....as rivals Stourbridge Lions succumbed at home to Camp Hill, themselves right in the mix with 3 games each to go.
Leek’s win was built on 4 second half tries after Shrewsbury had played exceptionally well in the 1st half scoring 2 tries and belying their 12th place in the league.
The Leek squad was almost that which competed 2 weeks ago against old Yards.
Sam Hunt, Tom Scragg and Matt Leadingham were the back 3 with George Hunt and Nick Palmer in the centre. Gary McDermott and Ollie Drew were at half back.
Bobby Cheadle, Ed Cheadle and Lee Williams made up the front row with Luke Hardern and Ben Barlow at lock.
Simon Drew was back on the flank with Luke Staton and Joel Booth in the back row.
Ad Smith, Phil Tomczak and Dan Needham made up the bench.
Leek chose to defend the slight slope and the down wind first half and it took the hosts only 2 minutes to open the scoring.
Leek were caught offside from the kick off , then infringed again and a quick break from the fly half saw him carry to the Leek 5 metre line. A few drives later and Leek’s defence was breached on the right by the lock. The conversion missed but Shrewsbury had signalled intent and led 5 nil early.
From the kick off, Leek were asleep again and only a knock on in the 22 prevented a try scoring opportunity.
On 7 minutes, a no arm tackle led to a penalty attempt on the Leek 22 but the ball hit the post and Leek had to concede a 5 metre scrum. The powerful Leek 8 won the ball and the danger was cleared.
Leek steadied the ship for the next 10 minutes, adjusting to the direct approach from their opponents but giving plenty of penalties away before winning another Shrewsbury scrum on the home 22 in centre field. 3 rucks later and George Hunt made significant ground before a Gary McDermott break to the 5 metre line saw his half back partner Ollie Drew take a low pass to score under the posts. McDermott converted to hand Leek a 5-7 lead on 18 minutes.
Back came Shrewsbury on 28 minutes after Leek were offside on the Shrewsbury 22. A quick penalty from the scrum half had him inside the Leek 22. The centre backed up and he scored a stunning try which was converted to give Shrewsbury back the lead at 12-7.
Leek’s frustration was boiling over as they appealed for a few penalties resulting in the referee talking with skipper Bobby Cheadle for a couple of minutes following a Shrewsbury high tackle.
Then on 34 minutes an offside decision allowed McDermott to kick for the lineout on the Shrewsbury 22. The ball sped out to the backs and Nick Palmer straightened the line to provide George Hunt with a simple pass under the posts for a try. McDermott converted and Leek led again 12-14.
As the half closed, George Hunt charged down a kick on half way. He then kicked ahead to the Shrewsbury 5 metre line.
His pass to Nick Palmer then allowed Tom Scragg to crash over the line in the right corner for Leek’s 3rd try. The conversion missed but the half ended with Leek extending their lead to 12-19.
With the advantage of the elements in the 2nd half, Leek quickly scored their bonus point try in the 43rd minute after Joel Booth set up a maul 8 metres out. The ball passed back to Lee Williams who crashed over at the back of the maul for the 4th try. The conversion missed but at 12-24, Leek were beginning to assert for the first time in the match.
It took another 17 minutes for the next score as Dan Needham rounded off a period of intense pressure on the Shrewsbury line with scrum and lineouts aplenty. He brushed off a couple of tackles to score by the posts. McDermott converted on 60 minutes to move Leek to 12-31.
Dan Needham scored his 2nd try 9 minutes later after a turnover in midfield led to good continuity before the scrum half again brushed through tackles to score by the posts. McDermott converted at 12-38.
With time running down, Tom Scragg scored his 2nd try on 78 minutes after a poor clearance gathered by Matt Leadingham led to space on the right for the winger to sprint through a tackle and score the 7th Leek try of the day. McDermott converted to complete the scoring at 12-45.
Shrewsbury came back at the end of the game but couldn’t get over the line despite some strong rucking. Leek held their line to clear and end the game with a workmanlike win to learn it was enough to take them to the top of the table.
It had been a somewhat frustrating performance punctuated by a lot of penalties but the squad kept their concentration well and when the play clicked, the Moorlanders looked very sharp.
Fair play to Shrewsbury, they played very well, with the back row in particular to the fore, as they dominated the opening half hour before Leek found some rhythm and control to win through.
News that Stourbridge Lions had lost at home to Camp Hill by 12-21 filtered through after the match and that result really does set up the season for a grandstand finish with the 3 sides separated by only 4 points.
It is the first time this season that The Lions had not been on top of the table as Leek moved to 79 points, Stourbridge Lions stayed on 78 points and Camp Hill moved to 75 points.
Leek plays Stafford at home this Saturday and then travel to Stourbridge on April 8th before completing their season on April 22nd with a home game against Tamworth.
Stourbridge travel to Kidderminster this Saturday, hosting Leek on April 8th and complete their season on April 22nd with an away game at Newcastle.
Camp Hill play Tamworth at home this Saturday and then away at Veseyans on April 8th before completing their season with a home fixture against 4th placed Walsall.
It’s a fascinating end to the season and befits a league that has seen some great competitive rugby at level 7.
At the other end of the table, Shrewsbury remain rooted in 12th on 13 points. Old Yards (11th and 27 points) thumped Newcastle (10th and 28 points) to give themselves a fighting chance of survival. Stafford (9th and 30 points) lost their 7th game in a row 0-34 to Kidderminster (6th ) as Old Salts (31 points) battled a 19 all draw with Walsall. Tamworth lost at home 21-27 to Veseyans who are enjoying a decent run of form.
BEER FESTIVAL WEEKEND
On the weekend of 31.3.17 the club will be holding their end of season Beer festival with the bar opening from 5.30pm on Fri 31.3.17 .
On Sat 1.4.16 the clubhouse will be open from 1pm with the 1st team playing at home v Stafford RUFC , 3 pm ko , hot food from 2pm .
We will also have beer sold outside from a small marquee .
Post match live music will be played within the clubhouse from approx. 530pm till 745pm by local musician Steve Gidding
This match will be sponsored by MRN Transport of Leek
On Sun 2.4.17 the future of the club , under 8 mini section, will be hosting a county club festival . A great deal of hard work is going on behind the scenes to ensure all players and parents have a great experience and enjoy the Leek hospitality . During the day again hot food and drinks will be available to purchase .
The Organisers are presently looking for volunteers for the day to assist.
Please contact Mark Hardern or Martyn Acres or Marcus Midwinter if you can help.
SENIORS _ PLEASE SUPPORT THE CLUB - please update your captains /DOR and give a small time on the Sunday to make this a whole club event .
The Beer festival will be supported by Joules and the Cock Inn of Leek along with great support from Peakstone Brewery of Alton and several Leek RUFC sponsors .
If any club member or sponsors wishes to sponsor a barrel please contact either myself or Andy Poole , cost £100 per barrel to include 2 match day entrance tickets , 4 pints and sponsor names all over the place .
Can we ask you to share lifts where possible and park responsibly on the estate .Sunday 2.4.17 , further parking is on WALL LANE