Leeds Tykes v Taunton Titans: Phil Davies relishing ‘rebirth’ of Tykes in Leeds

UP and down the country, rugby union clubs away from the bright lights of full-time professionalism will finally feel like they are properly back in their groove today.

Saturday, 4th September 2021, 6:51 am
TRUE VISION: Leeds Tykes' director of rugby, Phil Davies, seen above during his time as head coach of Namibia, is keen to restore pride in the city's rugby union team. Picture: Stu Forster/Getty Images

For the first time in 18 months, an interminable length of time that has tested the resolve and resilience of so many clubs, National League Rugby can finally get up and running again.

Among those setting off as they begin to emerge from the enforced downing of boots and mouthguards caused by the pandemic is Leeds Tykes.

They, of course, have had another journey to make, rising from the ashes of Yorkshire Carnegie who were relegated from the Championship when that competition was essentially halted by Covid in March 2020.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Leeds Tykes after winning the Ventur Cup Final earlier this year.

With Phil Davies, who led the original Tykes into the Premiership and Europe, back at the helm, they have spent much of the enforced break attempting to reintegrate themselves with the city of Leeds rather than spreading themselves too thinly across the entire county.

It is an invidious position from which to start – the club has fallen so far – but they are in no rush to return to the realms of the Championship.

For now, on the opening day of the National One season, all they are concerned with is today’s visit of Taunton Titans to their new home at West Park Leeds.

Tykes, at least, have something of a head-start given they did get some competitive action in the Ventur Cup – a competition organised via one of their sponsors and including Hull Ionians and Leeds Beckett University – in May and June.

Leeds Tykes celebrate winning the Powergen Cup back in 2005. Picture: Steve Riding

Davies insisted: “I don’t know if it’s a head start – we went into the Ventur Cup from a standing start.

“We’ve done a lot of work on and off the field resetting the club and the boys are really excited.

“We have a little bit of experience here and there but generally we have a young squad and there’s a lot of enthusiasm.

“They work hard and it will be interesting to see how they go now in a real competitive environment.

Yorkshire Carnegie director of rugby Phil Davies.

“They showed some character to come back against a strong Rotherham team last week (in a friendly) and we are treading a little bit into the unknown.

“But what I am confident of is they have a good spirit and they are excited about playing for the club and playing in National League One.”

Tykes have retained a hardcore of support who have stayed with them following Carnegie’s demise amid financial issues two years ago. Davies always believed that the club should concentrate on Leeds itself and part of his plan, as director of rugby, is to get the people of the city interested in Tykes once more.

“It’s important that when we play, people can see – like we talked about years ago – that the boys are playing with lots of enthusiasm, working hard and are genuinely having a real go,” added the former Wales international, who first took charge of Leeds in 1996 and presided over them for a decade, including a famous Powergen Cup final win at Twickenham in 2005. “We want to win every game, as always.

“However, we know that is not always the case and it’s key to just keep on keeping on whether you win or lose, we always want to be better.

“I’m sure people will get on board. I’ve had a lot of players calling saying they want to join the club.

“We’ve had a great take on the sponsors with Ventur coming on board for a longer period of time which is brilliant and Gregory Property and Caddick Construction. There’s lots wanting to get involved; our job is to create momentum and get people excited.

“It’ll be lovely to see the Tykes jersey being put on again and playing National League rugby.

“But we have to compete and challenge first.

“We’re in a good place. It feels like a bit of a rebirth.

“And hopefully the boys can produce rugby performances so that the city can be proud of the rugby union team again and that is important.”

Taunton were promoted from National Two South in March 2020 but have been unable to take their place until now so they have their own reasons for making today special.

Davies said: “What we know is they are a well-organised team and like to play expansive rugby.

“The league is a little bit like that. There is an expansive nature to the game in this division which is a little bit different to the Championship to be fair.

“It will be a tough season for us. But there will be some good rugby played.”