Leeds Tykes

Match report 23 March

By Angela Rimmington Brown
Match report Rotherham Titans 33 Leeds Tykes 26 Team logos Saturday 23 March

Tykes toppled by Titans in table-topping thriller

Former Leeds Tykes second-row turned flanker Jon Okafor scored a brace in a pulsating Yorkshire derby which takes the National 2 North promotion race down to the wire.

A memorable encounter in extremely windy conditions got off to the worst of starts for the visiting Tykes as their unbeaten record looked in jeopardy from the outset. Rotherham were majestic out of the blocks, racing into a 10-point lead after just eight minutes.

The experienced Jake Brady was sin-binned for a late tackle and Richard Hayes opened the scoring from the resulting penalty.

Both sides were reduced to 14 men soon after with Laurence Cowen following Brady to the bin.

Despite being short on numbers, the Titans were not downbeat and winger Jack Taylor scored for Richard Hayes to convert.

The game continued to to-and-fro for the next 15 minutes or so before Ben Turpin grounded a grubber kick into the corner to get the Tykes on the board. Callum Irvine missed the conversion.

Backed by raucous home support, the Titans broke downfield just after the half-hour mark for ex-Tyke John Okafor to score the first of his two runaway tries on the day. The powerful back-rower ran a great support line and left Kieran Davies in his wake as the Titans broke through the centre channel.

Knowing the wind would be a factor in the second half, the home side kept their foot on the metal as multiple phases led to another former Tyke Harry Dunne crossing for Rotherham’s third try, leaving the Tykes with a mountain to climb in the second forty minutes. Hayes again added the extras to cement Rotherham’s authority.

With the last kick of the half, Rotherham were given a penalty which Hayes failed to convert leaving the score at 22-5 at the break.

Pete Seabourne must have got into his side in the sheds as they came out revitalised, looking to right the wrongs of the first half. An array of substitutions followed including the reintroduction of long-term absentee Charlie Venables. The impact players brought some pace into the Leeds attack as the Titans were reduced to 13 men following the quickfire sin-binnings of Jack Bergmanas and captain Zak Poole.

The Titans were forced to shuffle their pack to compete with Leeds up front and moments after the reshuffle, Jonny Teague found space out wide to give the league leaders hope. Callum Irvine, this week deployed as a winger, added the extras.

Further substitutions for each side followed but the game felt as if it was still on a knife edge despite the scoreboard suggesting otherwise. Jack Taylor crossed for his second try as Rotherham’s faint hopes of a late surge to the title and subsequent promotion became more of a possibility. Hayes missed the conversion from a wide position to give the Tykes a glimmer of a late revival.

Eight minutes from time, Pete Lucock got on the end of a lovely flat offload from Junior Nu’u to score under the post and give Callum Irvine the easiest of conversions.

Leeds continued to play with their characteristic free-flowing attacking style, getting the ball wide to Charlie Venables who was ankle-tapped as he sought to break the defensive line. The utility back found a wonderful quick offload to the rampaging Davies who used his trademark pace and silky footwork to score under the post as an unlikely turnaround seemed within the Tykes’ reach.

One minute later, as the clock wound down, John Okafor was the quickest to react, pouncing on turnover ball and streaking home to touchdown in the corner. Hayes missed the conversion, but it wasn’t decisive as the Titans held on to a precious victory which takes them within touching distance of the previously unbeaten Tykes.

Both sides get a well-deserved week off before the season comes to a fitting climax with just three league fixtures remaining.

Speaking after the game, Director of Rugby, Pete Seabourne, said: “Obviously we’re disappointed with the result, but pleased that we have 2 points. We need to deal and live and learn from our first loss of the season. But fair play to Rotherham, I thought they played well, they brought energy and enthusiasm.

“We made critical errors at certain times in the game; two of their late first-half tries came off us attacking. They deserved 5 points today, we deserved 2, and possibly at the end we could’ve come away with the win. Did we deserve it? Probably not but that was a really good advert for Yorkshire rugby, which shows that Yorkshire rugby is thriving.”

A disappointed Tobi Ademakin added: “We knew Rotherham were going to push us all the way. They may have deservedly got the better of us today, but we have put ourselves in a great position with three games left. We must come together and focus on our own game and the rest will take care of itself.”

Similarly, Assistant Coach, Pete Lucock, explained: “This result makes the run into the end of the season all the more interesting. It’s what both clubs deserve after going toe-to-toe throughout the whole campaign.”

General Manager, Jake Brady, encouraged all supporters to remain behind the team saying: “We’ve put ourselves in a wonderful position and hope that the season will come to a memorable conclusion at Headingley Stadium. We hope to put on an event that is unforgettable for players and supporters alike.”

Final score 32-36
(HT 22-5)
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Thanks to Ben Cropper for our match report.

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