By Jeff Ball
September 29 2012
Falcons take the full five point spoils in the North East ‘derby’
Somewhat hubristically I had already picked my admittedly cringeworthy headline somewhere around Friday lunchtime after Leipy had asked for volunteers to write a match report of the game that night. Thankfully the Falcons delivered a result that matched the title and put Leeds to the sword with seven tries to win the game 53-10.
Despite an excellent ticket offer by the club, less than 5,000 were in attendance on a crisp and dry-ish night. Well, I assume it was that many from what I’ve read on the message boards here as I still couldn’t hear the PA system which is quickly becoming an irritating feature of the matchday experience.
With the grizzly Carlo del Fava and local lad Mark Wilson making their first starts of the season, Dean Richards picked the majority of the side from the Pirates game with Joel Hodgson pleasingly continuing at 10.
Leeds, who had a great second half the week earlier against Bristol, decided to rotate their side, something that irked the Leeds fans and brought suggestions they didn’t expect to win the game and were protecting their key players.
No matter, you can only play what is in front of you and the Falcons got under way with the pack continuing their dominance this season and driving Jonny Golding over from short range.
Joe, brother of George and son of Mike, Ford got Leeds underway with a penalty that faded and curled itself seemingly over the upright but after an age the touch judges raised their flags, albeit not with huge conviction.
But for a well worked converted move in the second half that was scored in the corner by fullback Stevie McColl, who was possibly Leeds’ most dangerous player, Leeds didn’t trouble the scoreboard operator further.
The operator in fact didn’t have much to do in the first half, as the Falcons only took a 17-3 lead into the changing rooms, James Hudson scoring after his charge down had lead to the chance and a Jimmy Gopperth penalty and conversion making up the rest.
It should have been closer but for a supreme cover tackle from Gopperth who forced the knock on from McColl who had all of three metres to go to score.
With the forwards being the more profitable unit in the first half, it seemed like the bonus point was still achievable against a resolute but slowly tiring Leeds defence, but it would maybe not be pretty. The backs seemed to lack invention again as they failed to build on the few line breaks they made, the ball going sideways or to forwards guilty of glory hunting out in the backline.
However, Luke Fielden was held up early in the second half following a move that showed a bit more spark from the backs, Joel Hodgson trying hard to get those outside him going.
Next to cross the line was Rob “it wasn’t millimetres, it was at least four metres” Vickers who scored, ironically, from millimetres out, burrowing over at shin height.
With the gap at 27-3 the Falcons seemed to start to relax and enjoy themselves as Leeds began to fatigue and Gopperth was allowed to sneak over after Hodgson and Catterick mis-stepped the defence and put the kiwi in.
Bonus point secured, gaps started to appear more and more in the defence and Fielden got his try at the second time of asking, a good pass from Lawson who had a solid if unspectacular game put him around the outside of the defence and he sprinted down the wing from about half way with no one able to get near him. The South Stand enjoyed that one almost as much as his shoulder-bump celebration with his team mates.
It looked like it was going to be a third consecutive game of only conceding three points until Leeds got their try, but the deficit was quickly restored when the forwards showed their strength once again and won a converted penalty try.
Like against Doncaster with the final whistle beckoning, Gopperth got his second of the night after a weaving run by scrum-capped Alex Crockett and kicked the conversion to make the final score 53-10.
So, another five pointer means we stretch our lead at the top and another one of the ‘tough games’ passes by without too much worry. Leeds put up a strong fight in the first half before fading in the second and it was no coincidence that the Falcons performance rose correspondingly.
The forwards continued to dominate the set pieces, a few early lineouts did wobble but this seemed to be from del Fava making his first outing and being unfamiliar with the calls but they weren’t too conspicuous beyond that. The fact this guy called Penalty scored another is testament to a forward unit working hard together. Hudson and Hogg, again were stand out players in a front 8 where everyone impressed. Meanwhile Hodgson and Gopperth were the best players in the back line.
Catterick again made a good show of it and is deserving of a try soon for the work he does. He just needs to back himself to go around the outside more as he was guilty of cutting inside a few times that interrupted the flow, but that’ll come with more exposure.
Tane and Crockett so far seems to be our best centre partnership and defensively were rocks. In attack, there is still more that could be done, namely Tane carrying the ball in two hands, something that angers the junior rugby coach in me every time.
The experiment of Jimmy and Joel and 10 & 15 seems to be working and is one Richards may well persevere with a bit longer. Hogg got man of the match but Hodgson for his work rate and ambition would have got it from me if he had stayed on just a bit longer.
Overall then, an improvement on the strangely flat Doncaster game and yet another statement of intent. Next up are the cup games and a chance to rotate the squad. With the greatest respect to the forthcoming opposition, another 53 points or more could well be on the cards.