Conference League South, Saturday 21st March 2015
Victoria Park, Leicester
On a weekend that saw the nation’s eyes fixed on Leicester for the reinterment of King Richard III, Leicester Storm kicked-off their Conference League South campaign with a 28-16 victory over Welsh side Torfaen Tigers at Victoria Park in round one.
In front of a vocal home crowd, the game started brightly with both teams testing each other through exciting rugby league; both in attack and defence. An attacking kick in the 10th minute of the encounter brought the game’s first try, with the visitors from Wales striking first. A difficult bounce deceived Storm full-back Jack Williams, leaving Tigers’ Shawn Watkins with the easy task of running over the line to score, with Matt Cummins adding the extras with the boot.
However, it didn’t take long for the Storm to strike back. A well-worked move saw props Reece Williams and Ty Watson deployed as decoy runners, with Lewis Chapman’s intelligent pass finding Roddy Jonas, who had a plenty of space to run through before scoring under the posts. Etherington’s additional points with the kick tied the game at 6-6.
Following the game’s second try, the game became a more even encounter, with both teams trying to break through to gain a foothold in the clash. Storm were handed a blow in the first half with centre Liam Crocker replaced following an injury that would rule him out for the rest of the match; and things went from bad to worse on the half-hour mark. Tigers regained the lead as Watkins scored his second try of the game following another impressive phase, with Cummins again converting from the subsequent kick to give the visitors a 6-12 lead going into the break.
The second half saw Leicester Storm emerge reinvigorated, with every player upping their game considerably. Just two minutes into the second period, Storm were rewarded for their energetic start, as prop Reece Williams went over to score the team’s second try of the game. Etherington’s kick tied the game once more as the home side looked to build on their early dominance.
Despite a strong start from Leicester, an eventful five minutes saw the team’s influential captain, Greg Hurst, suffer a nasty knee injury, which looks set to keep him out for the majority of the season. Soon after, the Storm were reduced to 12 men, as Mark White was sent off for dissent.
With only two fit players available among the replacements, Leicester were forced to adjust, but once doing so, became ruthless as they looked to build on their last try. Running in three more tries, two of which were converted by Etherington, during a 15-minute spell later in the second half, Storm sealed an impressive win to get their Conference League South campaign off to a strong start.
Following the game, Leicester Storm head coach Dean Thomas admitted his pride in his players.
“I am very proud of the lads today. They stuck to the game plan – even in the face of adversity – and they got the result,” he said.
“I thought our pack laid the platform for us with some great displays from Williams, Watson and Bulmer in the middle of the park. Jonas was outstanding at loose forward and Etherington is really looking the part now as a half.”
Leicester Storm: 1 Jack Williams, 2 Frank Barlow, 3 Liam Crocker, 4 Josh West, 5 Oli Saville, 6 Mark Etherington, 7 Lewis Chapman, 8 Reece Williams, 9 Jacob Hudson, 10 Ty Watson, 11 Mark White, 12 Greg Hurst, 13 Roddy Jonas, 14 Simon Anniss, 15 Kevin Wroe, 16 Lewis Flack, 17 Tom Bulmer
Tries: Jonas (2), Williams, Etherington, West
Goals: Etherington (4)
Storm’s next Conference League South fixture will see them travel to Wales to take on Valley Cougars on Saturday 28th March (2:00pm KO); a team that the Storm have already faced this season in an hard-fought Challenge Cup first round tie.
The Storm return to Leicestershire on Saturday 11th April (2:00pm), taking on Gloucester Warriors in the first game to be played at their new Brooksby Melton College home.
- photos courtesy of SBS Photography