....given the 2 sides’ respective positions in the table. 101 points in all, 9 tries to Burton and 6 to Leek meant The Moorlanders picked up its first bonus point of the season, not for losing by 7 points or less, but by scoring 6 tries, which is double anything achieved so far this season.
The team selection is dominated these days by unavailability, so it was no surprise to see 2 debutants in the squad but also the return of Luke Hardern.
Jon Worrall came in at full back for his first game of the season, with Matt Leadingham and Dan Sharratt on the wings, making up the back 3.
Gary McDermott switched to inside centre and partnered Nick Palmer. Liam McDermott moved to scrum half allowing the debut of young Jack Winfield at fly half.
Skipper Bobby Cheadle, Ed Cheadle and Dan Cooper made up the front row with Ed Harrison and Phil Tomczak at lock. Andy McFadden came back on the flank with Luke Staton and Jack Conlon recovered from last week’s knock to play at No.8.
On the bench, Leek debuted Dean Copperwheat, alongside Simon McNicol and Luke Hardern.
Leek opened with 4 minutes of possession from kick off but then a loose pass was seized on by the Burton right wing who ran in under the posts to open the scoring. The conversion was good.7-0.
2 minutes later and Burton converted a penalty in the Leek 22 after an in at the side of a ruck offense. 10-0.
9 minutes gone and Burton scored their 2nd try from a scrum on half way. Poor tackling and good support eventually led to a simple try under the posts. The conversion led to a 17-0 lead with 10 minutes played, of which Leek had had 50% of the possession.
On 13 minutes Leek had their first penalty and kicked for the line out on Burton’s 10 metre line. A good take by Andy Mcfadden and then the Cheadle brothers combined in midfield which led to an overlap on the left for Nick Palmer to sprint for the try line. The conversion missed but hope at 17-5.
On 19 minutes, Leek was up to the Burton line again and Matt Leadingham nearly got over but stumbled in the right corner.
Burton resumed on 22 minutes when the hooker burst clear and shrugged off tackles to score under the posts. The Conversion meant the score advanced to 24-5.
4 minutes later and Burton had secured their try bonus point after Leek lost possession in the centre and swift hands and forward support had the defence broken. The conversion had the score up to 31-5.
From the kick off, the Burton forwards set up the ruck and good hands wide and again poor tackling had the Burton backs scoring by the posts. The conversion gave the hosts a 38-5 lead on 30 minutes.
For all of the ease of Burton scoring, it seemed, when Leek was in possession, the forwards made good ground and the backs handling was also sound, so when Leek won a penalty on 33 minutes for offside and Jack Winfield kicked for the line in the Burton 22, it was with serious intent rather than hope. The line out produced another penalty and Winfield kicked Leek a line out 10 metres out. The subsequent maul had the visitors striding towards the home goal line until the ball was pinched and Burton cleared.
However on 39 minutes, with Leek showing signs of confidence with ball in hand, another penalty for a tip tackle led to the Burton flanker being yellow carded. The line out outside the Burton 22 then produced a series of rucks up to the Burton line and eventually skipper Bobby Cheadle crashed over for Leek’s 2nd try. Jack Winfield converted and the half time whistle went with a score line of 38-12 and a target for Leek in the 2nd half of 2 more tries for a bonus point.
Leek started the 2nd half strongly and Dan Sharratt’s intelligent kick into the left corner had the Burton full back make a superb recovery. His counter led to Burton’s next try though as the hooker again made a strong run against an indifferent defence and a try under the posts converted had Burton up to 45-12 on 46 minutes.
4 minutes later and the 7th try in the left corner came after the Burton backs conjured the full back coming into the line and he scored in the left corner. The conversion missed, but Burton was up to 50 – 12.
Still Leek looked quite dangerous with ball in hand and on 57 minutes, Leek’s man of the match again, Jack Conlon, scored after a great run by Matt Leadingham and support by Dan Sharratt, allowed the forwards to set the rucks and the momentum gave Conlon his score. The conversion missed, but Leek’s 3rd try gave the Moorlanders real hope now that a bonus point could be achieved. 50-17.
3 minutes later and the Burton backs moved the ball wide right, then the forwards set up a series of rucks before a well timed pass saw another score by the posts. The conversion was good. 57-17
From this kick off Burton knocked on and as Leek’s forwards rushed through, they moved into the 22 where a series of strong runs finally led to Gary McDermott bursting through for a score under the posts. His conversion had the score at 57-24 but most importantly gave Leek its first bonus point of the season. The confidence was starting to get into the Leek team now as perhaps, not surprisingly, Burton’s players thought they had done their days’ work, but when McDermott kicked a 68th minute penalty in the Burton 22 to make it 57 -27, it sparked a momentum change in the match for a while.
On 72 minutes, Jack Conlon scored his 2nd try under the posts after the ball was spun wide from their own 22. Great hands and support made for an easy enough score. McDermott converted . 57-34.
2 minutes later and a confident blind side break left Dan Sharratt with a sprint for the line and although the conversion missed at 57-39 Leek had completed a 6 try haul.
There was just time for Burton to arrest the fightback when the full back added his 2nd try of the day after a sprint into the left corner. The conversion missed and the scoring, which had been nonstop all afternoon, was completed at 62-39.
Notable debuts from Jack Winfield and Dean Copperwheat, along with improved performances from the wingers and inspired performances at scrum half by Liam McDermott and No.8 by Jack Conlon showed Leek has depth and versatility among their younger players that can be built on.
Given Leek’s league position, the outcome was positive and despite the heavy score against, the 2nd half performance which was actually won, bodes well for the confidence of the squad.
Only Leek and Crewe and Nantwich of the bottom 5 teams in the league won a point this weekend and the Cheshire mens’ visit to EsterChem Park this Saturday will be eagerly anticipated by both sets of players, officials and supporters. Kick off – 2.15pm.
Author John McDermott