The penultimate day of November saw the 1s take on Leeds Medic at Bawtry Road under the lights in the annual NAMs competition. As it was NAMs a large squad had been selected with the majority of the starting line up from the glorious defeat away at Pontefract at the weekend. The warm up was particularly essential given the frost that was already coating much of the pitch, with the spectators huddled on the balcony desperately trying to keep warm using a combination of pints, chips and questionable chat. This chat was personified perhaps by the fashion conscious Hugh Harding who was heard to ask if the printer had run out whilst creating Leeds half white-half maroon. Harry Robinson also put on his favourite cracked record repeatedly questioning whether the Leeds players ‘wanted it’.
Sheffield started well, taking a leaf out of the Saturday opposition play book as a strong maul saw a penalty won in the Leeds 22. They then thought they had the early score but were pinged for having hands in the ruck and despite maintaining pressure from a good line out steal, this pressure came to nothing as a case of frozen banter hands knocked the ball on. Leeds then countered and some strong running broke through a number of Sheffield defenders on the short side as they almost went coast to coast to enter the Sheffield 22 for the first time and score, 0-7. Sheffield were soon on the scoreboard though (not that there is one at Bawtry) as he knocked over a penalty won by some good back row snaffling.
Leeds then stole the ball from the side of the ruck (seen by all watching 60m away on the balcony but not the official) and were nearly in again but Sheffield cleaned up to prevent what would have been a sporting miscarriage of justice. Refalo was putting himself about on his wing and was hammered into touch although a few soft words of reassurance from Papa Cox had him up and running again. Leeds kept taking it upon themselves to lose the match balls onto the roof of the pavilion (Madley had turned up by this point and looked worried) as they tried to relieve the Sheffield pressure but lose hands and some very lateral motion meant Sheffield were unable to make the most of the possession they had in the 22. It was from this 22 that Leeds scored again as more missed tackles saw another break and 7 more points, 3-14.
Seeing the backs had not done the business up to this point the forwards set a good rolling maul of another line out in the Leeds 22 and rumbled over, getting a well deserved score given the pressure and territory if nothing else. This left the score at 10-14 and it seemed as if Sheffield were going to finally click. This became more likely as Barwell was scythed down by a swinging paw from the Leeds 9, sending him arse over biscuit and causing outrage amongst the partisan crowd. The ref showed a red and with a man advantage for the rest of the game Sheffield were well placed to push for the win. Barwell to his credit soldiered on for a bit despite being in a team of medics (he is off for 2 weeks now…). Even so it was Leeds who scored next as their 12 beat most of the backline to dot down in another long range attempt.
This made it 10-19 at halftime but surely with a man advantage and Leeds still not wanting it according to Harry Sheffield would be able to get ahead and stay there? From the restart it seemed as this would be the case as the first set of incisive passes all game sent Frank over in the corner to bring it back to 15-19. Sheffield won another penalty as a Leeds man went so far off his feet he was close to the record distance for the long jump. The attacks continued but much like a spoon there was no cutting edge with Sparks getting rearranged as he straightened at the line. Currie (a fan favourite) was unlucky not to snaffle an intercept and then even more unlucky to be carded for a tip tackle given a) he went under the man and b) the man jumped making it look a lot worse than it actually was. However the referee decided that from his vantage point (wherever that was) it was a tip and so off he went.
Jindoe had made a right nuisance of himself and as he went in grinning for another turnover got a Leeds man so riled up as to lash out, seeing them reduced to 13 for 10 minutes. Usually 13 men would be game over, as with Sheffield back to 15 overlaps would appear all over the place and Leeds would begin to tire. In what was a rare foray into the Sheffield 22 however they were awarded a scrum 5m out. Things got a bit messy and despite it being a) the first set, b) six of one and half a dozen of the other in terms of infringements and c) without prior warning Leeds were awarded a penalty try, much to the disgust of George West who looked ready to punch someone with his good arm.
Things were of course a little tense by now with people unsure as to how long was left. FTG then popped up to show why he earned the ‘F’ this season as he beat/slithered past some Leeds defenders then offloaded to Sparks who went over unchallenged under the sticks. This left it at 22-26 and the tension mounted as the clock ticked down and Sheffield kept being repelled by the men in the dip dyed kit. Cam had by this stage come to join the fans on the balcony to prevent his frustrations boiling over (as if that has never happened before). Sheffield got some front foot ball but decision making was decidedly back foot and the ball was turned over, allowing Leeds to clear and causing Jindoe to explode in the middle of the pitch.
It's clear that Sheffield could and probably should have won this game. Credit to Leeds for defending with reduced numbers for three quarters of the game of course and no doubt they made it difficult but a few more balls caught and tackles made would have seen Sheffield home comfortably. It is also fair to say that injuries and exams plus some decisions did not help the SHMEDs cause but playing in the Yorkshire leagues each weekend should prepare you for this type of adversity. This was a blip but it is not the end of the Cup run and I am sure all involved will want to right some wrongs when Manchester visit before the end of term (hopefully).