Saturday 18th January 2020
Midlands Intermediate Cup Semi Final
Malvern 37 - 32 Leek
Leek lost a thrilling match at Malvern on Saturday to bow out of the Midlands competition at the semi final stage but not without giving their hosts a fright at the beginning and end of the match.
The teams shared 10 tries in what was a proper, old fashioned cup tie that had the large crowd in fine voice throughout and whose enthusiastic applause for both sides at the end was a tribute to community rugby at this level.
Will Midwinter was at full back with Jack Newton Taylor and Kini Buli on the wings. Tom Scragg and Nick Palmer were at centre with Rob McDermott and Ollie Drew at half back.
Bobby Cheadle, skipper Ed Cheadle and Joe Newton Taylor started in the front row with Joel Booth and Jake Bainbridge at lock. Reece Milner, George Hunt and Billy Kidd were in the back row.
Lewis Dunleavy, Isaac Reaney and Andy Thompson were on the bench.
Leek dominated the opening 37 minutes as they ran in 3 tries against a hesitant home defence with a degree of accuracy and intent that had somewhat left the side in the last 3 games. Today though, the whole team had heads on early and the way Leek’s forwards and backs set about their task was to silence the home crowd in that opening period.
A long range penalty from Will Midwinter after 2 minutes fell just short but Nick Palmer scored on 6 minutes with a trademark interception when Malvern’s centres were passing on their own 10 metre line. Nick went in under the posts and Will Midwinter converted. 0-7.
From the kick off, Malvern secured the ball and won a penalty in front of the Lee posts for handling in the ruck which was duly converted. 3-7.
From this kick off, Malvern cleared to half way and as Leek attacked on the right a high tackle sent the Malvern centre to the bin. Leek went for the lineout in the Malvern 22 and were held up on the try line. From the next line, Malvern’s defence was strong and they won the ball to clear. However, the Leek backs countered with McDermott, Midwinter and Jack Newton Taylor setting up Nick Palmer for his 2nd try on 14 minutes. Will Midwinter converted again and Leek led 3-14.
Leek continued to have much the better of possession and territory and from another clearance kick on the home side’s right, the ball only found Jack Newton Taylor. The wing gathered the ball, side stepped the wing and raced into the left corner for Leek’s 3rd try. Midwinter couldn’t convert but Leek’s lead was up to 3-19 with 25 minutes played.
Malvern needed to get back into the game and for the next 12 minutes they stopped Leek’s free flowing game but then with 37 minutes played a penalty for offside allowed Will Midwinter to convert the penalty to extend the Leek lead to 3-22.
It was to be the high point of the game for Leek.
With10 minutes to play in the half, Leek needed to just keep playing like they had been doing to hold the hosts but credit to Malvern, they weren’t about to lie down and in those 10 minutes produced 2 tries to give them real hope in the second half.
Firstly, on 40 minutes as Malvern attacked down the left the fly half kicked across field for the right wing to gather and score on the right. The conversion was good. 10-22.
Sniffing further opportunity and with the last play of the half, Malvern’s backs ran from their own 22. Tom Scragg slipped allowing the centre to sprint through the gap and his chip kick into Leek’s 22 allowed the speedy right wing to do the rest and touch down in the right corner. The conversion missed, the whistle blew for half time with Malvern right back in the game at 15-22.
Leek needed to try and wrestle the momentum away from Malvern as the home side would be confident after their end to the first half and Leek had that opportunity on 45 minutes when their forwards mauled into the home 22. The penalty came and the line option was taken. From the catch and maul though, the Malvern pack stopped the Leek drive and won the turnover. It was to prove a major turning point in the game as the hosts then dominated the ball and territory.
49 minutes gone and Malvern drew level with their 3rd try after the Leek clearance kick was ran back by the Malvern full back and then the outside centre made the telling move to offload a pass for the left wing to score a try. The conversion was good and it was all square at 22 all but with the home side now on top.
Malvern’s right wing had the chance to score on 59 minutes with a chip ahead and gather but knocked on with the line begging and then Bobby Cheadle was yellow carded on 61 minutes after he stopped a quick penalty from occurring on Leek’s 5 metre line.
The resulting scrum had the home pack driving near to the Leek line before the referee awarded them a penalty try and hand Malvern the lead for the first time in the match. 29-22.
A harsh penalty for a high tackle by Joel Booth extended Malvern’s lead to 32-22 on 75 minutes and Leek would have to score twice now to win the game.
Finally, the Moorlanders got the break they needed and a penalty followed by a lineout on the left on Malvern’s 22 had the powerful pack driving over the home line for George Hunt to claim the try. The conversion missed but at 32-27, Leek were back in the game with 10 minutes to go including stoppage time.
However from the kick off, Leek were trying to work the ball on the left and from a ruck turnover quick ball right had the right winger scoring his 3rd try in the corner. The conversion missed but at 37-27, it looked all over for Leek with perhaps 3 minutes remaining.
It got worse from the kick off as Jack Newton Taylor was yellow carded for back chat but Leek won the ball back and their determination won a penalty for a lineout in the Malvern 22 on the right. Again great work from the forwards allowed Joel Booth to score Leek’s 5th try in the corner from the drive and although the conversion missed at 37-32, there was one last play.
Kini Buli took the ball on the burst from the kick off ruck and won a penalty just inside his own half. Isaac reaney kicked for touch midway in the Malvern half on Leek’s left. The catch was good, the drive was good as Leek’s forwards and then backs joined the momentum as Leek and the ball drove to within 8 metres of the line before Malvern’s defence stopped the blue machine.
The drive halted and as the ball went to ground, the referee deemed a dead maul and blew for the end of the game.
It had been an epic game with momentum flowing one way and then the other culminating in a thrilling finish.
The 36 players deserve great credit for their performances and Leek lost nothing in defeat to a very good side.
Leek’s man of the match was unsung hero No.8 Reece Milner for his appetite to take on the opposition when needed.
The reception for all at the end of the game was confirmation that a great game had been witnessed.
The referee is also to be congratulated on officiating superbly and contributing so considerately to the match.
Malvern go on to the Midlands Cup Final where they will face Leighton Buzzard who beat Newark by 27-10.
Leek has no rest with league duty this Saturday. Burntwood are the visitors to Ester Chem Park for a 2pm kick off as the game doubles up for the semi-final of the Staffordshire Intermediate Cup.
It’s a busy day at the club with the colts starting early at 12 noon against Tamworth with the 2nds entertaining Birkenhead Park 3rds on top pitch, so get down early and support the club’s players as they strive to continue an already very successful season so far.