Stourbridge Lions in a tremendously competitive affair with both sides contributing to a fast paced, hard hitting and skilful game of rugby.
Skipper Bobby Cheadle, brother Ed and Lee Williams were in the front row with Luke Hardern and Luke Staton at lock. Simon Drew, Joel Booth and Andy Thompson made up the back row.
Gary McDermott and Dan Needham were at half back. Naz Narawa and George Hunt were in the centres and Sam Hunt, Kini Bulli and Matt Leadingham made up the back 3.
Ad Smith, Ed Harrison and Tom Scragg made up for a solid bench.
The game opened in dramatic style with Leek on the scoreboard in 2 minutes. A lineout midway in the Lions half led to a series of quick rucks left and right before the ball sped to
Matt Leadingham near the right wing on the Lions’ 22. The youngster sidestepped 3 successive Lions’ backs and then dotted down on the right.
McDermott’s conversion was good and Leek had started brightly at 7-0.
It was all Leek in these early stages and on 10 minutes the Lions’ front row was penalised for coming up at the scrum and the simple penalty attempt from McDermott increased
the Leek lead to 10-0.
With Leek continuing to dominate, a high tackle resulted in a penalty for the lineout on Lions’ 5 metre line. Another penalty came for off feet and this time the Lions’ prop was yellow carded on 17 minutes.
The lineout was retaken and a catch and drive saw, man of the match, Luke Hardern crash over for the Moorlanders 2nd try. McDermott converted on 19 minuteswith Leek now holding a 17-0 lead.
24 minutes, a serious leg injury to the Lions lock resulted in a delay of 10 minutes as he was treated and when play resumed the momentum changed as the Lions started to control the ball
and with restored fifteen on, the visitors had a chance at a 5 metre line on 34 minutes but strong home defence meant the Lions couldn’t breach the line and after 5 minutes of relentless pressure
the Lions knocked on for Leek to clear. Still the Lions roared as they pressed deep in added time for that score to get them back in the game. A series of runs set up good positions but Leek’s
resolute defence repelled each one and the half ended with Luke Hardern’s tackle on Leek’s 5 metre line which sent the ball dead in goal.
Half Time – Leek 17 v 0 SL.
The 2nd half opened in similar fashion to the first with both sides wanting to play fast open rugby and on 44 minutes Leek won a penalty for a tackle offence and McDermott increased Leek’s lead with a
successful 40 metre attempt. 20-0.
On 48 minutes Leek sent on Ad Smith and Ed Harrison to maintain the momentum but on 51 minutes, Simon Drew was yellow carded for a team offence following a number of penalties conceded.
The lineout in Leek’s 22 followed a similar pattern to the ones in the first half with Leek aggressively defending the maul and causing a knock on. SL were then caught offside as Sam Hunt cleared.
Leek was reduced to 13 men though when Luke Hardern was carded for a high tackle and the pressure came back with another lineout close to the Leek line. After a couple of rucks the ball sped out but a
kick for the right wing ended dead in goal
As Luke Hardern came back on 68 minutes with Leek not conceding, the momentum swung back to Leek and a scrum on the left of half way on 77 minutes had the ball being swiftly moved right.
A quick ruck and the ball went left again and as the forwards contested the ruck, Dan Needham sensed speed was critical and he set McDermott off on a break down the middle of the field.
His pass found Luke Hardern and the big lock set off from outside the SL 22 on a run that saw him crash over for a game winning try.
McDermott converted to complete a perfect afternoon with the boot at 27-0.
Still plenty of action ensued as SL spurned a couple of easy penalty attempts to get on the scoreboard but they couldn’t break the Leek defence and the game ended with a knock on in midfield
with Leek on the attack.
It had been a pulsating game with both sides clearly intent on playing rugby. SL had a couple of injuries that they could have done without but their commitment was commensurate with their
league position and they will be a very difficult team to prize off the top of the league.
Leek, to their credit, had played with a high level of intensity for the full duration of the match and deserved their win. Every player had contributed strongly with little sign of weakness
and a desire to match it with the best in the league.
Coaches Lee Pickles, Chris Mudd and Neal Edge will now need to keep the momentum going through the holiday and prepare the squad for what promises to be an exciting 2nd half of the season.
In other games, Camp Hill beat Veseyans 25-0 to maintain 2nd place and Walsall defeated Old Yards by 45-26.
It means only 2 points separate the top 4 sides. SL 43, Camp Hill 42, Leek 41, Walsall 41.
Tamworth got the better of the mid table battle with Kidderminster 23-25 to move to 5th.
Old Salts beat Shrewsbury, 30-7 and Stafford won at Newcastle 8-31.
Next game at EsterChem Park is the traditional Boxing Day game where all club members are encouraged to bring their boots and join in the festive fun.
Arrive early please, from 10am, for an 11am kick off. Plenty of mince pies and mulled wine on offer after stretching the legs.
Next league game is on Saturday, 7th January 2017, when Leek travels to Veseyans.
Next league game at EsterChem Park is on 14th January when Camp Hill are the visitors. Both Kos are at 2.15pm.
Have a great family Christmas and a peaceful New Year from all at Leek Rugby Club.
Author John McDermott