As the final whistle blew at The Gryphon Centre, yet another victory was assured for the dominant Leeds 2s as they continued their terrific start to the season in the Northern 3B division against Newcastle 3s, winning 52-21, their 6th victory out of 7. The win saw the Gryphons maintain their place at the top of the league as the season draws to an exciting climax.
Newcastle came to town with contrasting fortunes, as they currently prop up the division, 3 points behind fellow Gryphons, Leeds 3s. The visitors expected a tough game after being turned over 41-24 in the reverse fixture in October, and after tasting defeat in the league for the first time against York last week, Leeds were determined to give them exactly that.
With neither side able to get any sort of rhythm going early on, the match started sloppily, as the scoreboard was hardly tested in the first 5 minutes, with only 3 points apiece. The game was crying out for an injection of pace and creativity, a bit of flair.
Step forward Sarah Haynes, playing at goal attack. From the first whistle to the last Haynes was a constant buzz of energy, hovering around court like a wasp in search of food. The Newcastle defence would have preferred a wasp compared to the relentless attitude of Haynes, as she set up goal shooter Clare Steele for numerous opportunities. From 3-3 the score soon turned in Leeds’ favour, as they closed the first quarter leading 8-3. Steele herself was putting on a show in the goal shooter role, on one occasion receiving a ball overhead while on the run seamlessly, making it look like she was plucking an apple from the tree. In one rapid movement she has then landed, pivoted and scored, with all the grace of a ballerina on stage. Whilst Steele was pirouetting with aplomb, Newcastles attack was all the more direct, with goal shooter and goal attack forceful in their attempts to score.
Although opportunities were few and far between for the visitors, their goal shooter was in impeccable form once she got a chance at goal, which made the contest a lot tighter than it otherwise would have been , with the halftime score 20-11 to Leeds.
For all their efforts in the first half, Newcastle soon unravelled as the match progressed, with Leeds superior fitness starting to show. The opposing centre was unable to keep up with the movement of Emily Morrice which gave the Gryphons extra numbers in attack, and with Steele and Haynes on form they were always going to make Newcastle pay a heavy price.
With the goals flowing at one end, Georgia Blessed and Ellie Ward were putting in a resilient effort at the other, with Blessed in particular standing out. Not only was she intercepting passes and gathering rebounds, she was quick to start the counter and utilise the whole of the court allowed to her, as she was all too keen to offer an extra player in attack on the edge of Leeds’ attacking third.
As Newcastle ground to a halt in the fourth quarter, Leeds continued to surge forward, with centre passes being converted into goals with ease, meaning Clare Steele was having a field day. The visitors were relieved to hear the final whistle when it eventually came, and the final score of 52-21 was more than justified for a strong Leeds side.
Next week sees Leeds make the trip further north to Durham, who sat in second in the table until a shock defeat at the hands of Leeds 3s. A win there could all but seal promotion, and they definitely deserve it on the back of this performance.
Image courtesy of Sam Broadley