Injury Hit Walsall Team Struggle to Contain Leek
Leek 26 Walsall 7
Walsall travelled to North Staffordshire with a squad of players that was already depleted through injuries. Experienced players like Simon Weaver
,Matt James and Jack Crowhurst were all forced to miss this latest encounter. This would be a particularly painful experience for prop forward Weaver, being forced to miss only his third game of the last one hundred Walsall matches! Unavailability also deprived the Delves Road team of the services of Mike Lockett and JB Lucak. This meant that teenager George Green
would make his first start, as did flanker Elliot Clarke
. They faced a Leek team that had already secured a convincing win in their opening league game and will undoubtedly be pushing for promotion at the end of the season.
The hosts displayed great confidence during the first few minutes as they soon pushed forward deep into the Walsall half. The first try was scored after only five minutes. The Leek forwards carried strongly and the ball was released to their strong running backs. But a long pass was intercepted by Will Hennessey and the teenager then outpaced his pursuers over eighty meters to score a try which he then converted.
Superb defence saw the visitors maintain their advantage for most of the first half. But eventually the hosts piled on the pressure with prop forward Joe Taylor squirming over for the try which Sam Hunt converted to level the scores. The visitors could have added to their score just before the interval. No8 Hal Gozukucuk broke clear and had winger Jordan McColl
in support. But the referee failed to apply any advantage and just signalled for a Walsall penalty!
It was a similar pattern to the game for most of the second half as the visitors continued to defend well and just try and launch attacks whenever they secured the ball. Fifteen minutes of the half had been played when a try from close range by scrum half Drew gave the hosts the lead with Hunt adding the conversion. This was added to seven minutes later as the Leek forwards retained possession until the ball was moved which resulted in centre Palmer crossing for a score near the corner flag.
Walsall suffered further injuries which resulted in all of their replacements being used with fifteen minutes still to be played. However, during this final period of the game, the visitors had several promising attacks with Nico Watkins
and George Perkins
making decisive breaks. They were awarded several kickable penalties, but opted to go for the tries. The Leek defence stood firm and with two minutes left, winger Bulitautini, finished off a prolonged period of pressure with a try which Hunt converted.
Although Leek dominated possession, the Walsall team were competitive throughout and could have added to their final scoreline.