....due to injuries and unavailability.
They were fielding a strong pack with a welcome return for veteran prop Jason Milner partnered in the front row with Bobby and Ed Cheadle. Luke Hardern made a return from injury at lock alongside Phil Thomzak, Simon Drew and Andy Thomson were on the flanks with Luke Staton at No 8. Olly Drew was scrum half and Liam McDermott at 10. Nick Palmer and George Hunt were in the centre with Dan Sharratt and Dean Copperwheat on the wings. Dan Slinn made his debut at full back. Jack Conlon, Ryan Day and Matt Slinn were on the bench.
Leek started strongly from the kick off and for the first 15 minutes look like they were going to compete well with Leek appearing to dominate the scrums and competing well at line outs. On 16 minutes Leek knocked on just outside their 22 and a Stratford scrum allowed their fullback to burst through for a try in the corner. An excellent conversion gave the home side the lead 7-0.
Following the restart Leek had a good spell of attacking play before they were penalised for holding on. Stratford kicked for touch gaining a lineout on Leeks 5 metre line. The resulting drive saw the Stratford forwards push over for a try. The conversion was missed but Leek was now 12-0 down with only 20 minutes gone. Dan Sharratt received an injury and gave way for Matt Slinn.
Leek then gained a penalty just outside the Stratford 22 for offside and Liam McDermott converted 12-3.
This score seemed to spur Leek on and they attacked the Stratford line with great spirit. They were awarded a penalty for off side but the kick from McDermott drifted wide. Stratford kicked down field with Leek having to defend again before finally being penalised for holding on just outside their 22. The Stratford kicker made no mistake. 15-3
The half was played out with Leek trying to break through the excellent Stratford defence.
Both sides started the second half with great intent but it was the Stratford 13 that made the break through on 5 minutes to score a well worked try which was duly converted. At 22-3 Leek had an uphill battle. Jack Conlon came on to give Phil Thomzack a break
Leek pressed Stratford again but their defence was excellent and they cleared their lines and opened up for their no 11 to score their bonus try in the corner. The kick was not converted but with the score at 27-3 Leek had no chance of getting back into the game.
The spirited Leek side would not give up and spent the next 20 mins pressing the Stratford line to no avail. It was finally Stratford who had the final say with a drive over try duly converted to finish the game at 34-3.
Nobody could say that Leek did not try but they were up against a strong well drilled side that were excellent in defence and very quick to get to every breakdown. The game was played in good spirit with the Leek lads continuing to make a great effort until the final whistle, a fact which was acknowledged by several of the Stratford members after the game.
Next match is at home with Walsall travelling to Esterchem Park.
Author Gareth Jones