....and expose a poor Leek side incapable of applying any sustained pressure.
Indeed the first half opened with ex Leek lock Phil Tomczak yellow carded on 11 minutes for a deliberate knock on and when he came back on 10 minutes later the replacement hooker was also yellow carded as the recipient of a team yellow for persistent infringement at the ruck. During this opening spell of 30 minutes, played by Newcastle with 14 men, one could be forgiven for thinking the home side was short of a player as they matched Leek in every department and on 28 minutes scored the opening try of the game with a quick break down the left wing after a turnover on half way. Pace and good passing had the excellent flanker over the line and under the posts. The fly half converted and Newcastle deservedly led 7-0.
During this period Leek’s only effort was a penalty attempt from Gary McDermott which hit the post and bounced into play but only Matt Leadingham bothered to chase and the defence cleared easily.
McDermott did get Leek on the board on 33 minutes following another not releasing at the tackle. 7-3.
Newcastle had the chance to negate those points 2 minutes later for a similar offence but this attempt also hit the post and Leek cleared, but the clearance only found the dangerous Newcastle back division and they ran the ball back with confidence to put pressure back on Leek.
As the half went into added time Leek began to exert pressure in the Newcastle 22 as the forwards had some ruck momentum but a knock on inside the Newcastle 5 metre line ended the half in frustration for Leek and they went into the half time talk 7-3 down and needing to figure out how to retain possession and build pressure on their tigerish opponents.
2 minutes into the 2nd half and Leek had scored their opening try.
A penalty for offside on Newcastle’s 22 led to a 2nd penalty and with Dan Needham prompting the forwards , good rucking started to tie in the defence and allowed Needham to show the one bit of class by a Leek player all game, when he sold a perfect dummy to the Newcastle ruck guards and sprinted in under the posts for a good try. McDermott converted and Leek took the lead at 7-10
The lead lasted all of 4 minutes after Newcastle’s forwards set up a couple of rucks just inside the Leek half on the right. Newcastle’s half backs showed pace and Leek’s defensive line wasn’t disciplined as the passing and pace of the outside backs let former Leek centre Nick Palmer sprint in from 35 metres. The conversion was good. 14-10 on 47 minutes.
From the kick-off Leek forced another penalty for hands in the ruck and McDermott’s successful kick reduced the lead to 14-13.
4 minutes later and Newcastle extended their lead when Leek was penalised at the scrum for releasing the bind. The penalty was well struck and at 17-13, Leek needed some inspiration.
It came in the shape of Joel Booth who scored an excellent try on 56 minutes after another quick tap penalty had the defence struggling and when the forwards controlled the ball, Booth was at the back of the maul from 10 metres out and there was no stopping it. McDermott converted and Leek retook the lead at 17-20.
It was an exciting game for the non-partisan followers but for both sets of players and spectators it was a match on the edge as the game entered the final quarter and it was Newcastle that struck next on 64 minutes
A poor pass off the lineout on the Newcastle right saw the ball bobble in front of the fly half. Leek’s defence seemed to stand still in anticipation and the young 10 picked the ball up sprinted for the gap and flew over the line for a superb individual try which he converted well to get the home side back in front at 24-20.
Leek hit straight back with pressure from the loose forwards, in particular Luke Hardern and Ed Harrison and this helped create an overlap on the Leek right. Good hands had right wing Tom Scragg in the clear for a try in the right corner. McDermott’s conversion failed but Leek had taken the lead for the 3rd time at 24-25.
With the game being played at a frantic pace, the players were still producing a great spectacle and there was one more twist as the game entered the last play of the game. Newcastle had a scrum in Leek’s half and again Leek’s defensive line was caught out by quick footed Newcastle backs creating the opening for Nick Palmer to score his 2nd and Newcastle’s 4th try of the afternoon to cap a superb afternoon’s rugby for the outside centre. The excellent fly half duly converted and the game ended at that point with Newcastle running out winners by 31-15.
This result will do the home side a power of good in their attempt to climb from the foot of the table and next week’s game at Walsall will be an interesting result to watch out for.
Meanwhile Leek needs to regroup and search for the right way to tackle this Saturday’s opponents Old Saltleians who visit EsterChem Park.
Kick-off is at 2.15pm.
Note also Leek Rugby Club’s Bonfire Night and Fireworks Display is on Sunday 6th November at the ground.
All are welcome. Free entry. Food and drink available. Car parking will be directed.
Gates open at 6pm. The bonfire is lit at 7pm and will be followed by the fireworks display.
Author John McDermott