Midlands West 1
Old Silhillians 27
Leek again left it too late to win a match that had seemed beyond them for 60 minutes but will be left ruing a couple of missed chances as well as the poor start.
The Moorlanders’ 3rd losing bonus point in as many games was little reward as their close rival Sils notched up a 5 point win to close in on Leek, whilst Stoke won an important victory against Kenilworth.
It took just 1 minute for the home side to register points as the alert Sils scrum half chipped over the Leek lineout on the 22 and beat the defenders for the touchdown on the left. It is the 10th time in 14 games Leek has suffered a reversal in the opening minutes of the game this season.
The conversion was good and Sils led 7-0. From the kick off, Luke Staton retrieved the ball and it led to a penalty for Leek for slow release in the tackle. Gary McDermott converted to get Leek on the scoreboard at 7-3.
On 8 minutes, Sils won a penalty for slowing the ball at the ruck and a lineout in Leek’s 22 led to another penalty for offside and a 5 metre lineout. A couple of rucks later and the forwards crashed over for Sils 2nd try and although it went unconverted Sils were up to 12-3 inside the opening 10 minutes.
Leek had a 15th minute chance to reduce the arrears after Lee Williams initial good run led to a penalty for not releasing in the tackle. Backchat led to another 10 metres but Gary McDermott’s attempted penalty kick hit the post and went wide.
Disaster on 24 minutes when a long kick with the wind from Sils full back went over the head of Matt Leadingham in the Leek 22. Having just touched the ball in the attempt to catch it, the young win tried to run out from behind the posts and then with Sils bearing down, his attempted clearance kick was charged down and led to a simple score for the Sils centre. The conversion was good and at 19-3, Leek were in danger of being overwhelmed. However, the Leek forwards with Si McNicol, Lee Williams, Ed Cheadle and Luke Staton to the fore produced some patient rucking near the Sils line on 32 minutes. The backs produced some good angles leading to a stretched defence and when the ball was gathered at the final ruck, Leek’s forwards formed the maul and drove over for Ed Cheadle to claim the try. Gary McDermott converted and at 19-10, Leek had come back well and looked capable of holding their hosts until half time but on 36 minutes a penalty for not rolling away at the ruck led to a successful kick to steady Sils at 22-10. The last 2 minutes of the half had Leek’s forwards knocking on the Sils line again and a score looked possible until a turnover led to a clearance kick and then a penalty for Sils on halfway. The last act of the half was the attempted penalty but it landed short. 22-10
The 2nd half opened promisingly for Leek as the forwards mauled quickly towards the Sils line and then James Tomson broke off the maul and was penalised for holding on after becoming isolated one metre from the Sils line. For the next 25 minutes Leek went searching for a score but little continuity came and the game was becoming frustrating as the ball was being kicked away too often. Then as pressure mounted on Sils, Leek finally put together a maul, then a series of rucks which led to a penalty on 70 minutes. Gary McDermott kicked for the 5 metre lineout and when the drive came on, Sils were penalised for bringing the maul down. Leek opted for the line again and this time Sils dropped the maul on their own line giving the referee no choice but to award Leek a penalty try. McDermott’s conversion was a formality and at 22-17, the game was beginning to turn in the Moorlanders favour.
However a strange period of aimless kicking by both sides, looking not to concede territory this late on in the game led finally to a kick from the Sils full back towards the right touchline. Fortunately the ball bounced up, was caught by the wing and a couple of passes later, Sils had scored their 4th try on the right side. The conversion missed, but at 27-17, with 5 minutes remaining, Leek had paid for their poor start and the win was beyond them or was it?
The final few minutes saw the whole Leek team act together as they finally realised the game was slipping away. The reintroduction of Phil Tomczak on 70 minutes saw the big lock play his best spell of rugby for Leek as he fearlessly took the ball on and then stayed on his feet rushing into the Sils 22 on 79 minutes and making a target for his support. Great rucking had the ball up to the Sils line and then good hands left saw Liam McDermott crash through for Leek’s 3rd try on the left. Gary McDermott converted well and at 27-24, there were still 4 minutes of added time to play. Try as they did, those minutes were played camped in Sils half after a penalty midfield was enhanced by another 10 metres. Possibly the penalty attempt should have been taken but Leek chose to run and up to the Sils 5 metre line with controlled rucking, it looked like they may snatch an unlikely try but an unfortunate pass hit a head and Sils cleared to touch to end the game.
It had been an entertaining game for the neutral but for the partisan Moorlander an extremely frustrating one with Leek not able to get their noses in front at any stage of the game.
Notable performances by Lee Williams at tight head, Phil Tomczak, Ed Cheadle and Luke Staton still had Leek’s forwards competing strongly the whole match but indiscipline in the penalty stakes and decision making to kick the ball away in general have to be addressed for Leek to play the kind of rugby required to win their next game.
Next game is against local rivals Stoke at EsterChem Park on Saturday. Kick-off is at 2.15pm.