Not content with producing a 24 all draw in normal time, the 2 teams then scored a converted try apiece in the 20 minute extra time period to leave matters all square at 31 all after 100 minutes of non stop action.
The RFU regulations book was dusted off to discover which of the teams had won through and it appears, though as yet unconfirmed on the RFU site, that with both sides scoring 2 goals (try and conversion is a goal), 1 try (unconverted) and 4 penalty goals each that the away team is awarded the tie.
Anyway, as this report goes to press, the outcome is still unknown and the account below tries to précis the events at Parkfield Road on Saturday which unfolded in front of a large expectant home crowd and a vociferous Leek contingent of 60 supporters or so.
As the coach arrived at Newbold, Leek realised they had left their playing shirts at home and so with Leek's president, Dave Powell, tasked with driving them down, Leek started the match wearing yellow shirts given by their hosts.
Nevertheless, Leek’s replacements were blessed with new Sub suits which had been donated by Martin and Diane Parr’s charity for CRY in memory of son Chris.
In turn, the suits had been presented by Canterbury sports clothing brand with the help of local sales manager Ally Leek.
Thankyou to all for your fantastic donation.
The underfoot conditions were perfect with a strong breeze blowing straight downfield which Newbold decided to use in the opening half.
Leek fielded their strongest team possible with Jason Milner, Luke Granger and Bobby Cheadle in the front row and expected to come under considerable pressure from the vaunted Newbold front 5. Ed Harrison and Tom Sims were at lock with Andy McFadden and Ad Nettel on the flanks and Luke Staton at No.8
Ian Harris and skipper Gary McDermott were at half back and winning his battle against a back injury, Liam McDermott was back at 12, partnering Nick Palmer in the centre. Jack Newton Taylor and James Floyd were on the wings and Sam Hunt returned to full back.
The bench saw the return of 2 first team members who had been out for several months. Tom Hine and Dan Needham would provide strong cover and different strengths when they came on and Luke Hardern, who is proving to be an outstanding loose forward, was to play a significant part in extra time.
The game started perfectly for Leek as a Newbold forward knocked on at the kick off and Leek won a penalty at the scrum as Newbold's front row were adjudged to have dropped the scrum. Gary McDermott stepped up and in front of goal, kicked Leek into an early 0-3 lead.
The next scrum on 3 minutes saw Newbold win a penalty and the fly half kicked the penalty to the Leek 22 for a lineout. The big home pack won the ball and Leek was penalised again for dropping the catcher. Another kick for the line saw the home pack on the Leek 5 metre line from the next lineout. A catch and drive and then a couple of rucks swallowed Leek's defence on the fringes and the big inside centre went over for a try. The fly half converted and at 7-3 on 5 minutes, Newbold had shown intent on their approach.
On 13 minutes, Leek won another penalty for a high tackle and Gary McDermott doubled his tally to reduce the deficit to 7-6.
For the next 15 minutes, the game settled down to a pattern of close forward driving by Newbold and counter by Leek and on 29 minutes, Newbold were penalised again for not releasing at the tackle, but McDermott's 45 metre attempt went wide. However a minute later, McDermott had a simpler chance when Newbold were penalised again for not moving away from the tackle and from 30 metres, the skipper booted Leek into a 7-9 lead.
Luke Hardern and Tom Hine both entered the fray at this point as Jason Milner and Ed Harrison were rested.
On 35 minutes, Newbold won a penalty at the scrum for boring in and decided to take the kick at goal, which was duly converted to hand Newbold the lead again at 10-9.
On 38 minutes, Leek's forwards finally set up a maul and drove the startled home forwards into their own 22 and as Luke Granger emerged with the ball, the tackler was penalised for not releasing and McDermott stepped up again to convert a difficult penalty against a strengthening wind. 10-12.
Leek just needed to hold now for the remaining minute of the half but indiscipline cost them a penalty after they couldn't retain the kick off return. In at the side of the ruck meant the Newbold fly half had a simple chance to regain the lead for his side on the stroke of half time and he slotted the kick easily to end the half at 13-12, with the lead changing hands 5 times already in a tough, close match.
With the blue shirts on their backs and wind in their favour, Leek's supporters may have become more confident that their team could win in the 2nd half, but this game was to have many twists and turns which no-one could have forecasted at this stage.
The half opened with Leek looking to score with a clear overlap on the right. Simple passing was required and a certain try beckoned but the final pass was poor and the danger passed. Nevertheless, Leek was on the up and good retention from ruck and quick ball nearly saw James Floyd over in the right corner. Good clearing out and a fantastic catch by Bobby Cheadle kept the move going as he set up the next ruck 2 metres from the Newbold line. 1 more ruck was required before the ball was fed to Luke Granger who found himself in space under the Newbold posts and he powered over to score Leek's first try on 47 minutes. Gary McDermott converted and Leek retook the lead at 13-19.
