Leek gained their 11th win of the season in this rearranged game and bolstered their 6th place in the league with their 3rd double of the campaign against a determined Dixs side trying to stave off relegation.
On a warm day in Edgbaston, Leek fielded yet another variation of their versatile squad with Jamie Clarke starting at hooker with Dave Ackerley and Joe Newton Taylor at prop. James Newby was back at lock, partnering Andy McFadden. Tom Sims started at blindside with skipper Ad Nettel at No.8 and Matt Slinn on the open side flank.
Dave Kennaway and Gary McDermott were at half back with Shane Dicker and Sam Hunt in the centre. Nick Palmer and Lucas Buxton were on the wings and Jake Green moved to fullback, playing in his 4th position for the club in the league this season.
Tom Bourne, Neil Edge and Elliott Fowler were on the bench.
Leek started quickly and regained the kick off to exert pressure inside the Dixs 22, but a knock on and a good move by the home side back division saw Leek concede a 2nd minute penalty on their 22 from which Dixs took a 3-0 lead.Leek were straight back on the attack from the kick off and won a penalty which McDermott kicked for the lineout position inside the Dixs 22. Jamie Clarke threw the ball accurately to James Newby who passed the ball back to the charging Clarke on the burst at the back of the lineout. He sent up a ruck and then after another quick ruck, the ball sped blind to McDermott who put Dave Ackerley in for a try in the corner. The conversion missed but Leek took the lead at 5-3.
Leek then dominated the next 20 minutes and had two good tries disallowed. The first on 19 minutes when adjudged held up over the line, Dave Ackerley was denied a 2nd try, and then from the resulting scrum a quick blindside break saw McDermott touch down in the corner. The referee was unsure as to whether McDermott was in touch and having consulted the Dixs touch judge, who wasn't looking at the incident, ordered a 22 drop out.
McDermott then missed a long range penalty on 27 minutes and but for a foray in the Leek 22 on 35 minutes, the Dixs threat was easily dealt with by the Leek defence. However, Leek's play was too frantic and continuity was difficult to establish and so the visitors couldn't sustain the pressure required to break the solid Dixs defence and the half would down with leek holding a slender led having played up the slope and against the wind.
H/T Dixs 3 - 5 Leek.
The 2nd half started fortuitously for leek as Dixs squandered a 43rd minute penalty in the Leek 22 for not releasing in the tackle, when a Dixs forward took a quick penalty looking for the try but good defence by the Leek forwards saw the ball stolen and cleared.
On 50 minutes, a promising move on half way by the Dixs backs was interrupted by a dropped pass and Sam Hunt's pick up and drive into the Dixs 22 saw Dixs penalised for not releasing in the tackle. McDermott kicked for the lineout deep in the Dixs 22. However, with the lineout won, the ball was dropped and Dixs cleared.
On 56 minutes, Dave Kennaway made way for Jake Green at scrum half as Elliott Fowler came into the centre and Sam Hunt went to full back.
2 minutes later and from an innocuous penalty decision against Leek on half way, they conceded another 10 metres for slow retreat and the subsequent lineout win in the Leek 22, saw the Dixs forwards drive towards the Leek line with a series of rucks. with the defence sucked in, the ball moved wide and Dixs formed a maul to haul the ball carrier over the line. The referee awarded the try and Dixs took the lead. The conversion missed but at 10-5 with a little over 20 minutes to go, Leek needed to get a grip of the game or lose it.
From the restart, Dixs couldn't take the catch and James Newby caught the rebound to make it to within 10 metres of the Dixs line. His pass to Nick Palmer saw the Leek wing repulsed at the line and driven back. Dixs cleared but Leek had some momentum now and on 64 minutes after some consistent rucking around the Dixs 22, the home side were penalised for offside and McDermott narrowed the deficit to 2 points with a successful kick. Dixs 10 - 8 Leek.
On 69 minutes, Leek had the slice of luck required to turn the game when McDermott's long kick from his own 22 was touched by the fingers of a Dixs back. The ball bounced all the way into the Dixs in goal area and was touched down by a player ignorant of the touch up field. Leek had a scrum on the Dixs 5 metre line. Then, the scrum went to sleep as they lost the ball in the tight and the Dixs fly half kicked to touch just outside their own 22. From the lineout, the ball went to ground and in a scrappy phase, Leek retained the ball and as it looked like McDermott was going open, he turned and ran blind. With the Dixs forwards committed to the open, a gap appeared and Sam Hunt was given a ball in space. he was desperately high tackled and after no advantage was accrued, McDermott had a chance to put Leek back into the lead. His kick was good and Leek took the slightest of leads at 11-10.
3 minutes later and a penalty for not releasing saw the Dixs fly half have a difficult chance to win back the led, but the kick went wide.
On 74 minutes, Neil Edge came on for Matt Slinn and a minute later, Leek won a penalty on the Dixs 22 for offside at the ruck. McDermott's conversion was good and at 14-10, it looked enough to secure the win.
On 78 minutes, young Tom Bourne came on at prop for Dave Ackerley and Leek played out the remainder of the game with Dixs desperate to get another score. In the end, Leek deserved their win and left Dixs with a difficult couple of games with which to retain their status.
Overall, it was a very scrappy affair with neither side really able to dominate for any length of time and so it was always going to be close and won by the side which could convert its few chances.
Leek now has 2 league games left, starting with its last away game next Saturday at Bognop Road, Willenhall. With the south Staffs club firmly rooted to the base of the league, it remains to be seen what side will be fielded.
Then on April 16th, Leek's last league game is at F Ball Park against Tamworth. Tamworth and Leek were the promoted sides last season and Tamworth are positioned one place below Leek. In the opening game of this season the 2 Staffs sides fought out a 16 all draw and their season's have been remarkably similar. It will be a fitting end to a great campaign for both clubs as they retain Midlands 2, Level 7 status for next season.
This game is sponsored by Collcap and all VPs and current members are invited to a buffet before the game. Kick off is at 3pm and the bar will be open from 1pm.
It is also the day when Leek Rugby Club will present their donation to CRY in memory of Chris Parr. Chris's parents, Martin and Diane Parr will be at the club to accept the cheque on behalf of CRY and we ask that you support this event with your presence. We expect to make the presentation at about 2.30pm on the 1st team pitch