Men’s rugby firsts seal thrilling win with final kick of the game

A last minute penalty from Fly-half James Mortimer sealed a fantastic 41-38 win for York over Leeds seconds

York celebrate their fantastic comeback over Leeds seconds. Image: Justyn Hardcastle

York celebrate their fantastic comeback over Leeds seconds. Image: Justyn Hardcastle



In a thrilling advert for the game of rugby York won with the final kick of the game to beat Leeds seconds 41-38 and preserve their unbeaten start to the season. Described by captain Tom Weir as “possibly the worst game we’ve played on the 22 Acres”, York found themselves 33-10 down with half an hour of the game remaining, but fly-half James Mortimer stepped up and kept his nerve to knock over a last minute penalty from the 10 metre line to give York an incredible victory.

The opening five minutes of the game gave no indication of the trouble York were set to be in later on in the game. A clever penalty from Mortimer nearly saw Adebiyi open the scoring but, despite being denied, the winger didn’t have to wait too long when a neat passing move found him free on the left to open the scoring. Leeds woke up at this and fired their way back into the game with three tries in succession. The first try was set up following some good work from the visitors’ forwards but tries number two and three were telling of the pace and strength in the away side’s back-line as they carved open the York defence.

Captain Tom Weir points the way as Matt Pollen goes on the attack for York. Image: Justyn Hardcastle

With the scoreboard now looking very much against York at 19-5, Weir’s side got a foothold back into the match. A nicely timed off-load from club President Rory McGregor saw Centre Matt Pollen reduce arrears to 19-10 but with the clock ticking down to half-time Leeds struck again, York’s somewhat weak defence was breached once again and at the break it was the University from down the A64 who were up 26-10. It had been comfortably Leeds’ half and, in truth, they had looked threatening whenever they had the ball in hand.

Ten minutes after the interval it only got worse for York. More incisive attacking from the away side extended the score to 33-10 and it looked a long way back. Coach Alec Porter had often not been impressed with his side’s decision making, especially at penalties, as he implored his side to play for territory more and kick for the corner. He was vindicated as well when, following pressure from a line-out close to the visitors’ line, skipper Weir flopped on a loose ball to make it 33-17.

Second Row Will Forsythe attempts to cling on to Leeds’ impressive no.8 as George Wissen and Tom Bugge look on. Image: Sam Newsome

The comeback was well and truly on moments later when another kick to the corner saw a true forwards’ try. The ball was collected from the line-out and after the York pack decimated their Leeds counterparts it was James Bennett who took the plaudits. Mortimer added the extra two points to bring the score to 33-24. Just as York were beginning to think they might get something from the game they were struck a hammer blow by their opposition. An interception in midfield eventually saw the fifth Leeds try of the day as they extended their lead to fourteen points and the score to 38-24.

The 22 Acres is, however, something of a fortress with only one loss in the past two seasons and York were not about to lie down and be beaten. With the ball going down the back-line Morris took the inspired decision to kick through and Adebiyi did the rest to secure his brace. Fly-half Mortimer knocked over the crucial two points to cut the lead to seven with a fantastic kick from the touchline.

With five minutes to go the home side were a converted try away from restoring parity so it was a case of all-out attack. Fresher Will Sharp took this as his moment to really introduce himself to rugby at York; having superbly handed off his opposite number he found Tarrega who raced home under the posts to bring it all square at 38-38 with only three minutes to play.

Gabriel Adebiyi attempts to evade a Leeds tackle. Image: Justyn Hardcastle

It was then with time running out that Mortimer stepped up, coolest man on the pitch, to seal a superb victory. The team celebrated euphorically and skipper Tom Weir was over the moon with the victory: “It was absolutely awful rugby but the bottle and temperament we had was phenomenal…we played awfully for 70 minutes and then in two five minute patches we somehow managed to win the game. Full credit to the opponents, what a terrible way for them to lose”, and there was no sharper reminder of the huge contrast between winning and losing in sport as the valiant Leeds team trudged wearily back to the changing room with the York side continuing their celebrations on the half-way line. York will be hoping that as the season goes on it will be them who carry on celebrating.

1. George Wissen (Rich Welch), 2. Gregor Morris, 3. Rupert Grant, 4. Sam Carr-Archer (Sam Morrison), 5. Will Forsythe, 6. James Bennett, 7. Rory McGregor, 8. Tom Weir ©, 9. Tom Bugge, 10. James Mortimer, 12. Matt Pollen, 13. Will Felgate (Shaun Carmody), 11. Gabriel Adebiyi (Will Sharp), 14. Pete Tarrega 15. Rich Bremner

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