Leek’s determination not to lose their season’s unbeaten record was achieved with a spirited second half comeback after being 13-31 behind. A powerful driving maul which went 20yards before being collapsed was rewarded with a penalty try and conversion which put Leek in the lead with only a minute left. The restart was taken and Leek finished off the game by putting the ball out to hear the final whistle blow and a fantastic finish 34-31 to Leek
Leek took the field with five changes from the previous week. Jake Green came in for his first game of the season for winger James Floyd and Tom Hine took Australia bound Ed Cheadle’s place in the front row for his first game also. Tom Sims replaced flanker Andy McFadden’s and James Wilson took No8 Luke Staton’s place. Jack Newton-Taylor replaced Nick Palmer on the wing.
The game was always going to be a great measure of how Leek are playing this season but Market Harborough had other ideas and immediately showed power in the scrums and pace in the backs which disconcerted Leek. Within five minutes penalties were scored and with the score 3-3 both sides tried to attack with MH being more likely to score as their pack gained some control over the Leek eight. Both sides lost scrums against the head and MH had several opportunities to score which failed narrowly.
Around 20 minutes penalties were scored by the MH centre and Gary McDermott to see the score at 6-6 but MH were putting Leek under more pressure than they had seen this year. However, Leek broke through after a tap penalty and James Wilson latched on to an inside pass to score a converted try under the posts 13-6. A MH penalty for offside quickly followed 13-9 and then Leek held out until the 37 minute only to see MH winger deservedly score a try in the corner after several phases of play 13-14.
In the last movement of the first half MH extended their lead with another penalty as the scrum was driven backwards and Leek were penalised. Half-time score was 13-17 and Leek were having to work hard against a strong pack and some quick inventive backs who had made the Leek defence look ragged.
At half time Matt Slinn replaced Ed Harrison and from the kick-off Leek took the ball down to the visitors 22 only to give away a penalty after losing the ball close to MH’s line. MH regrouped and from a line in Leek’s 22 a poor kick from Leek was taken by MH fullback and 2 passes saw their left wing scoot over in the corner to score a well deserved converted try to lead 13-24. Leek missed a penalty to reduce the score but were soon punished when a kick rebounded up into the hands of the MH flanker who drove over the Leek line. The conversion was successful and Leek were now 13-31 behind and looking for some inspiration
On 50 mins Ian Harris replaced Dan Needham at scrum half and Luke Granger took over from Tom Hine. As the team began to work harder and up the pace of their game Leek began to attack with much more pace and determination. They knew that it was their only way back and on 55 mins Adam Nettel scored in the corner after Leek had moved the ball through several phase. Captain Gary McDermott converted and Leek grew in confidence as they began to dominate possession and put MH’s defence under pressure with the score now 20-31.
The game still ebbed and flowed as Luke Hardern and Ed Harrison ran hard at MH and Leek began to control the ball better and manage the rucks properly. Eventually after several strong attacks were defended well Ian Harris dived on the ball to score a try after charging a kick down. MacDermott’s conversion put Leek back in the game at 27-31 with 12 minutes left to play.
The rest of the game was a terrific advert for Rugby as both sides worked hard to achieve their aim of winning this match. Leek seemed to be growing in confidence and MH had to defend really well to keep Leek from scoring. Both sides worked hard to finish the game off and soon Leek were in the position to do it
On 39 minutes Leek caught a lineout on MH’s 22 and drove forward strongly with Jason Milner’s dancing feet controlling the back of the maul. Some backs joined in also and as the maul drove on MH were offside and then deliberately collapsed the maul which was going to go over the line . The whistle blew and Leek saw the referee Indicating a penalty try which was converted from under the posts. Leek had taken the lead 34-31 after being behind for over half of the game and the final whistle blew soon after.
This Saturday sees Leek away to Crewe and Nantwich 2.15 ko . They are top of the league one point above Leek.
Both teams are unbeaten this year and it will be an exciting contest.
Leek 2xv play Rugeley 1xv and Leek 3xv play Trentham 2xv both at home 2.15ko
Author Gareth Jones