March 15 2012
Thanks to the decision makers at Sky Television, this weeks Championship Pool B local derby between Leeds and Rotherham will kick off at 12.15. Many fans of both clubs will not be able to get to Headingley at this time, commitments to junior clubs meaning some will miss the game, plus the fact it is Mothering Sunday, also being a contributing factor. Consequently, the Sky cameras will see a fairly deserted Headingley, and that in itself is not good for promoting the game at this level.
Still that minor (?) issue aside, the match gives Leeds the perfect opportunity to build on last week’s encouraging draw down inCornwall. On the basis that the clubs who make it to the next phase will almost certainly have to win their home games,Leedshave to win this game against the lowest placed qualifiers from the regular season.
The omens are good. While Leeds were scrapping down at Pirates, the Titans threw away a chance to take the scalp of the top seeded club, when they conceded 3 tries in the last 10 minutes or so of their game against Bedford, having held the lead for much of the game. Prolific points scorer Garry Law left his kicking boots at home, otherwise, the hosts would have been home and hosed long before the Blues late rally, andLeedsmust beware of conceding penalties within range of the posts. This in itself could be the biggest threat to a home victory. Rotherham have a big pack of forwards who will put the hosts’ set piece under strong pressure, and Leeds must make sure they do not get on the wrong side of the officials when they are defending their own territory.
The visitors have also announced this week, that four of their players will be moving to Premiership clubs next season, and they will also want to make their mark in their last few appearances for the club.
Despite last week’s excellent result,Leedsstill occupy third place in the pool table, and cannot afford to slip up this week. Tommy Bell is available after his international duties, and it is hard to believe the ‘points machine’ will not be in the starting line-up on Sunday, but with Stevie McColl returning successfully to the side in the number 15 jersey, I can’t see Diccon bringing Tommy back as the last line of defence.
With Michael Stephenson already declared an absentee, I hope DE resists the urge to put McColl on the wing to accommodate Bell, because for me Lee Blackett is the like for like replacement, and should take the wing spot. Joe Ford was also instrumental inLeedsperformance at The Mennaye, so maybe Tommy will have to settle for a place on the bench.
The big concern though, is the forwards. Everybody knows Rotherham will keep the game tight, andLeedshave struggled to combat this style of play throughout the season. The front row will have an enormous task as the two sets of forwards battle for early ascendancy, and maybe starting with Gareth Denman, and dropping Lockwood to the bench will help stabilise the scrum. There are endless choices in the back 5, and whoever is selected should be good enough to at least maintain parity with our neighbours. Maybe this week, experience over youth will be key in what will be a hostile confrontation, and unless injuries dictate otherwise, I expect to see a very similar line up to last weekend.
I hope the television viewers will be treated to a good game of rugby, and I think ifLeedscan hold their discipline and concentration they will gain a comfortable victory. A try scoring bonus point would certainly be welcome, and I’ll predict a 12 point winning margin, although whether that will be enough to claim maximum points I’m not sure.
In the other game in Pool B, Bedford play hosts to the Pirates, with the home side certainly buoyed by their result last week, while the Pirates will be disappointed with their effort against Leeds. A close game in prospect though, and I’ll go for a narrow home victory to put the Blues in the driving seat for a semi final spot.
Hopefully a few Titans fans will make the trip to Headingley, and they will receive a warm welcome. Whichever side you support, enjoy the game.
Great preview Hax.
Close Leeds win on Sunday.