Past experience has taught ickledot it's not always a good idea to photograph two games in one afternoon, particularly when they overlap. Moving from one to another is much akin to tearing oneself away from an enjoyable TV programme or movie. Being there to take a set of photos which tell the story of a game from the warm ups til the final whistle and beyond, one's left with a feeling of mild frustration that something's bound to be missed if you're not there for the whole show. Still, it couldn't be helped. These were two games I didn't want to miss so compromises had to be made.
Thankfully they were taking place only a ten minute drive away from each other. First up was England Deaf against Wales Deaf at Ilkley Rugby Club. I'd first seen the England Deaf teams, both men and women, at Ilkley's 7s tournament last summer. Apparently the first discussions about this fixture had taken place at that point.
An added sense of occasion was created by it being a Six Nation Saturday. As things transpired, this England team had more success on the field than their professional counterparts playing at Murrayfield. Though bitterly cold it was a bright sun filled day with a virtually clear blue sky.
There's an excellent match report on the England Deaf Rugby website which confirms that I missed the majority of points scoring as the half time tally was just 8-5, despite the 'home' side enjoying a high percentage of possession.
However, I had a good view of the half's solitary try, from debutant Rob Shaw, following a driving maul. Eventually England came out on top with a final tally of 27-11 so a great day for them and a most successful event for Ilkley.
After a little deliberation at the half time whistle I reasoned that it would be best to get off for the second game and catch most of it. I'd promised to be there a few weeks ago so didn't want to disappoint. The fixture was West Park Leeds Ladies against Wasps Ladies in the National Cup.
I've already written of WPL's successes during the season. Unbeaten so far, this was an opportunity to test themselves against a team which is currently at the top of Tyrell's Premier15. When I arrived things were not looking great for WPL as the visitors were camped inside the host's 22 metre line, looking quite menacing.
Funny how one's very first view of a game can give a false impression. As time passed the hosts broke out of defence increasingly, moving ever further upfield. This progress culminated in a winger's burst forward on the right with both strength and speed. A great score! With that breakthrough WPL grew in confidence, adding to their lead before half-time. However, Wasps were not done and the opening skirmishes of the second forty saw them enjoying long periods of possession and mounting pressure on the host's line.
Significantly, they were unable penetrate the formidable WPL defence. As often happens when a team is 'chasing the game', frustration grew and gaps were left in defence. So when the home side finally did get an opportunity, they took it; a try which established a pattern of further scores before the game's end.
A final score of 36-12 perhaps makes the game look a little more comfortable for West Park Leeds than it actually was. There certainly were nervous moments, particularly at the beginning of both halves. However, the result was certainly convincing, giving much reason for optimism in the semi-final to come.
You may notice a new look to ickledot shop, the England Deaf pics and the West Park Leeds ones. It's become a little more streamlined now so there's no need to go from one site to another to download images. Above each picture there's a 'buy now' button and that's all there is to it. Downloads are just £2 each. As mentioned before this is designed to be a little help towards paying for gear and fuel so I can get to more games around the county, telling more stories of this beautiful game.