Leek opened the New Year with a hard fought win at the Memorial Ground against a well drilled Veseyans side which beat Walsall last time out at home.
The 4 tries also meant Leek won the bonus point and extended the winning streak to 6 league games as the 2nd half of the season got underway.
The side was reshuffled with injury, suspension and unavailability but the balance looked good as Dan Sharratt started at full back with Matt Leadingham and Kini Bulli on the wings. George and Sam Hunt were in the centres and Ollie Drew made his first start at 9 for some weeks with Gary McDermott at fly half.
Skipper Bobby Cheadle, brother Ed and Lee williams were in the front row. Luke Hardern and Ed Harrison were at lock. Luke Staton, Joel Booth and Ben Barlow made up a strong looking back row with Adam Smith, Tom Scragg and Phil Tomczak on the bench.
Leek struggled early as the home side dominated possession in Leek’s half and on 8 minutes with Leek’s first venture towards the Vs 22, a wayward pass on the Leek right was snapped up by the Vs 9. He made it to the Leek 5 meter line and was tackled by George Hunt who then infringed by holding on. Lucky not to receive a yellow, The Vs opted to go for the lineout. Leek defended it well and the ball came under the posts only for Leek to concede another penalty for in at the side of the ruck. The penalty was duly converted to hand Vs a deserved early lead. 3-0.
It took Leek until the start of the 2nd quarter to actually get into the Vs 22 and only a knock on prevented a dangerous challenge on the Vs line. The resulting scrum led to a Leek penalty as the Vs front row was penalised. McDermott kicked for the lineout outside the Vs 22. Joel Booth took the catch and then the driving maul quickly made ground towards the Vs line. The surge was unstoppable as Ed Cheadle crashed over at the back of the maul for the opening try of the day. McDermott’s conversion missed but Leek crept into a 3-5 lead on 23 minutes.
The new high tackle crack down meant players needed to be extra careful now in the tackle but Luke Staton received a yellow on 31 minutes for one which although not dangerous reflected the new interpretation of the law. The penalty kick didn’t find touch but a poor clearance kick only found the dangerous Vs left wing. He headed infield and set up a passing move on the right in Leek’s 22. Then a couple of rucks later and a dart up the right hand touch saw a touch down in the corner for the home side. The conversion missed but Vs retook the lead at 8-5 on 33 minutes.
Leek then played some of their best rugby of the half with 14 men. Sam Hunt made a good break and Leek were under the Vs posts on 38 minutes but were penalized for off feet. Still Leek were pressing and another break led to Sam Hunt making it to the Vs 5 metre line. With a free ball for offside leek tried to score in the right corner but knocked on. McDermott kicked the simple penalty to level the scores at 8 all as the half time whistle blew.
The 2nd half started well for Leek. Winning a penalty on half way, back chat then led to another 10 metres. The resultant kick for the line landed just outside the Vs 22.
A catch and drive with superb control as 3 backs joined in had Joel Booth crashing over for Leek’s 2nd try in the left corner. McDermott converted and Leek retook the lead at 8-15 on 45 minutes.
Leek kept the pressure on as the scrum won another penalty and from another line on Vs 22 on 50 minutes, a penalty was awarded for taking Joel Booth out in the air. This time Vs repelled the lineout drive at the 5 metre line but illegally and the captain was warned about further infringements. Leek opted for the line on Vs 5 metre line and another catch and drive had Ed Cheadle scoring his 2nd try in the left corner. McDermott missed the conversion but Leek extended the lead to 8-20. On 54 minutes.
Leek piled the pressure on and another penalty was coming on Vs 5 metre line when McDermott slotted a drop goal with the free ball. Leek up to 8-23 as the referee yellow carded the hooker for team repeated infringements in the red zone on 58 minutes.
This signaled a fight back by Vs as they upped their game and controlled the ball well. On 68 minutes they won a scrum on Leek’s 22 and simple hands left had the centre running strongly through the Leek defence for a good try. The conversion was good also and at 15-23 on 70 minutes, there was still a game to be won and lost.
Leek had the last score though as they sought their 4th try. On 77 minutes, Leek had a scrum on half way centre field. A great move left had Dan Sharratt moving into the line. His pass found Sam Hunt who sprinted for the line only to be tackled on the 5 metre line. Vs were caught offside and Hunt kicked for the inevitable 5 metre lineout.
For the 4th time of asking a great throw by Ed Cheadle was caught and driven to the line where Luke Staton crashed over for the important 4th try. McDermott couldn’t convert but at 15-28, Leek had won the game.
There was an ensuing 6 minutes of added time during which Vs looked to have scored in the right corner but a foot in touch meant no try but a series of penalties against Leek gave Vs plenty of opportunity to sneak a losing bonus point but at the last a wayward pass went into touch to end the game unluckily for the hosts who deserved to get something from the game.
Leek can be pleased with this effort after a 3 week break and although there is another league break this week, everyone will be focused on the next game on January 21st when Camp Hill visit EsterChem Park. KO is 2.15pm.
Leek moved into 2nd place on 46 points with a superior points difference to both Walsall and Camp Hill as all 3 clubs have 46 points but with Stourbridge Lions wining also, the Lions hold a 2 point lead on 48 points.
No league match this Saturday but Leek 1sts will be playing a friendly match. Details to be provided shortly.