EAST LEEDS went down fighting as they were beaten 36-16 by classy West Hull in yesterday’s National Conference Trophy final at Headingley Carnegie.
Wests were the better team and scored seven tries to three, but Easts lacked nothing in passion and enthusiasm and their fierce response to going 36-10 behind at the end of the third quarter kept the decent-sized crowd interested to the finish.
The final highlighted the elements which made National Conference rugby so watchable. It was tough – brutal at times – and featured some cracking tries, plus a couple of spectacular punch-ups.
Easts had Jason Priestley sin-binned for persistent high-tackles with 15 minutes left and Ben Walkin was also yellow carded for punching in the final moments. In between, Josh Hart kicked West Hull’s final points with a penalty after an alleged biting incident was placed on report by referee Andy Bentham.
Twice in the first half West Hull looked to be gaining control, but Easts trailed only 14-10 at the interval before four tries in 12 second half minutes ended their hopes.
West Hull went ahead after five minutes through Jack Lazenby’s try and then impressive full-back Bret Turner doubled their lead on 11.
Four minutes later Nathan Conroy’s kick to the right-flank out-foxed the defence and Declan Tomlinson touched down to get Easts off the mark.
They thought they had equalised when Adam Hartley seemed to have scored from Ryan Gaunt’s kick, only for the near-side touchjudge to spot a knock-on.
West Hull forced a drop out at the end of the next set, then dabbed the ball back in-goal. Easts winger Jordan Normington did brilliantly to get back in play, but then lost possession and Hart picked up and walked over, Ian Kerman landing the first of his three conversions to make it 14-4.
To their credit Easts finished the half stronger and they cut the gap when Jake Normington dipped a shoulder and powered over from Gaunt’s pass and Conroy, pictured right, added an angled conversion.
Easts gave too many penalties away. The count finished 12-6 in West Hull’s favour, but was 9-1 until Bentham started evening it up late on. West Hull received six in succession after the break, the first leading to a try – four minutes into the second half – when Kerman put Matthew Plummer in to spark the Green and Golds’ game-breaking rampage.
Dan Parker went over after a dubious knock-on call against Easts, Lazenby added his second and Sam Cator raced the full length as Wests powered 34-10 ahead.
It got heated after that, but Easts scored a deserved late consolation when Jake Normington put Hartley over and Conroy converted to complete the scoring.
East Leeds: Sheldrake, Jordan Normington, D Tomlinson, Hartley, J Priestley, Conroy, Gaunt, Petman, L Tomlinson, Clarke, Walkin, Jake Normington, Quinlan. Subs (all used) Fisher, Forsell, Nurse, L Priestley.
West Hull: Turner, Lazenby, Radley, Parker, Hart, Kerman, Patris, Garmston, Windley, Howlett, Lawler, Crowther. Subs (all used) Plummer, S Cator, Roberts, L Cator
Referee: Andy Bentham (Leigh).