Leeds had defeated Grangetown in the final fixture of the 2018/19 campaign, but after two games of the current season, both sides were still looking for their first win.
Although Grangetown were without Ireland defender Genevieve Slater, Head Coach Gel Williams was able to name a strong squad, which included all three players who appeared in the 2019 Super League, with Tuaine Keenan making her seasonal bow alongside Ash Neal and Brie Grierson.
Brie Grierson drilled a pass to Ash, and from the left of the post, the Australian-born goal attack found the net. Leeds then scored the next three goals, with Lydia Walker’s incisive pass allowing Annie to cancel out the one goal against a centre pass.
The next 12 goals were shared, with both sides guilty of a number of unenforced errors. Abbie le Brocq’s goal brought an end to a scrappy passage of play, before the Leeds attacking quartet combined well to set up another goal.
Abbie then parried and collected a hard, high pass from her shooting partner; she gave the ball to Ria Small on the left edge of the circle, who then fed Ash to score. Leeds were awarded possession despite the ball going out of court off one of their own players, and two turnovers and a penalty later, Leeds again levelled the scores.
From a backline restart, Ash cleverly swung her right arm around the back of the post to set up Abbie. Jenny Mrozik and Tuaine Keenan then combined for a crucial turnover; Vicky and Ria created a straightforward chance for Ash, and Vicky was involved again as she fed Brie who duly set up Abbie to consolidate the turnover.
Another long shot from Annie reduced the deficit to two and the first period ended with Grangetown leading 12-14.
Leeds had the better of the early exchanges in the second quarter, Lydia intercepting a telegraphed pass to create the equalising goal, and Maisie Bickerton edged the hosts in front, having been left free under the post when Tuaine narrowly failed with an attempted interception.
Ria then did really well to chase a misplaced pass and flick a speculative ball back into the circle, which was collected and converted by the Grangetown attack. Ash then produced a delightful pump-fake pass to unlock the Leeds defence, but the home side responded with a fine move of their own, a long ball through centre court finding Maisie completely unmarked under the post.
Abbie fed Ash after superbly catching a pass under intense pressure, and Abbie’s next shot gave Grangetown a two-goal advantage. Annie’s shooting, especially from distance, was becoming a real feature of the game, and another long shot was calmly converted; but quick goals from the visitors – including one from a great interception from Ash - extended the lead to six.
A rare miss from Annie was regathered by Grangetown, but a footwork call handed back possession to Leeds, and the goal attack was immediately back on target. Grangetown were penalised from the centre pass, with Francine Hall’s pass setting up Maisie for the goal.
Ria showed good strength to claim a loose ball on the edge of the circle, but Ash’s goal was cancelled out by another long-range effort from Annie.
As the clock ticked towards half time, Grangetown scored three more goals, the second of which came after another superb interception from Vicky; and Abbie’s fine one-handed grab allowed the shooter to net the final goal of the period.
Francine’s no-look pass set up another opportunity and the momentum certainly seemed to be swinging the way of the home side. Jenny was unfortunate when a dropped Leeds pass touched her leg on the way out of court; the home side netting from the restart.
Jenny’s next involvement was to secure possession for her side; Grangetown made their way down court, but seemed to have lost the ball over the back line. Somewhat fortuitously, the decision went Grangetown’s way and the resulting goal was much-needed. Abbie netted from the Grangetown centre pass, before great Grangetown defence forced a poor pass and an easy turnover; and Abbie was able to restore the six-goal lead.
Once again though, Leeds rallied and halved the margin with Annie continuing to score from almost any distance. Francine athletically retrieved a ball that looks certain top bounce out of play and Annie netted as the hooter sounded to leave the score at 40-42 with just 15 minutes remaining.
Grangetown had made no changes during the game, and made the ideal start to the final period with two quick goals. Leeds replied after a footwork call against the visitors, and Lydia then set up Maisie with a great feed into the circle.
The Grangetown shooters kept calm under increasing pressure, and Brie’s interception resulted in Ash netting from distance. Grangetown then missed a simple chance to further extend the lead, and although a three-second violation handed the ball back to the visitors, another close-range effort was missed.
Ash’s floated shot seemed to settle the side. Vicky then claimed another crucial interception; the resulting goal widened the gap to six and effectively settled the result.
Leeds certainly never stopped fighting and forced two quick turnovers, but only converted on one occasion and Grangetown saved one of their best moves until the closing moments when Brie delivered a superb inside pass for Ash to set up Abbie for the score.
The hooter sounded with Grangetown recording a hard-fought but deserved 51-57 success. Vicky Rees had a fine game at wing defence and was my choice for Grangetown’s player of the match, but arguably the best performance came from the Leeds goal attack, Annie James, whose composure and shooting were tremendous throughout.