The top of the table clash at Headingley Carnegie stadium on Sunday afternoon was a bruising encounter between two sides who are heading to the end of season play-offs. The weather conditions appeared to restrict the style of play of both teams and it soon became a war of attrition between the forwards.
The Carnegie players seemed to approach the match with the same trepidation as I did, showing the visitors far too much respect in the early exchanges. The Exiles went about their business in a workmanlike and efficient way. Their pack made good ground with the ball and defended ferociously when we had possession. They scored first after about 10 minutes and kicked a penalty.
Carnegie were fielding debutant Tom Catterick at flyhalf. He missed two kicks at goal in the first half hour before going off with a knee injury. In that brief debut he had made a couple of decent breaks where, had he had some support, we might have prospered.
Once Tom had gone off we were without a recognised 10 in the squad. Pete Lucock stepped up and showed us why he never plays at halfback. Despite the chaos in the backs we were, I thought, matching the Irish up front. The hits going in from both sides were enormous. I gasped with disbelief when Arscott got up after an almighty tackle saw him hit the dirt at a rate of knots.
We ended the half with no points on the board and at this point were staring down the barrel of a big defeat. There was no way we could match their intensity for another 40 minutes. Surely not?
Well we got a break when the ref, who had an excellent game, awarded us a penalty try. McColl thumped over the extras and an Irish player went to the bin. Here was a chance at 7-13 down! However the visitors showed their class when they rumbled over our line with a man in the bin. 7-20 with the clock against us. I felt our lineout worked well with West and Myerscough both securing good ball . Steve McColl added 15 yards to our touch kicking with his booming boot. We kept pushing the Exiles back but their defence remained brutal and resolute.
Until, close to the end we produced a moment of magic. Green shipped the ball to Lucock on the short side infront of the South Stand. Pete whipped to ball to Chris Elder who made 20 yards before feeding Jonah Holmes. This was the half chance he had been waiting for and he raced in from the 22 leaving the defenders trailing in his wake. Our last chance vanished when a towering kick to the corner failed to make touch and the referee called time.
We had salvaged a losing bonus point from a match that we had never looked like winning, especially when we lost a key man so early on. The whole squad gave their all for 80 minutes. We cannot ask for any more than that. Trying to pick a MoM from a squad that gave so much is never going to be easy. Elder and Holmes were the pick of the backs. In the pack the whole back row were immense but the man who stood out for me, in a team full of heroes, was Richard Mayhew so he gets my bottle of pop this week.
I imagined that, after 3 successive defeats, I would be quite pessimistic today. On the contrary the performance that the lads put in yesterday was so intense that I can now see the playoffs in a different light. We now know that we can go head to head with the league leaders and match them for intensity. More importantly, in my view, Jonah has shown us that we can open up there much vaunted defence.
Great effort from the squad. I felt sorry for Pete. In my opinion he's one of our stand out centres and perming two from him, Casson and Forsyth is a difficult task. So well done for stepping up into the 10 slot. Bet he can't wait to get back into the middle of the park !!
Wee Stevie put in a good shift. He's clearly frustrated but remains a shadow of his former self. Didn't understand why, having missed a booming touch at the end, he didn't take a quick throw in when he fielded the return. Were we just protecting our point?
Good write up. Considering everything that happened, we can move forward with confidence. After Cattericks injury, we had Lucock, Forsyth and Elder playing out of position against the best team in the league. I thought Lucock and Green did well considering what had gone on.
Have to question the merit of signing Beesley. Charlie played the full 80 minutes yesterday and put in an enormous shift, but was that a consequence of having an inexperienced player on the bench?
I thought we finished the game the stronger of the two sides, and Irish were glad to hear the final whistle. Rich Mayhew was a tower yesterday, and once our 'Bash Street Kids', Plug and Smiffy came on, our line out looked much better.
COME ON LEEDS.
We've been through it all together.
Thank you WW , and I cannot debate any of your write up. I thought Tom Catterick looked very solid until he missed a hardish kick at the sticks in the conditions. Possibly too soon after he had chance of a sitter and missed.
Would Joe have got 6 points , possibly , but it would certainly have made the final score more exciting.
Question ? Did Stevie M miss another boomer to the corner in the first half, as well as at the death.
I think that Stevie's miss at the end of the match was a "do or die" attempt at getting an improbable victory. Full marks that he at least tried, given his recent form/treatment it would have been easy to have kicked, RL style, into the crowd about 20 metres in front, thus attracting no criticism.
He did have to go for it, but it is the little things like not finding touch from penalties that stack up against you in a tight game. Safety first.
In general, the Irish kicking, and chasing, was better than ours yesterday, but we can work on that.
COME ON LEEDS.
We've been through it all together.
The Irish defence at the breakdown is well organised and excellent. The team worked their socks off no doubt. We need a settled team now above all else to be in best nick for the playoffs. I hope Catterick is not crocked as he looked good in open play. Arscott fitted in well too.
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