When the small group of Taunton spectators was discussing the man of the match, they had different opinions for different and very good reasons. It would have been hard to single one person out. There were, though, some very memorable moments on which the game turned and which won this maiden National League One game for Taunton.
The opening 10 minutes saw a series of penalties for both sides and it was from one such penalty that Leeds kicked to the corner. From the resulting lineout and maul they went over for the first try which was not converted and gave them a 5 point lead. This only lasted for 4 minutes before a similar penalty for Taunton saw the Titans adopt the same ploy and Charlie Wright score the first try at this level. Our new kicker for the day, Jack Walsh, duly added the extras and Taunton were 2 points in the lead.
This lead only lasted for 3 minutes as from the restart the ball sailed straight over the head of our lifted catcher and into arms of Ben Dixon, the fast approaching Leeds centre, who cut through the Taunton defence to score a try. This time, Leeds added the conversion and they were back in the lead 12 points to 7. From the kick-off Leeds regained the ball and progressed into the Taunton half with some superb running but the Taunton strong defence eventually turned over the ball. The Titans spun it wide into space for winger Aron Struminski to be set clear. However, the officials deemed this a forward pass and all were brought back for a Leeds scrum. This then probably set up one of the best tries of the match. After the scrum had been reset three times, Leeds eventually had quick ball and their winger came into the line to carve through a wide open gap in the Taunton defence and raced in to score under the posts for a converted try. The writing seemed to be on the wall for the Titans with the score at 19 points to 7.
However Taunton won another penalty and again, not kicking to the posts, Jack Walsh placed the ball in the corner. Lineout, maul and of course Isaac “Sniffer” Dalton came up from the maul having scored one of his two tries for the day, bringing the score back to 19 points to 12 in favour of Leeds. After some inter play by both sides Taunton spun the ball wide again and a very hard tackle on Freddie Frazer with the ball being held saw Leeds awarded a penalty. This, sadly, was the end of the game for Freddie who was helped from the field and later carried away on a stretcher. We can only wish him a speedy recovery. From the penalty Leeds won the ball and spun it wide for centre Harry Jukes to go over. This then gave Leeds a 14 point lead, 26 points to 12.
Step up Ratu Vakalutukali “Toots” to go over for a try which Jack Walsh converted to reduce that lead to 26 points to 19. Taunton then gave away another penalty which was their eleventh of the half and the Leeds full back duly obliged by slotting over a long distance kick for a ten point lead and looking comfortable with a try bonus in the bag as well. However, on the stroke of half time, Harry Tarling the Taunton centre then produced his own piece of genius to score the bonus point try for Taunton which Jack Walsh converted to bring Titans back within sniffing distance and leave the score at half-time Leeds 29 Taunton 26.
It was not long into the second half before “Sniffer” Dalton was under one of those Taunton driving mauls to score his second of the afternoon which Jack Walsh again converted to put Taunton into a 4 point lead. Then came one of those match turning moments. Taunton were pressing the Leeds line with the ball going loose. This was seized upon by the Leeds winger who was fast and strode away for what seemed would be a length of the pitch certain try. However the Fijian “bullet” Toots was not having this. He chased back, caught the flying winger and prevented what should have been a certain try. Shortly after this came the first of the yellow cards for Taunton when Sam Prior was sent for 10 minutes in the bin.
How the whole team then worked to keep Leeds out and earned a penalty which Jack Walsh kicked to give them a 7 point lead. Then came another stand out moment which stunned the Leeds crowd. Aron Struminski got the ball in space and his pace and flair earned him a superb try. This time Walsh was unable to add the points, meaning the score was now 41 points for Taunton and a lead of 12 points. Taunton then had their second yellow card of the afternoon which would reduce them to 14 men for the remaining 9 minutes of the game. Leeds were seeming to create overlaps but Taunton seemed to fill the gaps with one break through by Leeds, Aron Struminski raced across and pulled off a stunning tackle. A rolling maul towards the Taunton line saw the experience of Brett Harvey get under the falling ball carrier and hold the ball up for no try and with seconds to go and another two man overlap for Leeds, the timing of a tackle by Gary Kingdom saw him wrap up man and ball for Taunton to clear their line.
The game was summed up by experienced member of the Leeds crowd who stated what a wonderful defence Taunton had under pressure, no wonder it would be hard to point out any individual as this was truly a team effort.