....but it was the home side that prevailed with a powerful display from the whole team.
5 tries to 3 meant the Lions won the bonus point and condemned Leek to 3rd place as Camp Hill picked up maximum points at Veseyans.
Leek travelled to Stourton Park with 4 changes from last week.
Lee Williams was away so Adam Smith started at prop with Ed and Bobby Cheadle making up the front row.
Luke Hardern and Ben Barlow were at lock but Luke Staton was injured on Thursday evening and Andy Thompson was brought in on the flank with Joel Booth and Simon Drew making up the back row.
Gary McDermott and Ollie Drew were at half back and George Hunt and Nick Palmer were in the centres.
Tom Scragg was unable to pass a fitness test at the ground, so Will Graham started his first league game on the right wing with Matt Leadingham on the left wing and Sam Hunt at full back.
The bench saw veteran prop Jason Milner come into the squad with Phil Tomczak and Elliot Anderson.
It was a red hot day and the vociferous home support got behind their team early and when Leek fumbled their 1st lineout on their own 5 metre line, it was no surprise to see the flanker touch down unopposed for an early score. The conversion was good and the Lions were off to a flyer at 7-0 on 6 minutes.
2 minutes later and the fly half increased the lead to 10-0 with a penalty for holding on in the tackle.
A minute later and Gary McDermott had a chance to get Leek back into the game with a penalty attempt for offside but the ball went wide and then Leek spent the next 10 minutes losing 3 of their own lineouts and defending tremendous pressure from the Lions.
On 21 minutes, what seemed like an excellent clearance from McDermott as it reached the Lions 10 metre line was fielded by the superb Lions full back. He set up a simple move down the left flank to get the scrum half over for the 2nd try with Leek’s backs in his wake. The conversion missed but at 15-0 on 22 minutes, it was all uphill for Leek in that first quarter.
On 30 minutes another clearance found the full back again and this time he came infield from the left. Outsprinting the defence he linked with the right wing and a pass inside had the Leek defence split again and another try by the centre unopposed. The conversion was good and it was 22-0.
Leek hadn’t had a foothold in the game yet as the rampant Lions played with skill and enterprise but then a penalty at the scrum and then a yellow card on 36 minutes for the flanker for a very late challenge changed the game and Leek spent the next 10 minutes trying to weave their way through a solid Lions defence. It kept conceding penalties though and Leek were opting for scrums and finally with another push up to the line, the Lions scrum was penalised again and the referee awarded a penalty try as the ball was fumbled forward by Ollie Drew.
McDermott converted, the half ended after 5 minutes of added time and another yellow card for persistent offence at the maul. 22-7. A foothold had been made.
Could Leek turn the tide in the 2nd half? Well the half opened with the Moorlanders getting the next score. Having lost another chance for a lineout drive on the Lions 5 metre line in the first minute of the half, another chance came on 44 minutes. This time the catch and drive was successful as the patient Leek 8 made steady progress to the Lions line for Adam Smith to crash over for a try. McDermott converted and at 22-14, it was game on as the Moorlanders clawed their way back.
However, that was the high point for Leek as the Lions returned to a full team. Some superb rugby involving forwards and backs culminated in a fine try on 52 minutes which the Leek defence just could not cope with eventually after some great continuity. The conversion was good and the bonus point try won at 29-14.
2 minutes later and a successful penalty for a tackle offence increased the lead to 32-14.
On 61 minutes Leek had perhaps their best chance to get within sight of a try bonus point when they had a lineout just inside the Lions 22. However, the overthrow led, instead, to the Lions 5th try. The overthrow was caught by the flanker standing at the back of the line without a Leek defender near. He sprinted up field and was only caught near Leek’s try line. His offload found support and he took the return pass to score a great opportunistic try.
The conversion missed at 37-14.
The Lions missed a 75th minute penalty but used up valuable time until Leek’s Joel Booth, who had worked very hard all afternoon, took a quick tap penalty outside the Lions 22. A couple of rucks later and he was on the end of a pass near the Lions try lion. It was nudged back by a defender and Gary McDermott was on hand to score Leek’s 3rd try. 37-19. (See attached photo of the score, courtesy of Mark Cooper)
He spurned the conversion to add valuable seconds for Leek to attempt to get a 4th try but although they made progress into the Lions half, a wayward pass found touch and ended the game with the Lions ecstatic and Leek dejected.
It had been a very tough day at the office for the Leek squad and the loss cost them dear.
The whole squad had worked tirelessly in the face of very strong opposition and no-one could fault the application but it showed what was required in order to compete at the highest level in this league.
No doubt, a lot will be learned from this and so only a positive view must be taken.
The 14 game winning streak came to an end and they surrendered not only top spot but 2nd place as well.
Leek is a point behind Camp Hill (85 points) in 3rd now and they must face Tamworth at EsterChem Park on Saturday 22nd April knowing only a 5 point win can help them.
Camp Hill host Walsall and know too they must go for a 5 point win with Leek having a superior points scored and points difference with both sides having won 17 games each in the season.
Stourbridge need a win at Newcastle to secure the Midlands 2 West (N) title for the first time in their history and with the North Staffs outfit winning at Stafford this weekend, they are secure in the knowledge they will be playing Mids. 2 rugby next season.
No game this Easter weekend and so the league season climaxes a week on Saturday with Tamworth’s visit. Please come down and support the team as they try to end on a high note.
Author John McDermott