University of Leeds 44 – 24 Sheffield Hallam
- Strong home debut from former Union player Alex Patrick
- Two tries each for James Woodburn-Hall and Matt Wright
IT was a wet and windy day at Weetwood on Wednesday, as Leeds’ rugby league first team took on Sheffield Hallam in a gruelling encounter that eventually saw the home side win by a margin of 44-24.
Leeds began with an aggressive first set, as prop Alex Patrick began his home debut with a strong and direct carry, which tested the Sheffield defence right from the off. L.U.R.L’s attacking structure appeared solid at first, with the forward pack running aggressively down the middle channels and providing the perfect platform for half-backs James Woodburn-Hall and Josh Boardman to put plays on out wide. Though the hands were initially somewhat shaky, as is to be expected in such appalling conditions, Leeds were rewarded for their attack, as a hard carry from Joel Whipp gave Woodburn-Hall the space he needed to go over for Leeds’ first try of the day.
Unfortunately, Leeds’ defensive intensity let them down somewhat at first. Despite the efforts of hooker Ollie Vickers and full-back Ben Ebden to marshal the defence, the line-speed was lacking and, as a result, Sheffield scored an equaliser in the 14th minute. Moments later, there was another scare as the Sheffield full-back was allowed too much space and was able to run most of the length of the pitch, seemingly unchecked. It was after this, that Leeds began to reassert their attacking dominance. Breaks from both Boardman and Vickers allowed pressure to be piled on, and despite some more frustrating fumbles due to the weather conditions, Leeds looked back on top.
In the 34th minute, winger Matt Wright went over in the corner for his first try of the day. This try was an especially pleasing one, as it showcased the home team’s attacking structure at its finest. The other winger Sam Rossiter made a clean break down the right-hand channel and from it, Leeds were able to re-organise and ship the ball out wide to the opposite wing. The half was then brought to a close by yet another try, this time courtesy of centre Dan Bent, who was able to exploit some space out wide, thanks to a penetrative carry from second row Brad Cook, and an expertly timed pass from Woodburn-Hall.
Though Leeds went into the second half in the lead by 16-12, Sheffield responded immediately. The lack of urgency from L.U.R.L’s defence allowed Sheffield to make yards up the middle of the pitch. Consequently, the visiting side racked up two scores in quick succession, and by the 50th minute the score was an alarming 16-18 in Sheffield’s favour. By this point, Leeds desperately needed something to get them back in the game and luckily redemption came in the form of a breakaway try from Club Captain Harry Purnell. The centre displayed good footwork and blistering pace in order to bring the score to a more pleasing 22-18, and this proved to be the spark that L.U.R.L needed.
After this, the intensity both in defence and attack appeared to be stepped up tenfold. Another try (this time courtesy of a truly impressive Sam Rossiter) made the score 28-18, and Leeds soon began to really apply some pressure. Cook in particular began to impress, as each of his tackles were crunching, play-disrupting hits. Leeds proceeded to batter their opponents into submission, quickly scoring two more tries – tries which went deservedly to Boardman and Wright.
Though Sheffield were able to snatch a consolation try in the 75th minute, they were simply unable to deal with Leeds towards the end. The home side did not merely ‘run the clock down’ in order to secure victory, but instead elected to punish Sheffield, with the kind of ferocious pace and physicality that had perhaps been lacking earlier on. A final try from Woodburn-Hall made the result 44-24, and ultimately it was a score-line that reflected L.U.R.L’s superiority over Sheffield.
Featured image: The Gryphon