It had been a very close affair throughout with underfoot conditions dictating a risk free game plan.
Nevertheless it was a full blooded encounter played with skill, passion and sportsmanship.
Good Luck to Droitwich in the final.
Leek’s squad was almost unchanged from last week but with Joel Booth out for 2 weeks, Jack Conlon came back in at No8 with Luke Staton and George Hunt on the flanks.
The front 5 picks itself with Bobby and Ed Cheadle and Lee williams in the front row and skipper Luke Hardern at lock with Ben Barlow.
Ollie Drew and Gary McDermott were at half back and Rob McDermott and James Floyd were in the centres. Tom Scragg and Matt Leadingham were on the wings with Sam Hunt at full back.
Kini Buli, Will Graham and Jake Bainbridge filled the strong bench.
The game kicked off with the floodlights on and with a light drizzle that was to abate shortly but not before Leek had to defend and turnover an opening minute drive in the 22 from Droitwich.
However on 10 minutes the opening score did come following a mistake on Leek’s 22 as the Moorlanders were carrying the ball out of defence. The ball was dropped, it was salvaged by a Droitwich forward who set up a couple of rucks near the Leek line before the scrum half sprinted over on the left. The conversion was good and Droitwich led 0-7.
4 minutes later and Leek lost a lineout on their own 22. The Droitwich forwards set up a good position in the middle of the 22 and the fly half then dropped a superb goal to keep the momentum up for the visitors.
Leek needed to get into the opposition half and exert some pressure and as the opening quarter ended, this is what happened when they won a penalty but from the lineout, the ball was pinched and Droitwich cleared. Then on 25 minutes Bobby Cheadle was binned for mouthing at the referee and it seemed nothing was going right for Leek.
Still, there was no panic as Jake Bainbridge came on at prop and the superior Leek scrum started to sense a chance if they could get into position. Easier said than done as Droitwich’s defence was superb and Leek couldn’t break it down.
Leek were beginning to enjoy more possession in the 2nd quarter and as the half was ending the Moorlanders got their reward. On 39 minutes, a penalty for slowing the ball at the ruck allowed Gary McDermott to kick for the lineout 5 metres from the Droitwich line. George Hunt caught the ball at the front but was immediately dragged to ground and the Leek forwards had to ruck their way inch by inch towards the line until finally Lee Williams burrowed his way over on the left. The conversion just failed and the half ended there with Leek back in it at 5-10.
See attached try from Lee.
The half time team talks must have been quite different with Droitwich going to kick more ball into the left channel of Leek’s 22 and Leek would be trying to run the ball and retain possession anywhere on the field.
It was a forwards encounter during the 3rd quarter as both sets pounded each other for that yard of gain and the backs passed simply to avoid mistakes but were getting well tackled on both sides.
Then on 60 minutes, with Droitwich’s forwards in control of a maul on the Leek 22, they won a penalty. With advantage playing, the fly half cross kicked for the left wing. Tom Scragg just couldn’t intercept despite his jump. The winger caught the ball on Leek’s 5 metre line but was superbly tackled as he went for the line but his pass out of the tackle found the dynamic open side flanker and he scored Droitwich’s
2nd try on the left. The conversion was good and the visitors were up to 5-17.
Leek came back strongly and finished the game looking for the scores to win it but were repulsed by a very disciplined defence for nearly the whole of the 4th quarter. It took Leek until the 82nd minute to score their 2nd try after a penalty on the Droitwich 22 on the right was quickly taken allowing James Floyd to take the ball on the burst to score under the posts. McDermott converted at 12-17 and Leek had perhaps 2 minutes to score again.
It wasn’t enough time for Leek to mount the attack they needed and despite their adventure the ball went loose and the game ended in midfield.
It had been a great spectacle for the crowd made bigger by the fantastic support Droitwich brought with them.
Leek can be proud of their performance and every member of the squad put in a tremendous effort. It had been a good cup run and bowing out to Droitwich at the semi-final stage is no disgrace.
Next week, it’s back to league rugby and the visit of Cleobury Mortimer to EsterChem Park. Kick-off is at 2.15pm
Other photos attached show Staffordshire President Becky Davies with Leek’s captain and vice-captain, Luke Hardern and Ed Cheadle after the game and one of Leek’s main sponsors, Leek United with CEO Kevin Wilson shaking hands with Becky Davies in front of the board showing sponsorship with the Rugby Football Foundation for the recent pitch and training facilities drainage.
Thank you to them for the fantastic support.
Author John McDermott