1st XV match report for Saturday February 13th 2016
Midlands West 1
After dominating the 1st half Leek scored a last gasp try to take a draw out of Whitchurch and 2 league points.
Leek’s starting XV very much resembled the team that heavily beat Walsall 2 weeks ago, so it was no surprise to the management how well Leek competed and if the squad can stay together for the remainder of the season then it should be an interesting end to the league campaign.
Leek dominated possession and territory for the opening quarter but solid Whitchurch defence and a few errors meant the teams were deadlocked.
On 21 minutes Gary McDermott had a long range penalty attempt but it fell short and then Whitchurch kicked into Leek’s 22 on 26 minutes and from the lineout forced a scrum about 8 metres from Leek’s line. The No8 picked up and ran in on the blindside without any opposition in sight to score the opening points. The conversion missed but the home side led 5-0 against the run of play. Then on 34 minutes McDermott made perhaps the only clean break of the match when he stepped passed the line after Luke Staton had pinched a lineout. He was stopped 5 metres from the line and Leek won a penalty for slowing the ball down, but it was then reversed for foul play and Whitchurch cleared.
5 minutes later and Jason Milner was at the back of a strong maul from a lineout in the Whitchurch 22 again and this time as they approached the 5 metre line, the maul was brought down and the Whitchurch wing was yellow carded.
Leek opted to go for the lineout and Staton duly caught it. As the ball came out Whitchurch were caught offside and then Luke Hardern was held up over the line. As time ticked away to end the half, the 5 metre scrum fixed the defence and scrum half Dan Needham went blind and fed Liam McDermott. His pass to Nick Palmer had the right wing crashing over for a try in the right corner.
Gary McDermott’s conversion missed and the half time whistle went with the sides locked at 5 all.
McDermott missed a 47th minute for offside and then on 58 minutes, the Whitchurch fullback missed a penalty for a ruck offence as both sides fought out a midfield battle looking to probe an opening.
On 67 minutes, with Whitchurch having the better of possession and territory in the 2nd half, a kick into the Leek 22 had the defence conceding a lineout. The catch and drive was good and as it stopped short of the Leek try line, Jason Milner was yellow carded for a shoulder charge. The resulting lineout had the home support willing the Whitchurch maul over the line and it duly did as the forwards and backs crashed through the defence to score. The conversion missed but at 10-5 with a man down Leek looked like they had lost the initiative and may well not even retain a bonus point.
However, it was Leek which proved the stronger in the last 10 minutes and on 75 minutes Nick Palmer had a 50 metre run up the right wing and into the Whitchurch 22 before he was tackled and forfeited a penalty for not releasing. McDermott had a 79th minute penalty attempt go wide and as the game entered stoppage time Leek won a penalty midway in their own half. McDermott found a touch in the Whitchurch 22. The catch and drive looked solid and then Jack Conlon broke and took the ball almost to the Whitchurch line. Good recycling and quick hands on the blindside had Nick Palmer sprinting over for his and Leek’s 2nd try with the last play. McDermott’s touch line conversion was short and the game ended on that note at 10 all.
This was a solid Leek performance away from home and confirms that when the experience of the team is across the 18 man squad it can be competitive in this league.
Next week Leek entertains Bourneville at EsterChem Park with a 2.15pm kick off and will be looking to avenge a heavy defeat in Birmingham before Christmas.
Author John McDermott