Leek fielded an unchanged starting XV for the first time this season with Sam Hunt, Tom Scragg and Nick palmer in the back 3.
Rob McDermott and James Floyd were in the centre and Gary McDermott and Ollie Drew were at half back.
Lee Williams, Ed Cheadle and Bobby Cheadle were in the front row with Andy Thompson and Jacob Bainbridge at lock.
George Hunt, Joel Booth and Will Graham were in the back row.
Lewis Dunleavy, Jack Conlon and Luke Granger made up the bench.
On a glorious afternoon at Edgeley Park, Whitchurch started strongly and scored the first try on 8 minutes after a scrum on Leek’s 5 metre line. A couple of rucks later led to the hooker crashing over.
The conversion missed but Whitchurch led early, 5-0.
Leek replied on 13 minutes with sustained pressure in the Whitchurch 22 and won a penalty for not rolling away at the tackle. Sam Hunt converted. 5-3.
Leek continued to have the better of possession and territory for the next 13 minutes and it resulted in them taking the lead for the only time on 26 minutes.
From a 22 drop out, Andy Thompson fielded the ball in the air and was tackled in the air. Sam Hunt stepped up to nudge Leek into a 5-6 lead.
It didn’t last long as Whitchurch scored their 2nd try on 30 minutes. The backs combined nicely through the middle after a break and the fly half scored by the posts. With a successful conversion
Whitchurch moved back into the lead at 12-6.
Then, 5 minutes later Whitchurch increased their lead after a lost Leek scrum on their own 22. The scrum then collapsed and the penalty awarded to Whitchurch. The kick was good and the score ticked up to 15-6 on 35 minutes.
Leek scored next though to stay in touch as Ollie Drew drew the penalty at the ruck when he was taken out. An easy kick for Sam Hunt narrowed the lead to 15-9 in the 2nd minute of added time.
Still there was time for the next score and unfortunately for Leek it was the 3rd Whitchurch try. Following a ruck on half way, Leek somehow were outflanked on the left for the wing to score unopposed.
The conversion was good and the half time whistle blew with the hosts taking control of the score board at 22-9 and Leek struggling to take the advantage away from a determined Whitchurch.
However, the break came at a good time for Leek and they came out of the blocks at the beginning of the 2nd half but still spurned 3 good chances in the opening 10 minutes.
Nick Palmer was called upon to prevent a dangerous Whitchurch move in the Leek 22 and his anticipation and clearance gave Leek more hope.
2 minutes later on 54 minutes, Leek scored their first of 4 second half tries.
Leek set up a maul after rucking into the Whitchurch 22 from a clearance kick on the right. The backs moved the ball left, the forwards first rucked and then mauled with patience inexorably to the line and Lee Williams crashed over
for a deserved Leek score. Sam Hunt’s conversion missed and at 22-14, Leek still needed the next score to get right back in the game.
It happened on 63 minutes and was perhaps Leek’s best try of the day following a scrum on half way. The ball was worked into centre field and then good passing left with James Floyd taking a couple of players out before offloading for Nick palmer
to score, rounding the wing to score and give sam Hunt the easier chance for the conversion. He duly obliged to move Leek to within 1 point at 22-21 with less than a quarter to go.
Still this game had plenty to give and the first yellow was given to Luke Granger on 69 minutes after the flanker kicked the ball from the scrum half’s hands in Leek’s 22. Whitchurch kicked the penalty. 25-21.
On 74 minutes, Whitchurch scored their 4th try when the No.8 peeled off the back of a 5 metre scrum to set up the ruck on the left. Leek’s defence was sucked in as the right wing went over in the corner for a great try.
The conversion missed but at 30-21 and with time running out Leek needed to score next and this they did, again.
On 78 minutes, a penalty allowed the lineout in Whitchurch’s 22 on the left and the resulting maul made the Whitchurch line before the flanker stopped the certain try. The referee awarded the penalty try and a yellow for the flanker.
At 30-28 with only added time remaining, this game was down to the wire and next score won effectively.
It came from the kick off as Leek failed to take possession of the ball. The lineout was scrappy, then a turnover gave Whitchurch a scrum 5 metres out and the Whitchurch pack moved to the Leek line before it was pulled down and the referee awarded Whitchurch a penalty try.
At 37-28, Leek was out of losing bonus point territory but the Moorlanders had played their part in this great match and weren’t to be denied the losing bonus point and a 2nd point for their 4th try with the last act of the game with 5 minutes added time played.
Jack Conlon scored a trademark try with a neat sidestep after the forwards drove for the line again but the ball peeled off and Conlon secured the points. Sam Hunt missed the conversion as the final whistle went at 37-33.
Whitchurch had defended their season long unbeaten record but had been given a real fright by a determined Leek side who matched their hosts in most departments of the game and can take a lot of confidence into the close season.
Winning 2 points at Whitchurch was, in the final analysis, a great achievement and left Leek with 72 points and 3rd spot.
Congratulations go to Whitchurch for a fantastic season and we wish them well in Midlands 1 for next season.
Leek finished 3rd and with Crewe and Nantwich losing heavily at Malvern in the play off, C&N remain in Mids 2 next season. Stafford and Telford get promoted into Mids 2 and Cleobury Mortimer and Old salts are relegated from Mids 2.
Probably Wolverhampton and Camp Hill will be relegated into Mids 2 from Mids 1, making next season another competitive one to look forward to.
This Sunday is a very important day in the Leek calendar as they host Staffordshire’s President’s Day.
3 final swill be played on EsterChem Park with the Staffordshire County Officials and guests attending.
11am - Linley v St Leonard’s
1.30pm - Eccleshall v Rugeley
4pm - Newcastle v Stafford
We will be providing a marquee with outside bar and BBQ during the day .
The clubhouse will be used by invited guests between 10am and 615pm .
Between 615pm and 830pm we will be having a singer in the clubhouse for all members , visitors to enjoy the evening as we have a Bank Holiday on the7th May
Clubhouse parking will be busy. We will be using wall lane pitches as an overflow car park with a cone managed plan with stewarding in operation. Please support the plan .
We ask you to pop down and enjoy the rugby and a pint with friends and family .
Entry is free , any programme sales will be donated to local charities.
This is a big honour for the club so we ask for your support .
We are also after a few more volunteers to assist on the day and sat 5.5.18 to help set up , this is your club . Can you please contact me if you can spare an hour . Jobs we are after support on -
Litter picking this Saturday
Car park pot hole filling Saturday
Support for car park attendant Sunday from 10am please
BBQ support all day Sunday.
Thanks again for all your support this season.
Author John McDermott