….after a very competitive game which hung in the balance until a try by The Moorlanders on 77 minutes settled the tie.
Dronfield plays in Midlands 2 East (N) and have started the season well, winning both home league games, so Leek was under no illusion about the task ahead and with a significant slope down the pitch, skipper Luke Hardern
won the toss and chose to kick up bank and also against the wind 1st half.
Leek had a few changes to personnel and positions this week with Nick Palmer taking over at full back. Will Graham and returning Kini Bulli on the wings. The Hunt brothers, George and Sam, were in the centre as Dan Needham started at scrum half with Gary McDermott at 10.
Bobby Cheadle and Ed Cheadle were joined by returning Lee Williams in the front row. Luke Hardern and Ben Barlow were at lock. Andy Thompson, Joel Booth and a start for Jack Conlon, completed the back row.
On the bench were returning players Liam McDermott and Ben Smith together with Lee Pickles.
Dronfield kicked off down the slope and won an immediate penalty in the Leek 22 for holding on. The full back’s attempt hit the post and Ed Cheadle and Sam Hunt combined to clear the early danger for Leek.
The Moorlanders then played some great rugby for the next 5 minutes, retaining possession and making ground and were rewarded with a penalty on 5 minutes for offside at the ruck. Gary McDermott’s attempt went wide though.
Still Leek kept up the pressure from the 22 drop out and a series of quick tap penalties in the Dronfield 22 had the Leek forwards finally up to the Dronfield line. Then an intelligent lofted pass from sam Hunt found Andy Thompson in the clear and he went over in the left corner for the 1st try of the match on 10 minutes. Gary McDermott converted superbly from the left touchline and Leek deservedly led 0-7.
Dronfield came back strongly with quick rucks, getting over the gain line quickly and on 14 minutes Leek were penalised for offside and the Dronfield full back slotted the penalty to reduce Leek’s lead to 3-7.
Back came Leek and on 17 minutes had a scrum in midfield about 30 metres from the Dronfield line. The ball shifted right and Sam Hunt found Nick Palmer. He created a two on one and passed to Kini Bulli. The winger rounded his man and got near the line as the full back came across to cover. His inside pass to Nick Palmer allowed the Leek full back to score near the right corner for Leek’s 2nd try.
McDermott missed the conversion but Leek extended their lead to 3-12 on 18 minutes.
Dronfield were getting frustrated and after a series of penalties against them the flanker was yellow carded on 22 minutes. Leek then pressured Dronfield for the next 10 minutes but credit to the home side, they defended superbly and when restored to 15 men, won a penalty, allowing them to kick for the lineout on Leek’s 5 metre line. Off the top and a couple of rucks later the ball came back blind and the fly half crashed over for a deserved try. The conversion was good and it was game on at 10-12 on 38 minutes.
As the game entered the final minute, Leek took back the initiative and with their dominant scrum won a penalty on the left from which Gary McDermott converted to end the half on a high note for Leek as they led 10-15.
The 2nd half, 3rd quarter, saw Dronfield exerting most of the pressure as they had to take on the elements and with Leek dropping of a few tackles and generally not as good as the 1st half, they did well to prevent any home score. Both replacements, Smith and McDermott came on and went off in a 10 minute period and the Bobby Cheadle looked like he would have to come off as Leek scrambled to retain their lead.
On 60 minutes, Dronfield missed a penalty attempt from the left and then on 64 minutes, Leek finally broke the siege and won a penalty in the Dronfield 22 for offside. McDermott converted and at 10-18, the Moorlanders had some breathing space.
However from the kick-off, Leek was penalised for not releasing but the penalty attempt hit the post again and Leek cleared.
Then it was Leek’s turn for a yellow card as the persistent penalty count ensured Sam Hunt would play no further part in the game on 72 minutes. Dronfield’s penalty was deep in Leek’s 22 but the attempt for the lineout on the 5 metre line went dead in goal instead and Leek could clear.
Then on 75 minutes, Kini Bulli made the break to set up Leek’s 3rd try. He received the ball just inside his own half, looked up and threaded a great kick through deep into Dronfield’s 22. There he hassled the defence and won a penalty on the 5 meter line.
Leek opted for the scrum and the powerful pack patiently drove over the line for No.8 Joel Booth to touch down. McDermott converted and at 10-25, Leek had sealed the win on 77 minutes.
There was time for Dronfield, with the last play to score a try under the posts. It occurred after a Leek scrum in Dronfield territory when Dan Needham kicked over the scrum only to find the full back. He set off across field connected with the centres and the tireless outside centre made the telling break for his partner to score by the posts. The conversion was good but it was too late for another kick off as the referee blew for full time. 17-25
It had been a very good game with Leek’s superior scrum and lineout the difference between two well matched sides. Dronfield suffered injuries to their lock and back row which also hindered them but the damage was done by Leek’s powerful forward display in the 1st half. The lineout went particularly well with Ben Barlow dominating and Bobby Cheadle was back to his best days with a lot of pick up and drives as his fitness returns. Skipper Luke Hardern made some penetrating drives and Joel Booth and Ed Cheadle both contributed to excellent defence with Lee Williams carrying well and scrummaging powerfully. The flankers, Andy Thompson and Jack Conlon, complemented each other well as Andy put in a determined defensive shift and Jack a dangerous runner.
The backs struggled to make many line breaks against a solid defence but also defended well and worked hard for each other in a disciplined performance with a few positional changes as well.
The 3rd round draw should be made next week with the game being played on Saturday 28th October. ( Last 16 of the Midlands Group)
Next week, Leek is playing away in the league at promoted Cleobury Mortimer. There is a team bus leaving the clubhouse and any supporter wishing to travel on it should contact Mark Hardern. KO is 3pm.
On October 21st, Leek entertains Crewe & Nantwich at EsterChem Park and that fixture also embraces the beer festival. More information on that later.
Author John McDermott