Newcastle beat Stafford 39-3 which doubled up as a league and cup fixture whilst Leek visited Wiggington Park for the 2nd time this season to take on Tamworth, currently lying 2nd in Midlands 2 West (N).
Having lost that earlier league fixture on a day of quite appalling weather, it is good to report that the Moorlanders return to form continues after last week's win against Camp Hill.
Beating Tamworth by 3 tries to 2 and gaining a place in the semi-final will give Leek further confidence as the 2nd half of the league season continues.
Jack Newton Taylor, Tom Scragg and Kimi Buli were the back 3 as Will Graham teamed up with the returning Nick Palmer in the centres. Dan Needham and Ollie Drew were at half back. Bobby Cheadle, Ed Cheadle and Joe Newton Taylor continued in the front row with Luke Harden and Jake Hartley at lock. George Hunt, Joel Booth and Billy Kidd made up the back row.
Isaac Reaney, Lewis Dunleavy and Tom Fairhurst were on the bench.
In benign weather conditions Leek had an early chance to score after 2 minutes when they won a penalty at the scrum as the pack drove the home side back. From the lineout in Tamworth's 22 on the left, a good catch and drive was stopped by the defence near the line and then as the ball came wide an unlucky knock on meant Tamworth could clear.
A few minutes later , young lock Jake Hartley, enjoying his first season playing regularly in the side suffered a neck injury and was replaced by another Leek youngster and having a great season, Lewis Dunleavy.
On 11 minutes, Leek did score after a mix up in the Tamworth backs led to an offside decision. The kick for the lineout on the right deep in Tamworth's 22, led to a catch and drive and Joe Newton Taylor crashed over at the back of the maul for the 1st try of the game. His brother Jack failed with the conversion but Leek deservedly led 0-5.
Leek continued to dominate territory and possession and on 23 minutes the forwards were pressing on Tamworth's 5 metre line again after a strong run from wing Tom Scragg. However the ball squirmed out of the ruck and the alert Tamworth 10 kicked ahead. With Leek committed forward he kicked ahead again and only skipper Luke Hardern could get near to saving the situation but the scrum half in support took the ball on and scored under the posts. The conversion was good and Tamworth led 7-5.
On 30 minutes, the same nearly happened again with Leek pressing. A dropped ball led to a kick ahead with 4 Tamworth backs sprinting towards the ball. Only Will Graham's brilliant thought, which was to kick the ball towards the touch line instead of attempting to pick it up and likely be tackled and losing the ball, and then kicking the ball again into touch preventing another score against the run of play.
This led to Tamworth's best spell of the half as they camped in Leek's 22. Great defence was then undone by clearance kicks not finding touch, inviting further pressure, which however was repulsed for the rest of the half. Half time 7-5.
Leek started the 2nd half strongly and scored their 2nd try on 45 minutes. A dropped ball by Leek led to Will Graham pouncing on it to retain possession on the left on Tamworth's 22. The continuity by the forwards had Leek near the Tamworth line. A couple of drives were stopped near the line before Ollie Drew tried the blind side. 2 passes later and Kini Buli just touched down in the left corner as he was tackled. Newton Taylor's conversion missed but Leek retook the lead at 7-10.
Tamworth started applying some pressure as the final quarter began and the centres Nick Palmer and Will Graham wee superb at and over the tackle as they competed strongly for the ball.
On 62 minutes only a last ditch tackle by Jack Newton Taylor on the flying left wing prevented a Tamworth try on the left after their backs worked an overlap and then within 2 minutes Leek hit the home side with a 3rd try after some great hands and passing support on the left led Jack Newton Taylor to step inside a couple of tackles. The back row arrived and the continuity led George Hunt to collect a pass and drive for the line and score. Isaac Reaney converted well and Leek extended their lead to 7-17 on 65 minutes.
It then took another 10 minutes for Tamworth to wrest the initiative and exert pressure through their forwards near the Leek line. Several waves of big forwards created a couple of penalties close to the Leek line and eventually as the game entered added time the try came with a great drive though the defence. The conversion was good and at 14-17, the referee signalled 3 minutes more time to play.
Leek tried to hold Tamworth in their own half but the home backs broke down the left and then won a penalty for a high tackle. The kick for the line was outside the Leek 22 on the left but Leek won the ball and kicked dead to hold on to win the game.
A good, competitive game before the next difficult league matches for both clubs with Tamworth travelling to 3rd placed Wolverhampton and Leek, in 6th at Crewe in 5th but the Cheshire side is easily the form side of the league currently with 6 consecutive wins, so Leek will have to be exceptional to get something out of the game. Camp Hill 4th take on leaders Ludlow meaning the top 6 sides are in action against each other.
Kick-off is at 2.15.
The semi-final of the Staffordshire Cup is scheduled for February 23rd. Leek will be hoping for a home fixture when the draw is made against either Wolverhampton, Newcastle or Walsall.
Author John McDermott