1st XV match report for Saturday 19th December 2015
Midlands West 1
Worcester Wanderers 17
Leek fell just short again for the 2nd successive home match against a side that traditionally has beaten the Moorlanders comfortably in the past but this time on a heavy pitch the result was in doubt until the last minute with Leek coming back at their visitors in the 2nd half after an opening 40 minutes that left a deficit of 10 points to find.
5 changes to last week’s squad meant a debut bench call up for Ryan Day as Luke Granger returned to hooker alongside Adam Smith and Si McNicol. Phil Tomczak and James Thomson were at lock with Luke Staton at No.8 and Andy Thompson and Andy McFadden on the flanks. Liam and Gary McDermott were at half back. Lee Williams and Nick Palmer were in the centre and Matt Leadingham, Ollie Drew and George Hunt made up the back 3. Dean Copperwheat and Jack Conlon made up the remainder of the bench.
Skipper Bobby Cheadle was out due to an AC joint injury sustained at training on Thursday as unavailability continues to thwart consistency in selection. Nevertheless, a losing bonus point was won and the 1st team is closing in on a run of games in the New Year that will make or break the season.
The pitch had recovered remarkably from last week’s encounter and although heavy underfoot, it played very well all game as Worcester missed an opening minute penalty for in at the side on 2 minutes. Leek lost a lineout on 6 minutes on its own 22 and after a couple of quick rucks in midfield, goods hands left saw the left wing score a good try in the corner for the visitors and with a superb conversion, Worcester led early 0-7.
Leek had a chance on 20 minutes to get on the scoreboard but Gary McDermott’s attempt went just wide after a penalty for collapsing the scrum went against Worcester and then the visitors were penalised again for not retreating 10 meters after a quick tap penalty.
From the ensuing 22 drop out Leek’s forwards moved up a gear and a series of rucks and pickups saw them break the gain line each time until eventually they were held up over the line. The 5 metre scrum then led to a Leek lineout after another penalty and this time Andy McFadden took a good ball allowing the Leek pack to set up the driving maul and for Phil Tomczak to crash over in the right corner for Leek’s opening try. Gary McDermott converted superbly and the game was all even at 7 all on 26 minutes
The kick off was unfortunate for Leek. A knock on and a Leek forward collecting in front meant an immediate penalty for Worcester from the restart. The resultant kick for touch on Leek’s 22 led to a successful catch and drive until the ruck was formed. Intense pressure on the Leek line eventually led to a forward crashing over under the posts to restore Worcester’s lead. The conversion was good on 29 minutes and at 7-14, Leek had to do it all again.
Worcester missed a 35th minute penalty attempt as a Leek defender strayed into the path of the attacking scrum half and then with 2 minutes of added time played, another Worcester penalty for Leek’s scrum lifting up led to a successful attempt to end the half at Leek 7 – 17 Worcester
Worcester continued to dominate the penalty count and on 45 minutes Leek conceded 2 penalties for offside but the attempt from the latter one went just wide. It got worse then for Leek as Si McNicol was yellow carded on 54 minutes for a team yellow offence at the scrum. The penalty led to a lineout and then another penalty to a 5 metre scrum as Leek looked like they would concede. The powerful Worcester pack drove and controlled the ball near the line but then Liam McDermott got his hands on the ball and Leek cleared.
It signalled a change in fortune as the yellow carded McNicol was replaced by Adam Smith. Leek finally had some ball to run with and Luke Granger and Liam McDermott both made telling breaks. Then on 72 minutes the Worcester lock was yellow carded for an offball incident after his team were awarded a penalty and the Leek kick for a lineout on the Worcester 22 led to several rucks before Jack Conlon was held up over the line.
In the gathering gloom, Leek’s scrum held and this time the patience held for Leek with a final maul sending Gary McDermott over for a try which took some time for the referee to award. Another yellow card was produced for the Worcester No. 8 for back chat as McDermott’s conversion went over and Leek were up to 14-17 with 5 minutes to go.
Worcester cleared their lines on 82 minutes but again a long kick back to the Worcester 22 had the full back caught. Leek turned the ball over and looked likely to score as they got up to the 5 metre line. Unfortunately, then a Leek forward dived into the ruck and the referee awarded Worcester the penalty that finally allowed the ball to be kicked into touch to end the game.
It had been another intense fight back by Leek in the 2nd half but not enough again to overhaul determined opponents who defended well and just hung on. With Silhillians and Walsall losing and Stoke’s game at Hereford postponed, the bottom of the table saw Leek gain a point and move within 5 points of Stoke which now has the game in hand v Hereford.
The top of the table is immensely tight with the top 4 sides all on 46 points and only 3 points separating the top 7 clubs. Burton are currently top but Bridgnorth has a game in hand.
Leek now has a rest until January 7th in the New Year and on that day travels to Silhillians which will be an 8 / 10 pointer for both sides. Kick-off is 2.15
Happy Christmas and Sporting New Year to all our members, supporters and friends.
See you all Boxing Day for the 11am kick off between the Vets and the 3rds. All welcome to participate in what is a very festive affair. All family and friends welcome from 10am.
Author John McDermott