Leeds Modernians 46 - 37 Aireborough - By Harley Stevenson Cocks
By Si Davies
Another slow start costs Aire vs Mods
On a cold, blustery Saturday afternoon, Aire travelled the short distance to fellow strugglers Leeds Modernians looking to pick themselves up after last week’s big defeat to Castleford. Both teams had just the one win to their name so far this season and were hoping to crawl themselves up the league table. In the forwards, injury to last week’s MOTM Jonny Hiles saw Luke Exley form a lightweight second row alongside Sy Hill, while in the backs Aire welcomed back captain Ollie Catherall at fly-half, with Lewis Myers getting his first league start at outside centre.
Despite a sharp warm up from Aire, their start was anything but. Playing against the wind, Aire indiscipline allowed Mods to quickly work their way up field with penalty kicks to touch. With a scrum in the Aire 22, Mods got their first score after 5 minutes when their centre ran a simple hard line to burst through the Aire midfield and score by the sticks to make it 7 – 0. Further Aire indiscipline kept letting Mods gain territory and they won a kickable penalty to extend the lead to 10 – 0.
Not content with handing the opposition a 10 – 0 lead, Aire continued their poor start and allowed the Mods backs to exploit a lack of numbers down the blind side for a 17 – 0 lead, and in a near exact replica of their first try another midfield burst saw the lead reach 22 – 0.
As has been the case far too often this season, it was the opposition building an early lead that finally saw Aire come to life. Finally retaining some ball and forcing some mistakes from Mods, Aire began to exert a bit of their structure on the game and found themselves playing with a high tempo and making plenty of ground. Strong carries from Sy Hill, Martyn Booth and hooker Andy Fuller put Aire into the Mods 22 for the first time and they came away with 5 points when Sy Hill crashed over. Conversion missed against the wind, but Aire finally had some momentum.
More of the same from Aire followed the restart, as they worked their way powerfully to the Mods 22. A cheeky step from Philip Shopland-Reed out wide left 3 Mods defenders grasping at thin air and the flanker carried well up to the Mods line. A few phases later and Aire had their second as good handling out wide saw Nick Holdsworth score in the corner for another unconverted try to make it 22 – 10.
Sensing a comeback and with their tails up, Aire then produced a wonderful bit of play to score their third. Starting around their own 22, the ball was kept in the hands and Aire crept up to half-way with the forwards making good ground, even throwing in some cheeky offloads to keep play moving. Quick ruck ball went wide from scrum-half Stu Wilson to Ollie Catherall whose miss pass gave Lewis Myers space out wide. Rounding the Mods winger, Lewis then drew the covering Mods fullback and passed to fellow colt Jamie Sykes to run it in from 30 metres to make it 22 – 15.
Unfortunately, Mods managed to get themselves back into the game, helped by some silly Aire penalties, and a converted try made it 29 – 15 with a few minutes of the half left. Aire, however, hit back next and soon worked themselves back into the Mods 22. Perhaps too eager to exploit the space they’d found earlier, Aire passes weren’t accurate, but winger Jamie Sykes did well to clear up loose ball and reset the Aire attack. With the pressure telling, Stu Wilson found fullback Harley Stevenson-Cocks on a short, sharp line through some soft Mods shoulders to make the score 29 – 20 at half-time.
After the interval, Aire knew they needed to start the second half strongly to keep their momentum going, and huge defence from the kick off ensured this was so. Aire’s kick chase, poor in recent weeks, was top notch and they forced Mods backwards under pressure. With turnover ball, Ollie Catherall put in a deft chip behind the Mods line which was unfortunately carried a fraction too far by the now-friendly wind. However, the resulting 22m drop out was charged down and Mods found themselves stuck on their own line. Scrappy ruck ball was seized by Aire and Luke Exley barrelled over from close range to make it 29 – 27.
From 22 – 0 down, Aire were just 3 points shy of leading the game for the first time, and more strong work from the wolf pack in both attack and defence gave them just that. Stu Wilson, so often the provider, fizzed a pass out wide to Steff Newport who touched down in the corner to bring his tally to 2 tries in 2 games for the season, and importantly Aire finally found themselves in front at 29 – 32. Repeated infringements from Mods also saw them reduced to 14 men for 10 minutes.
Regretfully, Aire’s own indiscipline began to creep back in and Mods gained some valuable territory despite playing into the strong wind and with a man down. Strong carries from their pack put them in a good position and some upright tackling from Aire let Mods break through and execute a 2 on 1 to score under the sticks and retake the lead 36 – 32. This was soon extended to 39 – 32 when further Aire penalties gave Mods an easy kick in front of the sticks.
Some strong words kicked Aire back into gear and they worked their way back to the Mods 22. Unfortunately, with numbers to spare out wide for multiple phases, slow ruck ball resulted in several pick and gos which allowed the Mods defence to organise, and they managed to hold the ball up in a maul to win a scrum. With little to no hope of gaining ground from a kick against the wind, Mods elected to run with the ball and their handy outside centre burst through the Aire midfield yet again, and he had the pace to run in from about 70m despite the attention of the covering Aire defence. The score now 46 – 37 with less than 10 minutes to go.
Frantic attack from Aire again led to sub-par passing, and from the resulting scrum Mods were nearly away again but for a phenomenal covering tap-tackle from Chris Chapman forcing the Mods winger to ground and into touch. From the resulting lineout, Aire kicked upfield and their chase again was good, flanker Mikey Dolan snaffling loose ball and advancing upfield. Aire won a penalty and took to the corner for some old-fashioned mauling. Not happy with just the one try, Sy Hill went over for another score in typical Sy Hill fashion, dragging defenders over the line with him. The conversion from out wide missed, Aire needed 2 tries for victory at 46 – 37.
Unfortunately, time was not on Aire’s side and with seconds, rather than minutes, on the clock, Aire won a penalty just inside the Mods half. With a losing bonus point on offer to add to the try bonus, Aire pointed to the sticks. Nick Holdsworth’s kick had the legs but unfortunately just scraped wide, and the final whistle blew.
Aire left the Cookridge slope scratching their heads trying to figure out why they continue to let sides build up early leads, giving themselves mountains to climb to get back into games. A few instances of porous defence will also need amending if Aire are to start putting some ‘W’s to their name and work their way up the table. And what chance to right some wrongs than against table-topping Thornensians who travel to Nunroyd next weekend – all support welcome.