Midlands West 1
Leek’s last and longest trip of the season ended in defeat at Hereford but not before the team had put up a tremendous fight against the 5th placed side.
Leek fielded a young side again this week with the back 3 of Ollie Drew, Matt Leadingham and Dan Sharratt. George Hunt and Nick Palmer were in the centres and Dan Needham and Gary McDermott, the experienced half backs.
Skipper Bobby Cheadle, Ed Cheadle and Simon McNicol made up the front row with Phil Tomczak and Luke Hardern at lock. Luke Staton and Reece Milner were on the flanks and Jack Conlon at No.8.
On the bench, Leek fielded Ad Smith, Isaac Reaney and Neil Edge, acting as team manager for the day as well.
5 minutes in and with the advantage of the slope but not the wind, Gary McDermott tried a long range penalty attempt but it landed just under the bar as Hereford were penalised for not releasing in the tackle.
Leek had most possession in this opening 10 minutes and from a lineout in the 22, the maul drove towards the Hereford line. As the ball was released another offence under the posts allowed McDermott to slot the easy 3 points to hand Leek the early lead. 0-3.
On 14 minutes, Hereford had their first meaningful break as they reached the Leek line, but strong defence led to a penalty to Leek for holding on as Dan Needham stayed on his feet.
Leek then dominated the next 20 minutes possession and territory with Hereford unable to break through the visitors’ defence. Simon McNicol made a couple of strong runs showing what he is capable of at close quarters.
Still Leek couldn’t create another clear cut chance as their options seemed to close every time and then with the almost the last play of the half, 4 minutes into added time, the Hereford fly half kicked the ball deep into Leek’s 22 on the right. Dan Sharratt fielded the ball but his clearance kick was charged down and a grateful flanker touched down in the corner for a slightly fortuitous score. The conversion missed and the half ended at 5-3.
The 2nd half opened with Hereford reasserting and they won a penalty leading to a lineout in Leek’s 22. The defence held and then Leek won a scrum on their own 22 as Hereford couldn’t break through the determined Leek defence. However, Leek lost its scrum and this led to a couple of quick rucks before the No8 crashed over for a try. The conversion was good and Hereford extended their lead to 12-3 on 44 minutes.
Hereford’s game plan includes not kicking the ball away almost under any circumstance and this led to a 53rd minute break from their own 22 after Leek was penalised at the scrum. It looked all over try time but Nick Palmer got back and made a superb tackle but Leek had to concede a 5 metre lineout. Leek counter drove the maul and then won a penalty to clear.
Then on 60 minutes, Leek really got back into the game with a well worked try. From a scrum on half way on the right, Dan Needham’s pass bounced before reaching McDermott. It drew the centre and then McDermott threw a long pass to Nick Palmer. The outside centre turned on the gas and split the outside defence on the left and into the Hereford 22. His inside pass to the supporting full back Ollie Drew had the youngster sprinting in for an unopposed try by the posts. McDermott converted and at 12-10, t was game on again.
Leek, however, couldn’t sustain the pressure and it was Hereford which took the game after a penalty on 63 minutes led to a lineout in Leek’s 22. The drive was held but a clever switch back play by the fly half saw the flanker go in from where the lineout had taken place. The conversion missed and Leek was still in bonus point range though at 17-10.
It lasted only another 4 minutes as they lost a scrum again on their own 5 metre line and the Hereford No8 picked up and scored from close range. Again the conversion missed but at 22-10, Leek needed inspiration to get back into bonus point territory.
With 2 minutes to go, Leek was defending another scrum on their own 5 metre line but this time, the Leek 8 surprised the home side with a big shove off the ball. A penalty and lineout win had the Moorlanders pressing for a score in overtime but the final pass went to ground and Leek had lost the chance to win a bonus point.
It had been a well fought contest with Hereford’s style and ambition allowing for an open game. Leek’s forwards gave as good as they received and the backs defended well when called upon. It wasn’t quite enough but not too far away and so Leek’s last Midlands 1 game will be at home this Saturday against Kenilworth.
Kick-off is at 3pm. There is a beer festival and plenty of rugby, food and drink on offer all day.
Please come down for the end of season finale.
A reminder that on Saturday April 30th, Staffordshire senior rugby team is playing at Leek against Notts, Lincs and Derbys in the first round of the National County Championship plate competition.
Kick-off is at 3pm at EsterChem Park and everyone is welcome to come and watch. There will be an outside bar, BBQ and plenty of parking on the outer field.