Although the pitch was firm to start with, a steady incessant rain enveloped St Edwards all afternoon and the players should be credited with producing a worthy performance at this level.
Bourneville opened the scoring on 3 minutes with a penalty for not rolling away from the tackle as the reliable fly half scored from the right side. 0-3.
It took Leek another 6 minutes to get back on level terms when, for the same offence Liam McDermott converted. 3-3.
On 13 minutes, Leek were defending their line after giving away a penalty and it looked all over a try would be scored but held up on the line, the referee blew for an offence against Naz Narawa for a shoulder charge and he was yellow carded. The resulting scrum had a clever move from the Bourneville inside backs producing a try under the Leek posts on 16 minutes. The conversion was good and Bourneville led 3-10.
From the kick off a strong chase coughed a knock on and scrum to Leek. A penalty at the scrum left Liam McDermott with a long range attempt which hit the bar and went over to reduce the lead to 6-10 on 19 minutes.
On 31 minutes, Bourneville scored another penalty for not releasing in the tackle to extend the lead to 6-13.
Leek were giving as good as received though and McDermott slotted his 3rd penalty on 35 minutes as the game became littered with silly penalties as both sets of forwards infringed at the break down. 9-13.
The half would not be completed without Bourneville scoring twice more and Leek receiving another yellow though as first on 38 minutes another not rolling away offence had the Bourneville fly half kick his 4th successful penalty to move the score to 9-16 and then in the 3rd minute of added time with Bourneville pressing in the Leek 22, Kini Bulli tried to intercept a long pass. His one handed try knocked the ball on with an overlap in play and the referee had no choice but to yellow card the Leek centre. Perhaps on another day, there would have been sympathy shown as the attempt was nearly taken but in the context of a game littered with player ignorance of the laws and frustrating stupid penalties, today wasn’t that day. It left Leek vulnerable again and the alert Bourneville fly half standing on the penalty mark on the Leek 22 on the left saw the opposite winger in space. His kick had the wing catch the ball leaving the Leek defence in his wake as he scored Bourneville’s 2nd try. The conversion was good and the half ended badly for Leek at 9-23.
The 2nd half opened with Liam McDermott missing a 45th minute penalty for offside and then with Leek gaining possession and territory in this 3rd quarter had a maul pulled down as it hurtled towards the Bourneville line and the lock was duly yellow carded. The penalty allowed Leek to set up another maul and was up to the line but strong defence held the Leek attack and a fumble in midfield had the referee awarding Leek a penalty for offside instead. Still Leek went for the try and eventually the maul move worked as skipper Bobby Cheadle crashed over on the right as the Bourneville defence gave way. McDermott’s conversion missed but Leek was up to 14-23 with a glimmer of hope now.
However, it was Bourneville that scored next. From the kick off, Leek conceded a lineout and although the Leek defence held the strong running backs in the 22 a clever switch play behind the ruck had the centre scoring Bourneville’s 3rd try in the left corner. The fly half’s first missed kick had Bourneville up to a 14-28 lead with the last few minutes to play though and when Jack Conlon was shown a straight red card on 75 minutes for a retaliatory offence in midfield, it seemed hard to envisage Leek winning any kind of point, but the sending off seemed to galvanise Leek.
On 79 minutes, a line break from their own 22 had the Bourneville defence stretched as Kini Bulli and James Floyd interpassed to the Bourneville 22. The last tackle on Floyd had the wing requiring a pass inside for Bulli to score. The pass was not taken unluckily with the try line begging and again it seemed Leek wouldn’t get the luck their efforts deserved.
However on 86 minutes with one more play left, the tiring Bourneville forwards were caught off guard again and Leek’s strong mauling tactic had Luke Staton scoring under the posts. Liam McDermott converted, the whistle blew for no side and Leek had snatched a losing bonus point at 21-28.
The point was little consolation for Leek as the 3 teams above them all won and Silhillians below them did likewise.
Nevertheless, against a quality side, relegated from National 3 last year and vying for promotion this year with Stratford and Bridgnorth, it was another sign that Leek have the ability to compete at this level and that will be required again next week as the Moorlanders travel to their friends in Bridgnorth, with the Shropshire side currently heading the league after an impressive first season at this level.
There is a bus for this game as the 1sts and 3rds both travel to Bridgnorth and any supporters and players wanting to use this facility should contact Mark Hardern or their captains urgently.
It is also 6 Nations weekend and the games will be shown live on the big screens at the club.
Author John McDermott