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Match Report | Leigh Leopards 42-14 Sheffield Eagles Women's Red


By Barry Wood


Sheffield Eagles Women got their Championship league campaign underway at last, travelling away to the Leigh Miners Welfare Institute Kirby Road ground to play in another tough challenge, this time against Leigh Leopards Women, who were a grand final play-off contender last season for promotion to the top tier of the Women's Super League.

Things didn’t start well for the Eagles with second rower Exley forced off with a wrist injury defending Leigh’s first attack of the game. A knock-on fielding the last tackle kick in the same play put on more pressure with a scrum to Leigh 10m out, but the Eagles were up to the task and defended out an edge attack, regaining the ball shortly after from a Leigh error.  Not to be outdone, the Eagles progressed 80m up field with a good set and long kick.  A loose carry from Leigh surrendered the ball straight into the hands of Wood, who wasted no time in accelerating through a gap to score in the 4th minute half way between the posts and right touchline, converted by Thomas for an early lead of 0-6.

From the kick-off the Eagles put in a length of the field set forcing a Leigh goal line dropout.  However, the pressure on the Leigh line was relieved with a lost ball in the tackle 1m out.  Leigh wasted no time from the scrum, surging up field, only for the Eagles to grant them a questionable late tackle penalty from a charge down. Fortunately the Eagles managed to stem the following attack with good cover defence on their right edge, forcing a lost ball. From the scrum 10m out, five plays brought the Eagles to just past the halfway line. From the play the ball, Eagles dummy half Wood spotted the defence over-reading for the kick. Shooting  between two defenders Wood raced 28m down the middle right to find loose forward Brennan in support, who stepped inside the cover to dive over in the 13th minute 18m in from the right touchline, conversion unsuccessful. Score 0-10.

Regrettably having built a solid lead, the Eagles then failed to field the kick off, allowing the ball to dribble its way dead.  The dropout didn’t gain much ground and four plays later, Leigh’s Young forced her way over in the tackle in the 16th minute 8m in from the left touchline, conversion unsuccessful. Score 4-10.

Again the kick-off didn’t gain much ground with the first tackle on Leigh being on their 40m line. Four plays brought Leigh to the middle within 20m of the Eagles line.  Instead of a kick, they played out of the back to send right winger Blackwood over in the corner in the 19th minute, conversion unsuccessful. Score 8-10.

Yet again the kick-off failed to gain much ground, enabling Leigh to get off to a good start down the middle, then left dragging the Eagles defence across.  A smart cross-field kick to the right found the in-goal area for Leigh right centre Melvin to dive on in the 22nd minute 20m in from touch, converting her own try for a Leigh lead of 14-10.

This time a decent long kick-off was made, only for Leigh fullback Dogus to field it in front of the posts 3m out and weave a way up their right to a point just short of the Leigh 30m line, immediately putting the Eagles on the back foot..  Again Leigh progressed the ball up field, but this time they knocked on their own last tackle kick 20m out from the Eagles line.  After that the two sides made good ground in their sets but defended each other out until Leigh conceded a penalty for a high tackle on their left on their 40m line.  The Eagles took the 10m and progressed to the middle 10m out. On the fourth play eyes-up play from Wood called for the ball to go right. Swift passing through 4 pairs of hands then an offload from right centre Evans put Clarke away with a side step inside to go over the line in the 31st minute to level the score at 14-14, conversion unsuccessful.

The return set from the kick-off didn’t end with a kick, thus surrendering possession to Leigh again close to their 40m line.  Slow ruck defence enabled Leigh to drive 25m up the middle.  Continued quick plays kept the pressure on with the ball eventually shifted left against a static edge defence, left centre Young again forcing a away over 8m in from touch in the 35th minute for a score of 18-14, conversion unsuccessful.

Yet more pressure this time from the Eagles, regaining the ball from a short kick-off, only for a late shift right to be knocked on of what looked like an overhead pass meant for the winger.  From the scrum speedy Leigh fullback Dogus was again allowed to weave a way from left to right 25m up field through 3 missed tackles. Further plays brought Leigh far up field, but this time the Eagles managed to field the kick only to commit a forward pass from an offload as the last action of the half.   However the half-time whistle proved to be a mixed blessing.

Half-time: Leigh Leopards Women 18 – 14 Sheffield Eagles Women

As was the case last week much promise therefore that the Eagles could compete closely in the second half, but it was not to be.  The half-time team talk in the Leigh dressing room enabled them to work out a plan of where and how to attack the Eagles to best advantage, and that was to use the speed of their fastest players against the slowest of the Eagles.

After a good attack by the Eagles that put Leigh back on their own line, another lightning break by Leigh fullback Dogus took play over 60m up field far over on Leigh’s right. One play followed to the middle, then swift hands out on Leigh’s left through the backs put Young over in the 44th minute unopposed 5m in from touch, conversion unsuccessful. Score 22-14.

The Eagles then defended Leigh’s return set quite well, until knocking on an innocuous last tackle kick, conceding a scrum 15m out on the Eagles left 20m mark.  One tackle in the middle , then yet again the Leigh backs demonstrated their passing skills at pace, shifting the ball left for Young to cross again in the 48th minute 10m in from touch, again conversion unsuccessful. Score 26-14.

A bit of resilience combined with errors characterised both sides for the next 12 minutes until the Eagles conceded a scrum on the Leigh 30m line.  One play followed to the middle leaving the markers in disarray of which Leigh dummy half Howard took full advantage.  Howard raced off 70m at lightning pace through the gap behind the ruck, rounded the Eagles fullback (no slouch herself) and grounded the ball under the posts, converted by Melvin for 32-14.

A short kick off granted Leigh good ball again, compounded by a six again infringement. On the ninth play Leigh’s Cobain found a way through a tired defence in the 68th minute 10m to the right of the posts, again converted by Melvin for 38-14.

A bit of respite followed with sets traded and the Eagles making good ground each time but unable to find a finishing touch.  An injury halted play 28m out from the Leigh line on their right 20m mark.  Instead of ploughing up the middle, Leigh put ball to the right into the hands of fullback Dogus, who scythed through the Eagles left edge defence to race away and score in the 77th minute 18m in from touch, conversion unsuccessful. Score 42-14.

Eagles heads could go down, but to their credit they didn’t, with subsequent Leigh attacks repelled and good ground made in return for an entertaining game to end without further score. 

Full-time: Leigh Leopards Women 42 – 14 Sheffield Eagles Women


Eagles Tries: Wood, Brennan, Clarke

Goals: Thomas (1/3)


Leigh Tries: Young(4), Blackwood, Melvin, Howard, Cobain, Dogus

Goals: Melvin (3/9)


In conclusion and as last week, although the score line suggests that the Eagles were heavily defeated, there was much to praise in this Eagles performance.  Yes there were unforced errors, but the Eagles attack sets consistently gained much ground, and defensively the defence put up strong resistance when on point.  However, the overriding message is that when the Eagles come up against these sides that are blessed with pace and skill with ball in hand, the defence cannot rest and must be on point at every play, or you will be burned. It has ever been thus in the game of RL.