It was a truly fantastic occasion for both sets of supporters, members, players and officials and the match lived up to its grand setting and in truth the way both sides have managed games this season with Trowbridge taking a lead and holding on and Leek battering away in the last 10 minutes usually enough to defy most teams but not the Wiltshire men on this occasion.
The playing squad of 22 was supplemented by Dan Smith, Jake Green and Josh Mays Woodhead who were unfortunate not to make the final cut, but they too have played their part as have 13 other players, for the first team this season.
Luke Granger, Tom Hine and Bobby Cheadle started in the front row with Ed Harrison and Tom Sims at lock. Naz Narawa started at No.8 with Ad Nettel and Luke Staton on the flanks.
Ian Harris and skipper Gary McDermott were at half back. Liam McDermott and Nick Palmer were in the centre and James Floyd, Jack Newton taylor and Sam Hunt made up the back 3.
Dan Cooper, James Wilson, Luke Hardern, Andy McFadden, Dan Needham, Shane Dicker and Jason Milner made up the bench.
The game opened scrappily with both sides getting used to playing on the national stage and it took 15 minutes for the players to get the experience out of their systems and concentrate on the game in hand. When that happened, the remaining 70 minutes was superb with first Trowbridge getting on the score board after 22 minutes for an offside offence in the Leek 22. Fly half David Davies stepping up to hold his nerve and open the scoring at 3-0.
Back came Leek and 6 minutes later following a penalty and a quick tap, the Trowbridge men were penalised again for backchat and this allowed a kick for touch to the Trowbridge 5 metre line. A clean take and drive, then set up Luke Granger for a charge to the line, where the experienced hooker deservedly scored. Gary McDermott missed the conversion but Leek were in front at 5-3.
The lead lasted a couple of minutes though as Trowbridge hit back and after a series of drives near the Leek line and some tremendous defence, Karl Parry forced his way over. Davies added the conversion and Trowbridge retook the lead at 10-5.
As the half wound down, Leek looked to have scored again when Tom Sims dived over but the ball placement was adjudged without downward pressure and Trowbridge had a let off.
The 2nd half started with both sides trying to wrest advantage and then on 50 minutes, Trowbridge full back Jackson Szabo changed the game with a devastating run from half way. His quick feet and pace took him towards the right touch line where he fended off 2 would be tacklers to score a tremendous solo try. The conversion missed but at 15-5, Leek needed some inspiration. The side came roaring back again and with some great continuity and patience the ball was with skipper Gary McDermott. He stepped his way past a defender, shrugged off another before scoring a try under the posts. The conversion was good and at 15-12, there was everything to play for with 25 minutes to go.
Then disaster struck as Ed Harrison was yellow carded for a spear tackle and it left Leek with 14 men for 10 minutes. This signalled a change in the game again and after another penalty was given against Leek on their 22, Davies kicked for the corner lineout. A good catch had the Leek defence bravely holding up the powerful Trowbridge forwards before prop Sean Jones went over from close range. Davies added the conversion and at 22-12, Leek’s task looked daunting with 12 minutes to go.
The Moorlanders were nothing but determined and they hit back with James Floyd and then Sam Hunt carving his way through the stretched Trowbridge defence and with McDermott on his outside a good pass looked to be the way back for Leek. However, the pass went to ground. Moments later and Luke Granger looked to get to the line but was held up.
It was all Leek now as the tide started to turn and they needed a score. The Wiltshire defence was scattered all over the 5 metre line as finally James Floyd skipped through to score by the posts. McDermott converted and with 4 minutes of normal time plus 5 minutes of added time, Leek were now breathing down the necks of Trowbridge at 22-19.
It must have seemed an eternity for both sets of supporters and players as Leek virtually camped on the Trowbridge 5 metre line. Firstly, it looked like Dan Needham reached the line for Liam McDermott to have scored with referee Luke Haskins unsighted, then a final 5 metre scrum had Trowbridge’s pack going back under their own posts with the referee signalling advantage to Leek with an outstretched arm. He reset the scrum and Leek’s last chance fell to a dropped pass 3 metres from the line to end a dramatic final tie.
Both sets of players were exhausted and had given a great account of themselves and deserved the thunderous applause of their respective supporters as they collected their medals from Bob Reeves, President of the RFU.
The after match function in the Spirit of Rugby lounge was a worthy end to the formal proceedings with both club presidents and captains endorsing the community spirit of amateur rugby at this level.
Leek’s large contingent of supporters waited for their heroes to emerge and join them for a celebration in the Marriott hotel at Twickenham after the formalities and as the coaches made their way home, the club can hold its head up very high with the way it conducted itself and it’s now onwards and upwards for a new season in Midlands 1 West (N).
Well done everybody.
Author John McDermott