Newbold came back strongly and a minute later won a penalty in Leek's 22 for not releasing. A simple conversion narrowed Leek's lead to 16-19.
On 53 minutes, following a Newbold clearance kick, Leek won a penalty for offside near the half way. Gary McDermott decided to have a go with the wind behind. His kick sailed towards the left hand upright striking it on the inside and then hitting the bar before bouncing out into play. James Floyd nearly collected but unfortunately knocked on and Newbold cleared.
6 minutes later and Newbold were level after another penalty was coughed up by Leek's indiscipline. This time, Leek were offside at the ruck and a good kick left the game all square with a quarter to go.
On 65 minutes, a decisive piece of play saw Newbold gain the advantage. After a driving maul on half way, a slick move in the backs and a missed tackle saw the centre take the ball and sprint in for a fine try on the left. The conversion missed, but at 24-19, the home side had bounced back strongly and looked in a position to take the game.
2 minutes later and it was nearly confirmed as Dan Needham threw an interception pass on half way. The Newbold hooker took the pass cleanly and looked on his way to score in the left corner. Gary McDermott sprinted back and collared the forward on the Leek 5 metre line and Leek cleared with a penalty after the hooker was adjudged holding on after the tackle. It had been a let off for Leek and they needed some inspiration to give them hope with the clock against them as they entered the last 10 minutes.
It came in the guise of Sam Hunt, Leek's full back. With Leek now throwing the ball around trying to look for the openings, James Floyd looked like he was sprinting in for a try. A great tackle prevented it but in doing so, the newbold centre was yellow carded for not allowing quick release. The Moorlanders found themselves hunting down the Newbold line and on 74 minutes a scrum on the 5 metre line allowed an overlap and a swift passing move with Sam Hunt looping James Floyd on the wide right saw the 15 dive over for a great equalising try. However the conversion proved too much for Gary McDermott as he pulled his kick and at 24 all, the next mistake or piece of skill would win the game. None came and the game would go into 10 minutes each way of extra time.
Extra time proved just as exciting as the first 80 minutes as Newbold took the game by the scruff of the neck. On 6 minutes, Leek's tiring defence was sucked in which allowed the outside centre to score a great try. The conversion was good and at 31-24, it may have looked all over. However, back came the Leek forwards before the half ended. Rucking up to the Newbold line, it looked only a matter of time before someone would score but Tom Sims just knocked on under the shadow of the posts and the half ended with Leek 7 points adrift and the wind back in their favour.
The 2nd period started with Leek knowing they had to score a converted try, but Newbold's tactic was to deny Leek any possession and with 5 minutes left, it looked like it would work.
Then Leek won a ball on the ground and Gary McDermott made a break on half way. At the tackle, he passed to the onrushing Luke Hardern and he broke a tackle before reaching the Newbold 22. Quick ball was denied by his opposite lock and Leek had won a penalty and the lock was yellow carded. McDermott kicked for the lineout 8 metres from the Newbold try line. A catch and drive saw the Leek forwards get to the line, but held up and a scrum was awarded. a pick up and drive by the excellent Luke Staton kept the pressure on and Leek's loose forwards were trying to force their way over. Finally, Leek won a penalty for not releasing and Dan Needham took a quick tap. He found Liam McDermott on the charge, but the Leek inside centre was high tackled by the Newbold flanker. As the centre received attention, the flanker went to the bin, leaving Newbold 2 men down with 2 minutes remaining.
Leek were pressing as Newbold's brave defence held out, but Newbold were penalised again as Leek knocked on. The next quick tap from Dan Needham saw him decide to spin the ball wide and may be surprise the Newbold defence who may have expected Leek to scrum or go for the line out. Quick hands by the McDermott brothers released Nick Palmer and the outside centre sprinted in under the tackle to score a deserved try for his side.
The conversion would prove to be the last action of this dramatic match and with the wind still strong, Gary McDermott's kick from the 15 metre line on the right went bang through the middle of the posts to earn his side a piece of a thrilling draw. 31 all.
The final whistle blew and all the players became subdued as they tried to figure out what came next.
It had been a fantastic match, a great advert for local Level 7 rugby in the Midlands and neither side deserving to lose. The contrasting styles had meant the game had countless twists and turns before the real winner emerged - the game of rugby.
All 36 players have to be applauded on providing a spectacle for the big crowd which will live long in the memory.
Congratulations to them all and the officials whose contribution was excellent.
This Saturday Leek has another massive game at Esterchem Park.
With Crewe and Nantwich winning both their catch up games with bonus points, the Cheshire side sits 2 points adrift of Leek at the head of Midlands 2 West (N). The encounter between these 2 sides this Saturday at Leek, Kick off 3pm, and the game at Moseley Oak, where Bridgnorth are the visitors will see the top 4 in the league all out to enhance their league credentials.
Please come and support the 1st team and see the minis from each club play before the big match.
With members Bob Dicker and Jim Cheadle sponsoring the game, it should be a great atmosphere.
Author John McDermott