Promising Start to New Year by Walsall
Walsall 41 Leek 8
Walsall produced one of their best performances of the season as they gained a bonus point victory over their North Staffordshire rivals. The loss, through an injury sustained in training, of lock forward Mike Lockett was a cause for concern. But the management would have been pleased by the performance of the whole team. They were particularly effective during the first half, when they scored three tries to establish a 22 – 3 lead. Walsall showed their attacking intentions within the first three minutes as Perkins, Gozukucuk and Crowhurst combined together well to take play close to the Leek tryline. The visitors were forced to concede a penalty which Roger Weston converted from twenty meters. Leek were also soon on the scoreboard as Sam Hunt put over a thirty meter kick after a Walsall player had strayed offside. Indeed, there seemed to be a plethora of offside decisions against both teams during the afternoon. Walsall, however, seemed determined to sustain their quick tempo approach, and within five minutes Crowhurst, Sayce and Edwards set up another sweeping attack. This resulted in a scrum which saw the Walsall pack surge forward with No8 Gozukucuk going over for the try. The hosts also showed some good kicking skills to secure good attacking positions. It was a well-placed Will Hennessey kick that set up the next Walsall score. They secured the lineout ball that saw flanker Matt James break off and stroll over for the touchdown which Weston converted. The host’s final score of the half came as a result of a counter attack involving Crowhurst, Sayce and Edwards. Although the Leek defence managed to stop this attack, they failed to bring down full back Crowhurst as he went over near the corner flag. Captain, Roger Weston, then put over an excellent touchline conversion.
It was a similar pattern of play during the early stages of the second half, as good ball carries by Gozukucuk,Taylor and Weaver created a good attacking position. But, on this occasion, Walsall were guilty of some poor passing and soon found themselves scrambling back to defend a visitor’s counter attack. During the next ten minutes the hosts were under intense pressure as the visitors were being awarded penalties and were quick to move the ball. Once again, some terrific tackling by James, Taylor, Hennessey and Watkins repelled the Leek attacks. Eventually, a sixty meters clearance kick by Hennessey gave his team a good attacking position. They continued to press forward with hooker Aston and Gozukucuk making defence breaking carries. Scrum half Ainger was quick to move the ball and a long pass found Zak Edwards in space. The young winger showed good speed to beat the defence over fifteen meters and go over for his first try for Walsall, which Weston converted. The loss of Crowhurst with a leg injury at this stage will be a cause for concern for future games. It was a similar, run and support, approach that gave the hosts their next score. Good passing resulted in Tom Thorley beating the defence for another touchdown. Once again, Weston was on target with a difficult conversion. The visitors continued to show a willingness to move the ball, and with seven minutes left to play, Sam Hunt ran through some lazy Walsall defending for his team’s only try of the game. However, there was still time for the hosts to add to their try tally. Another powerful Hal Gozukucuk ball carry was followed by quick passing which gave winger Brandon Sayce the room to go over for a try near the corner flag to complete the scoring.