Leek’s formation took another twist in a season of inconsistency around availability with Matt Leadingham, Tom Scragg and Dan Sharratt making up the back 3.
Gary McDermott and Nick Palmer started in the centre partnership, allowing Sam Hunt to start at 10 with returning scrum half Ollie Drew.
Bobby Cheadle, Ed Cheadle and Adam Smith in the front row and Ben Barlow and Luke Hardern at lock are the consistent front 5 Leek has managed to field for some weeks now but the back row saw further changes with George Hunt drafted in at 7 with Jack Conlon at No.8 and Jake Bainbridge on the blindside.
Simon Drew, Will Graham and debutant first Andy Outram teamer were on the bench as the light rain stopped and the players emerged to a field perfect for rugby in Autumn.
Leek were out of the blocks early and Sam Hunt showed his intent on 4 minutes with a delightful chip overhead the advancing Lincoln back division. Nick Palmer sprinted through, took the ball on the first bounce and won the 40 metre race for the line on the right. McDermott couldn’t convert but a good start for Leek at 5-0.
3 minutes later, a poor clearance from Lincoln, saw Leek running the ball back and getting over the try line but was hauled back for a forward pass on the Lincoln 22. Nevertheless it was very encouraging for the home support but on 9 minutes, a mistake whilst on the attach led the Lincoln 10 to kick through and was heading to the try line when Tom Scragg timed his run to perfection to go down on the ball and get up in one motion and then win a penalty for the danger to clear.
On 13 minutes, Lincoln had a penalty as Leek infringed at the ruck but the attempt went wide.
Lincoln had taken the first 10 minutes to get the long journey out of their system and were now more of a threat and on 20 minutes the fly half broke from his 22 and made it to the Leek 22 before a tackle from Nick Palmer stopped the potential try. A penalty came though as Leek were offside at the ruck and this time the Lincoln scrum half successfully converted to narrow Leek’s lead to 5-3.
Leek bounced back immediately with a series of powerful rucks into the Lincoln 22. Finally, Bobby Cheadle set up the maul and Leek’s forwards drove over from 8 metres and Ben Barlow was credited with the try. McDermott converted and Leek stretched to 12-3 on 25 minutes.
On 32 minutes, perhaps the move of the game set up Leek’s 3rd try when Sam Hunt and Nick Palmer exchanged 3 passes leading to Hunt breaking into the Lincoln 22. He set up the ruck, attracting a few backs and the quick ball blind allowed Tom Scragg to get on the end of passes to score in the right corner. McDermott converted to increase Leek’s lead to 19-3.
As the half entered overtime, Leek had a lineout on Lincoln’s 22 following a penalty for not rolling away at the tackle. The maul was set up and the disciplined Leek forwards aided by some backs drove over for the 4th try of the half, scored by Bobby Cheadle. McDermott converted from the left to give Leek a commanding 26-3 lead.
The half ended with Lincoln on the attach though and sound rucking gave them a chance out wide but a forward pass at a critical moment meant the promising move broke down.
Half Time - Leek 26 – 3 Lincoln.
The 2nd half opened with Lincoln on the attack. A penalty gave them a chance to take a lineout in Leek’s 22 on 44 minutes. The drive was held up though but illegally so and George Hunt was yellow carded. The pressure on Leek continued and a minute later the excellent Lincoln fly half broke 3 tackles and passed to the left wing to crash over in the corner for a deserved try. The conversion was good and Lincoln had narrowed the gap to 26-10.
The next 15 minutes saw Lincoln trying to build on their success and Leek trying to stop the visitors and the stalemate was only interrupted when Leek won a penalty on 62 minutes midway in Lincoln’s half for an offside offence. Skipper Luke Hardern signalled for McDermott to take the points and the centre duly converted to eke Leek a further 3 point advantage out to 29-10.
Lincoln came straight back though and were held up over Leek’s line. The referee was playing an advantage for over the top at the ruck and Lincoln opted for a 5 metre scrum. A good pick up at the back of the scrum and very quick hands gave the right wing a clear run for the line and a 2nd Lincoln try. The conversion was good and it still wasn’t over at 29-17 on 65 minutes.
The next score would be crucial and it fell to Leek on 72 minutes. Following a scrum to Leek on the right in the Lincoln half, Sam Hunt, who was to win the man of the match performance, (See attached photo of sam on the break), again broke clear deep into Lincoln’s 22. A couple of passes later and skipper Luke Hardern crashed over by the posts for the score that finally ended any hope Lincoln had of winning the game. McDermott converted and Leek led 36-17.
Lincoln received a yellow card as the game entered overtime and McDermott completed the scoring with the penalty to end a satisfying performance from Leek, as they ran out 39-17 winners.
It had been a good encounter between sides with similar records in their respective leagues.
The last 8 sides in the Midlands Cup now find Leek pitched in with West (N) rivals and league leaders Whitchurch and 2nd placed Crewe.
3 sides from East (N) remain – league leaders Coalville, Newark and Southwell.
2 sides from West (S) remain, league leaders Earlsdon and Droitwich.
The quarter finals take place on Saturday, November 18th. Draw will be made in the next 2 weeks.
Leek returns to league action next Saturday when they travel to Kidderminster. Kick-off is at 2.15pm.
Next Saturday, November 4th, is also bonfire Night at the club. It is a great event for families and everyone is encouraged to attend. Entry is free from 6pm with the bonfire lit at 7pm and the fireworks display a bit later.
All volunteers for the event, please arrive at 5.45pm for instruction.