With the pitch drying out and rolled in the morning, it was a chance to get back to the more fluid game Leek has been used to playing and with the large crowd now coming to see this vastly improved team, they weren't disappointed with the standard of the game and the way both teams attacked.
Elliott Fowler was back in the side, starting at full back. Dave Kennaway and Gary McDermott were at half back with Shane Dicker and George Hunt in the centre. Lucas Buxton made a return on the left wing and Jake Green was on the right wing.
The front row of Clarke, Granger and Ackerley continues to mould and Newby and Staton at lock are becoming a useful combination. The back row of Slinn, Nettel and McFadden is as industrious in attack as in defence.
Ad Smith, Joe Newton-Taylor and a welcome return for former captain, Ian Harris, were on the bench.
A perfect day for rugby started perfectly for Leek as they scored in the opening 50 seconds from a McDermott penalty after Shrewsbury's kick out of defence from the start was charged down. A couple of quick rucks later and referee Vickers had penalised the Shrewsbury backs for offside.
Leek's early grip on the game saw them with all the territory and on 10 minutes Andy McFadden stole a lineout ball on the Shrewsbury 22 and sprinted through the defence. Shrewsbury were penalised again and Leek opted for the scrum. Another penalty ensued as the Shrewsbury scrum half strayed offside, but Leek's chance went as they were penalised for diving into the ruck. Nevertheless, the pressure was all on the visitors and on 17 minutes, as Shrewsbury kicked clear again, Lucas Buxton gathered the ball on half way. His pass found the ever alert Elliot Fowler and his sprint into the line, saw the backs take the ball to the 22. The back row set up the maul and Jake Green appeared out of the maul, swivelled past one defender before making the pass to Shane Dicker on the right touchline for the big inside centre to score a great try. McDermott's touchline conversion was successful and Leek were up to 10-0.
6 minutes later and McDermott had added another 3 points with Shrewsbury offside at the ruck. 13-0.
On 30 minutes, the referee's patience was lost for offside at rucks and the Shrewsbury flanker was yellow carded.
This signalled a purple patch for Leek and on 34 minutes, Leek's 2nd try came starting with a penalty on halfway for diving into the ruck.Dave Kennaway took a quick tap and set McDermott off into the Shrewsbury defence. His short flat pass was met on the burst by young George Hunt, who broke the line and sprinted the 30 metres to touchdown under the posts. McDermott converted and Leek were up to 20-0.
Leek then lost concentration for the 1st time in the match, when from the kick off, they were penalised for blocking as the ball was caught and the Shrewsbury centre gave the visitors a glimmer of hope. 20-3.
As the half wound down deep in the Shrewsbury 22, Jamie Clarke was lying hurt with a twisted knee and the young prop had to be stretchered from the field as the referee blew for half time. He was replaced by Joe Newton-Taylor, another of Leek's 19 year old forwards.
Shrewsbury had been almost completely outplayed in the first half. Leek had made them look lacklustre at best. The coach was particularly forthright in his halftime pep talk and he must have been thankful for the gift of another penalty from the kick off when Leek were penalised for an elbow in the face. The easy conversion followed and Leek's lead was reduced to 20-6.
On 46 minutes, Shane Dicker, whose conversion from flanker to centre is beginning to show dividends took a knock and was replaced by Ian Harris.
McDermott kicked a long range penalty on 51 minutes for another offside infringement and at 23-6, it was hard to see where Shrewsbury were going to get back into the game. A penalty for the visitors on 58 minutes may have been the answer as the fly half drilled the ball for a lineout on Leek's home 5 metre line. However Leek spoiled the catch and Andy McFadden pounced on the ball and McDermott cleared.
On 64 minutes, with Shrewsbury definitely enjoying more possession and territory in the 2nd half, Leek were forced again to kick clear. McDermott's high centre field kick was to test the Shrewsbury fullback just inside his own half. His fumble and the subsequent follow up and pick up by Ian Harris saw a quick series of passes by the backs allowing George Hunt another 30 metre sprint under the Shrewsbury posts. McDermott kicked the conversion and at 30-6, there looked no way back for the visitors. This was reiterated on 67 minutes when, after some heroic Leek defence on their own line by Ad Nettel and Matt Slinn, the Shrewsbury prop was yellow carded for stamping.
On 70 minutes, Lucas Buxton was injured and Ad Smith replaced him on the wing.
With the game seemingly lost, Shrewsbury's fly half started to throw the ball wide and from a lineout on Leek's 22. a simple sidestep and some poor tackling saw the impressive outside centre score a good try. He converted his own try and Shrewsbury were up to 13-30.
This galvanised Shrewsbury some more and 5 minutes later with Leek perhaps switching off, the Shrewsbury inside centre scored his try as the Leek tackles became ineffective and Shrewsbury's support play improved. The conversion was good and at 20-30, entering the final minute, Shrewsbury could sense a bonus point at least. However Leek came back at them and on 86 minutes won a penalty on the Shrewsbury 22.
A fracas ensued as 2 players wouldn't release each other on the floor and more players got involved. Finally, the referee yellow carded another Shrewsbury prop and Dave Kennaway, but red carded Luke Granger for an infringement after the whistle blew again. He reversed the penalty and the Shrewsbury No.8 carved his way through some poor tackling to the half way. A couple of rucks later and Shrewsbury knocked on and the final whistle was blown on a match that had been highly entertaining and mostly played in a great spirit, perhaps spoiled a little by the last couple of minutes.
Nevertheless, Leek's 9th win of the season and 6th at home had been secured by some very hard work by the whole squad and coaches Ian Gittens and Chris Mudd were rightly singing the praises of their charges after the game.
It remains to be seen if the injury to Jamie Clarke is serious or not, but with next week's encounter at Stafford in Leek's sights, more work on the training ground is required to keep the players focussed and prepared for what will be a tough match.
Breeze House man of the Match - Dave Kennaway
Leek moved up to 6th place with this win as Aston Old Eds lost heavily at home to Old Salts whose grip on 2nd is vicelike and waiting for a slip from leaders Ludlow. Ludlow, though, don't look likely to falter as they won again at Bridgnorth, whose form recently has been dented, but they remain in 3rd place, followed by Stoke whose demolition of Dixonians must have been built on the confidence of their excellent run in the Intermediate Cup and they have games in hand.
Stafford gained another win, hard-fought at Willenhall, whose bonus point means they lie only 6 points behind Dixonians and despite Stourbridge Lions' bonus point at Tamworth, it looks a near impossible task for them to secure safety in this division.
Next Week, Leek's match at Stafford is a 3pm kick off. Please come along and support the team and get involved in the 6 nations as well.
On Sunday, March 13th, England's game versus Scotland, the Calcutta Cup match and rugby's oldest International fixture dating back to 1879, will be shown live at the club. The clubhouse will be open from 1030am as the juniors and minis play and train. Come along and watch how the club is developing, get involved and then support England in the Grand Slam Quest.