The expected torrential rain didn’t happen but the torrential Camp Hill pack delivered a stunning performance in the scrum to completely dominate the Leek 8 and it will take a different thought process to deliver a more balanced scrum for Leek to give the undoubted talented backs some ball on the front foot next week.
Camp Hill has a small length pitch with a sizeable slope, so kicking downhill first half meant Leek were looking to gain a lead they could defend the slope with in the 2nd half, so when Gary McDermott converted a 10th minute penalty from the Camp Hill 10 metre line, to hand the visitors an early 0-3 lead, the script was going to plan.
However, it was evident at the first Camp Hill scrum that Leek would struggle to hold their much bigger opponents and so was no surprise when on 14 minutes a penalty in Leek’s 22 saw the home side opt for the scrum. This led to a few minutes pressure near Leek’s line but great defensive organisation kept the loose forwards at bay and Leek won a penalty to clear on 20 minutes.
It didn’t last long though as Leek knocked on close to their own line on 24 minutes. The scrum ball was lost and the Camp Hill eight trundled towards the Leek line. The ball seemed to bobble out of the back of the scrum as Leek’s loose forwards broke but the referee had no doubts in awarding a penalty try and with the simple conversion Camp Hill took the lead at 7-3.
Leek clawed back 3 points on 31 minutes from a long range effort by McDermott after an off feet decision at the ruck, 7-6, and with Ed Harrison entering the fray at lock it was hoped the experience would help stabilise the scrum.
As the half reached the 39th minute, a scrum for Camp Hill on Leek’s 10 metre line saw the scrum half make a nice break and poor tackling led to a simple pass to the centre and his momentum took him in for a try despite close attention. The conversion was good and it was all too easy for the home side as they extended to 14-6.
Nevertheless, the next 4 minutes of added time had Leek’s forwards and backs pounding the Camp Hill line after McDermott sent a penalty for a lineout on Camp Hill’s 5 metre line.
The strong defence held though and an eventual clearance led to the half time whistle with Camp Hill holding the advantage and with the slope in their favour to come, it was all looking uphill for Leek.
Leek had only one way to play this half and they duly set about passing and running their way out of their own half on 41 minutes when Dan Sharratt was high tackled as he reached the half way line.
A fracas ensued resulting in the yellow carding of Joel Booth and his opposite number.
On 48 minutes, after the Camp Hill forwards had mauled 30 metres, a 5 metre scrum had them walking over the line for the number 8 to score easily. The conversion missed. 19-6.
On 63 minutes and from a scrum outside Leek’s 22 on the right, good handling had the right wing in space to dot down in the corner for the bonus point try. The conversion was excellent as Camp Hill moved to 26-6.
On 74 minutes, Leek was penalised for a ruck offence and the fly half kicked an easy penalty to put the home side out of reach at 29-6.
Leek then had their one moment of luck. A quick penalty outside the Camp Hill 22 on the right had the ball moved left to Dan Sharratt on the left wing. The youngster beat two men to then go under the posts for a nice try on 80 minutes. McDermott converted but it was too little too late at 29-13 and Camp Hill ended on a more positive note with their 5th try on 83 minutes after winning yet another scrum against the head on Leek’s 5 metre line and a blindside break from the scrum half had the left wing scoring a try. The conversion completed a miserable afternoon for Leek at 36-13 and there can be no complaints.
On a positive note, Dan Bould played well when he came on at prop and Dan Sharratt showed again why he is a danger when in space and the work rate of the whole squad could not be faulted.
However, it will need more than just work rate to bring the confidence and winning habit back as Leek faces a tough home fixture against Kidderminster this Saturday at EsterChem Park. Kick-off is at 3pm.
With 3 games played now, two sides have a 100% record with Stourbridge Lions (15 points) leading the table from Walsall (14 points). Stafford are 3rd on 11 points. Leek are in 4th place with 10 points with Camp Hill in 5th also on 10 points.
Author John McDermott