|PHOTO: Graham Bickerdike blocking a dangerous Ben Eddy kick|
The game started with both teams matching each other goal for goal. Accurate kicking and great inter play from both teams saw the scoreboard remain ticking over throughout the first 20 minutes. European players Sam Gill and Luke Booth linked up well, breaking through the middle early on after great play from Great Britain’s Graham Bickerdike in the ruck, to slot the early goals for the Rams. Leeds responded immediately with accurate short intelligent kicking and strong support for the ball carrier to keep them just ahead of the home side. The Rams found it difficult to supply their potent strike force of Karl Haigh and Danny Armitage, as their strong leads into space went unrewarded due to the influence of the strong breeze blowing down from Leeds’ goals. Leeds rounded off the half by executing a number of lengthy kicks for the maximum of six points for a goal which would see them end the quarter eight points to the good with a 30-22 lead.
The full influence of the wind was illustrated by the Rams burst back into contention in the second quarter. Booth and Armitage demonstrated their undoubted class with some excellent marks and their subsequent kicks at goal finished with unerring accuracy. Rams full forward, Karl Haigh showed his intelligence to latch onto a Booth kick into the forward pocket to drill home from 30 metres out as the Rams started to move through the gears for the first time this season. Leeds kept a hold of Huddersfield’s coat tails with a number of successful forays forward themselves, but this would be Huddersfield’s quarter as with the wind at their backs they managed to post a forty-point quarter to go into half time 62-49. However, with Luke Booth being the main difference between the two teams, disaster struck when he sustained a bad ankle injury just on half-time. This proved to be a massive contributing factor to the outcome of the match because he was becoming unstoppable with ball in hand, either supplying his team mates with accurate kicks or slotting them over himself. Booth played on, but the injury curtailed any subsequent influence that he would have on the game.
The second half saw a drop in standards from both sets of players. Both teams began to visibly tire, and the return after the half time break would ultimately be the deciding factor on who would be left standing at the end. Leeds’ composure and experience, cultivated back in Australia, began to show through as they were able to take advantage of an at times ragged and fatigued Rams team. Jason Battye posted the only six-pointer of the quarter for the Rams as the wind again illustrated its influence on the game leaving Huddersfield scoring only ten points overall for the quarter. Great Britain and England stalwart of the last three seasons, Matt Whiteley dug in and tried to steady the ship in midfield, but Leeds were persistent in their strong and knowledgeable play, always seeming to find a free man or avoid any heat Huddersfield were applying. Leeds would eventually stretch ahead in this third stanza, commonly referred to as the ‘Premiership Quarter’ as it so often decides the outcome of the game. They began to consistently find their forwards and regularly broke through the Huddersfield ranks, coming from thirteen points down to lead by eleven, 83-72, at the end of the third quarter.
The Rams were confident of overturning the deficient going into the final phase of the game, especially after their 40 point haul with the wind at their backs in the second quarter. However this confidence proved to be unfounded as further debilitating injuries to influential international players Head-Coach Battye, Team Captain Whiteley and Rams combative forward Dave Durrance meant that The Rams weren’t equipped with the personnel and structure to supply their forward line and take charge of the rucking contests to fully get back in to the game. However, they gave it a good shot. Durrance, playing in only his second game, showed again his strength and guile as he latched onto a Whiteley’s kick at goal to score for the second week running, almost taking out the uprights in the process of making the mark. Bursting out from the back with strong and instinctive kicking Chris Dawson added another two goals to the total to give the home team hope in getting back on level. Brandon Fletcher, who had an excellent game throughout the contest, cut a loan figure at the back as he bravely fought almost single handedly to keep the Leeds onslaught at bay. The Rams did get to within a goal with time running out, but ultimately the injuries mounted up and the strong Leeds team, who had enough about them to negate the Rams fight back, saw the game home with a few late points to edge this very competitive match by fifteen points, 110-95, at the final whistle. Rams team: Armitage (2 goals), Battye (1), Bickerdike, Booth (4), Brown, Clayton, Dawson (2), Durrance (2), Fletcher, Gill (1), Haigh (1), Hall, Whiteley
The Huddersfield Rams now return to the training pitch (Tuesdays 6:45, Laund Hill YMCA) with the knowledge that they have a two week break until their next game (Away v Birmingham Bears 11th May).