of possession at this stage and the home defences were put to the test. The scrums were even, each pack turning the other in succession as the battle for ascendancy intensified. Booth put in a cracking tackle on his opposite number but another Greaves penalty extended the away lead to four points.
The visitors seemed to be suffering several injury problems as both 2nd rows went down for treatment in quick succession. A penalty inside the 22 was kicked to touch and although a big forward drive was held, Phoenix scored from the next scrum. Lively Number 8 Sheehan fed Andy Ellis, the powerful centre crashing over from close range, the conversion giving the visitors a handy 7 v 18 halftime lead.
The hosts needed the to notch the next score and it came from the distinctive form of winger Luke Gamble, blond locks flowing, who shot away from halfway, scorched past the cover and stepped the final defender to go in for a classic winger’s try. The touchline conversion attempt was just short but Bailey-Gibbs converted a penalty from in front to narrow the gap to three points.
Another turning point came on the hour mark when the referee showed a red card to one of the Phoenix props for an alleged swinging arm. West Park had already been without one of their props for ten minutes following a yellow card for going in at the side. Back to full strength, a penalty to the corner followed by a determined forward drive saw Fletcher dot the ball down for his second try of the day, taking the hosts in front for the second time.
The lead was short lived as hands in the ruck saw the visitors regain the advantage with a third Greaves penalty, from wide on the right.
Immediately from the restart Bailey-Gibbs returned the compliment with a testing kick from left of the posts, the fifth time the lead had changed hands.
The contest would be settled in the final ten minutes and West Park found the answer with two well worked tries direct from scrums. The Phoenix restart from the penalty failed to travel 10 metres, the hosts opting for a scrum on halfway. Big Ben Griffiths, on at Number 8, strode away into an open field, keeping his head to offload to the supporting Sam Hopton who showed both power and pace to break the last tackle then go over between the posts, clinching the Yorkshire Sports & Injury Clinic man of the match award in the process.
The conversion was a formality as was the last one of the day. With the scrums now uncontested, as Phoenix had lost another forward to the sin bin, scrum half Jack Bickerdike worked a cunning piece of legerdemain to send McLure in for the final try, clinching what was, ultimately, a convincing victory.
West Park now have a break over Easter to rest some weary bodies before embarking on their final two games of the season, away to Selby then at home to champions elect Barnsley.