Leos Make it 10 Wins from 10
First team maintain 100% win record that began in November
On a blustery, and at sometimes rainy, February afternoon, Leos first team faced a Wath side sitting in a clear 4th place in Yorkshire 2, only 2 places and 6 points behind the hosts but with a game in hand. Whilst Leos have hit a run of form and with the benefit of home advantage, it wasn't long ago Wath turned around a 0 - 21 deficit to win the reverse fixture with a late drop goal and both teams will have had expectations of taking the points.
With the previous weekend being a free league weekend, there were several changes to the home side in the fortnight since the last outing. Leos welcomed back Mark Cooke at FB after the consistent Jack Haire pulled out late in the week with a broken thumb, Will Watkinson (9) and Tom Piggott (2nd Row) returning from the slopes and James Atwell (back row) returning to Leeds to study for the Hilary Term.
A strong wind would prove difficult for either side facing it to utilise any real kicking game option and it was Leos who faced the gusts in the first half. After and even start, several penalties gave the visitors territorial advantage and despite eventually securing a turn over, Leos attempting to run the ball from their own 22 were caught out being too flamboyant and it was ultimately George Faulkner who presented a well taken interception opportunity for the Wath winger who once secured, had an easy run in for the opening score. 0-5.
Leos learnt from this mistake and respecting the conditions, kept the ball tight and ground their way into the opposition 22. What followed was 10 minutes of predominately classic forward style, pick and go or one out pass attacking. Wath defended well and on several occasions looked to have cleared the danger only to be pinned back down. After sustained pressure it was likely whoever won this mini battle resulting in either a Leos score or Wath clearly the lines, would take a moral if not numerical advantage that could prove decisive for the wider result on the day. In the end, Leos pressure was the victor with the direct attacks proved to be one too many for Wath defence as player coach Paul Gabriel picked up from the base of the ruck and fed Mike Pritchard-Howarth (MPH) for his first score of the afternoon. Any easy kick from under the sticks from captain Ed Farmer making it 7-5.
From the restart, Leos continued to exert pressure both from an aggressive defensive line forcing Wath errors and a lively attack. Will Watkinson was sniping from 9 and it wasn't long before one of these attacks broke through the D-line and with Will seemly tripping himself after stepping the Wath FB, veteran tight head Alan Benn was in support to take the pop and score his first try in a Leos shirt under the sticks. Well done Benny. 14-5.
The remainder of the half saw a continuation of strong defence and direct attack with both sides playing some good rugby given the conditions. Leos will have been thrilled to lead at the break having faced the worst of the conditions.
The second half saw the handicap reversed and immediately Leos took advantaged and after gaining a penalty, they were able to kick to the opposition 22 from a midfield position and mount a pre-planned attack from the lineout. What followed was the stuff of a coach's wet dream as a pre worked move off the back of the lineout went from the jumper, back to the hooker looping round, to 9 Watkinson, to 10 Farmer to 12 McDaid, back inside to 2nd row Piggott who executed a text book draw and give on the Wath FB to give MPH his 2nd try of the afternoon. Skipper Ed Farmer hit the post and narrowly missed the extras. 19-5.
Its worth pointing out purely as a reminder, at this point that whilst having an outstanding game both in set piece, defence and particularly in attack, at the time of writing Tom Piggott still owed his match subs.
Farmer soon made up for a missing the conversion when after a brief period of pressure with Wath trying to run out of their own 22 against the wind, much the same as Leos did in the first half, a small error led to a try for the opposition. This time a charge down saw Farmer collect his own charge and score under the posts for another easy conversion. 26-5.
That was it as far as the score board was concerned. Wath did mount a resilient fight back camping themselves and drawing several penalties in Leos 22 for the best part of 10 minutes. With a similar scenario to the first half after this much pressure it was again Leos who won this small but important battle by ultimately tackling their way to Wath spilling the ball and clearing the lines. The last 10 minutes were scrappy, both sides not giving up but also realising the result was decided. Wath had the majority of position but Leos defence were equal to their attacks.
One highlight was a superb performance by Front Row Replacement Si Dowling who made an impact dominating tackles and strong carries. Another crowd pleaser was another replacement Tom Leddy who after failing to bring down the Wath number 8 several times was warned by the coach that if he tackled like that again he'd be "pulled off". Tom indeed tackled like that for the remainder the game, often looking nervously at the touch line. Reports are unclear as to whether or not the threat has yet been carried out
Overall, Leos demonstrated a desire to win the collision and dominate tackles often sending the ball carrier backwards and this was ultimately the differentiator. At the end Wath looked unsure how they would break down the Leos line and but for an early interception, they did not. Special mention to MPH MoM performance but it was a day for the whole pack and collective team defence to be proud.
Leos 2nds and 3rds also recorded impressive wins against Ilkley 3rds and Mods 2nds respectively making it 3 wins for the boys from The Crag. A huge test next week with only 7 games remaining in Yorkshire 2 as the ones travel to top of the league Goole in what is likely to be an important game dictating the final league positions come season end.