The John Charles Sports Centre, Leeds, played host to a late kick-off between Leeds and Manchester medics. Stakes were high for both parties, with Manchester hoping to bounce back from some recent performances including a disappointing loss last weekend.
It was therefore vital that the Manchester forwards laid down an early benchmark against Leeds. It became apparent early on that Leeds had a high class back three, and would be dangerous in the wide areas. This made it all the more important that the Manchester gained the upper hand in the forward battle. Some early dominance was asserted by the visiting pack enabling Owen Waldin’s metronome of a boot to set the score board ticking. Two penalties won at the breakdown were capitalised on to give a six point lead to Manchester.
There was to be no respite for Leeds, with Manchester marching up the pitch to apply further pressure to the hosts defence. Wave after wave of bombardment by Manchester looked increasingly threatening, but some gutsy last ditch tackling held the travelling side short. Despite some remarkable try line resistance from Leeds, little could be done to stop the sheer size and brute strength of prop forward James Mallon carrying over for a close range try. With the conversion executed precisely the lead was extended to 13 points.
Then entered an exciting period of play, with the focus switching to the back lines. Line breaks were reciprocated, with the ball shifting from wing to wing. A clean break and well-timed grubber kick from Manchester’s Josh Luck set the tone. The Leeds backline hit hard lines through the centres, and demonstrated some real flare as expected in the wider areas. However the breakthrough again came from Manchester. A slick backs move on the short side put Nick Houlsten in space. The pacey, powerful winger could not be stopped in open space and was able to run in under the posts from a distance to add to the lead.
With the conversion putting Manchester ahead by 20, a fight back by Leeds was in desperate need. Ahead of half time Leeds turned the tables to test Manchester’s defence. Again, another riveting period of play ensued to the delight of a brilliantly rowdy crowd. The medics showed their nerve in defence repelling phase after phase of Leeds attack and went in at the break 20-0 up.
After some inspiring words at halftime, captain Rob Davidson led out a dogged Manchester side determined not to let their early work go to waste. In spite of Manchester’s aggressive defence, little could be done to prevent Leeds converting on their time camped in Manchester’s 22. A superb, direct line by Leeds’ impressive full back took him over the line, narrowing the lead by 7 points.
The second half was much more physical and scrappy then the first, with both sides vying for supremacy but neither willing to back down. Possession was very much even, with the play being more fragmented and the ball swapping sides regularly. Nevertheless, as fatigue set in the deadlock was broken. Roughly 25 minutes into the half, a series of quick phases created space for Manchester’s barnstorming second rower, Chris Davis, to charge into. Despite some initial confusion regarding the location of the try line, Leeds’s scrambling defence could not prevent him from sliding over in the corner (eventually) to make the score 25-7.
With time running out, the game again expanded to the wider areas, with neither side establishing territory as turnovers were exchanged and play moved up and down the pitch. In the final moments, again, it was Manchester who exploited the tired defences. A darting run from scrum half Tom Thompson, left multiple Leeds would-be tacklers reeling as he scampered to the try line.
This final try cemented a comprehensive victory for the Lancashire side with the score board showing 30 points to 7. A strong performance against a very strong Leeds outfit leaves the Manchester Medics brimming with confidence, and feeling ready for the next NAMS challenge against Liverpool Medics on the 26th.
Final Score: Manchester 30 - Leeds 7
Manchester - 30
Tries - J. Mallon, N. Houlston, C. Davis, T. Thompson
Conv - O. Waldin (2)
Pens - O. Waldin (2)
Leeds - 7
Try - Phil Gardiner
Con - Phil Gardiner
Author: Jonathon Reid