West Leeds make final return to Twickenham in triumph

BACK WITH A BANG: West Leeds celebrate victory over Withycombe in the Senior Vase final at Twickenham on Saturday. Picture: RFU
BACK WITH A BANG: West Leeds celebrate victory over Withycombe in the Senior Vase final at Twickenham on Saturday. Picture: RFU
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West Leeds were crowned RFU Senior Vase champions after a thrilling 42-22 victory over Withycombe at Twickenham on Saturday.

They showed inventive attacking play and gritty defence in equal measure as they beat their Cornish rivals and made up for defeat against Bromley in the final 12 months earlier.

“I’m honoured to be captain of this side,” said West Leeds captain and try-scorer Sam Neave. “Having lost last year, it’s amazing to win at Twickenham this time and to score twice made it even more special for me.”

Former Leeds Rhino star and try-scorer Mark Calderwood added: “It was a tough game but we came through. This is third time lucky for us, and today will go down in history. I’ve always wanted to play at Twickenham and to win makes it special.”

It took West Leeds just five minutes to get off the mark with captain Neave kicking on a loose ball, collecting, and touching down between the posts for stand-off Dale Breakwell to add the conversion.

Four minutes later and they had doubled their lead. A quick tap penalty on halfway was recycled right and Breakwell fed inside for winger Calderwood to step inside the last defender to race over for the second try, Breakwell again adding the extras.

Try number three came on 13 minutes, and it was outside centre Neave again who scored again. Tom Jackson intercepted and put in a quick pass for his captain to run home from inside his own half, Breakwell again scoring an easy conversion to make it 21-0.

Withycombe hit back while West Leeds were down to 14 men because of a yellow card, replacement Kevin Rodwell scoring in the left corner after a series of attempts to drive over a scrum near the line on the right had not been successful, and they moved quickly left to find an overlap.

Only good defence from West Leeds maintained their 21-5 lead to half-time, but just two minutes after the restart second-row Tim Wills crashed over for Withycombe to narrow the gap to 21-10.

That pressure continued and Withycombe further closed the scoreline to 21-17 with centre Tom Counsell scoring and Glenn Channing converting on 50 minutes.

However, West Leeds stopped the rot and hit back in style, first with James Damerell being credited with a pushover try on 53 minutes, Breakwell converting, and then on 61 minutes when full-back Danny Booth raced over on the left wing after right winger Calderwood had switched across to leave Withycombe hesitating. Breakwell’s conversion made it 35-17.

Keeping it in the family, replacement Keir Breakwell touched down after a good break from Neave, and brother Dale Breakwell converted. Although Withycombe replacement Adam Morris ran in for the final score on 76 minutes, it mattered little as the Yorkshire side held out for victory.

Already crowned Yorkshire Two champions, West Leeds will aim to add the Yorkshire Shield to their trophy cabinet when they play Bradford Salem in a quarter-final replay on Wednesday evening, after they drew 40-40 in the first match last week. The winners will play Pontefract in the semi-final on Saturday, with the final on May 22.

Yorkshire suffered a setback to their County Championship campaign when they were beaten 40-27 by arch-rivals Lancashire at Scarborough in the opening match on Saturday.

They made a good enough start with full-back Greg Lound kicking a penalty and converting scrum-half Adam Thomas’s try, and Lound also improved fly-half Jamie Guy’s try and added a penalty to lead 20-18 at the break.

But afterwards Lancashire dominated, and Yorkshire’s only other score was a late penalty try which Lound converted.

An under-strength Harrogate side lost 53-6 to visitors Sedgley Park as they rested key players ahead of next week’s Yorkshire Cup semi-final.

Two penalties from fly-half Charlie Morgan put Harrogate ahead early on, but despite some good defending, the Manchester side hit back with six unanswered tries to secure the win.

Elsewhere, Aireborough ran in four tries on their way to a 25-10 win over Harrogate Pythons in Yorkshire Three.