The Moorlanders back division is stable at the moment with Will Graham at full back and Tom Scragg and Kini Bulli on the wings.
Gary McDermott and Nick Palmer were at centre and returning Sam Hunt partnered Ollie Drew at half back.
The front row was missing 2 regulars as veteran Jason Milner and Jacob Bainbridge propped Ed Cheadle.
Skipper Luke Hardern moved back to lock with Ben Barlow.
Luke Staton came in at No.8 and Andy Thompson and George Hunt wee on the flanks.
Matt Leadingham, Ryan Day and Simon Drew were on the bench.
Leek opened the game well and had a chance on 4 minutes with a lineout in the Ludlow 22 but the visitors didn’t engage and Leek was penalised for making an illegal maul.
Then on 10 minutes Gary McDermott had a chance to open the scoring with a straight forward penalty attempt as Ludlow strayed offside with Leek attacking in the 22.
The underfoot conditions were poor all day though and he pushed the kick wide of the posts.
The rain and sleet started coming down on 15 minutes making it very difficult for the teams to construct any kind of dominance but Ludlow found a way over the line on 18 minutes following a scrum on the right in Leek’s half. Good passing left and a couple of quick rucks allowed the full back to come into the line and beat the tackle to score by the posts.
The conversion was good and Ludlow led 0-7.
Leek came back then for the next 10 minutes with McDermott converting a 28th minute penalty for offside. 3-7.
The first half ended with neither side able to score again but as the whistle went and the ball went into touch, a minor incident escalated into most players getting involved and Sam Hunt and a Ludlow player were yellow carded.
This disrupted Leek in the opening few minutes of the 2nd half and on 45 minutes Ludlow created a try scoring chance on the left after good handling and only a superb front on tackle from Will Graham prevented a score. Ludlow’s 5 metre scrum led to some frantic Leek defence and good discipline allowed the Moorlanders to clear as Sam Hunt returned to the action.
On 52 minutes, a long clearance kick from Ludlow found Luke Staton fielding the ball in his own 22. The Leek counter attack caught Ludlow napping and only a knock on in their own 22 prevented a dangerous position from being exploited.
Still Leek were pressing and McDermott neatly kicked into the Ludlow 22 for a defensive line out on 56 minutes. Leek won the ball, as the rain intensified, and won a penalty for not releasing at the ruck. McDermott kicked the goal on 58 minutes to narrow the lead to 6-7.
Another penalty on 62 minutes for not releasing in the tackle had McDermott attempting the kick but it went agonisingly wide. Then on 70 minutes, after skipper Luke Hardern made a great break into the Ludlow half and won the penalty again for not releasing, McDermott kicked the goal that put Leek in front for the 1st time in the game at 9-7 with 10 minutes to go.
Disaster for Leek at the kick though as they contrived to lose the ball and present Ludlow with a lineout. Defending on their own 5 metre line led to Luke Hardern being yellow carded for an offence at the side of the ruck and the easy penalty was converted to hand the lead back to Ludlow on 75 minutes. 9-10.
Still the rain was pounding down as Leek pressed in the last minutes. On 79 minutes McDermott had the chance to take the lead back from a penalty for not releasing in the tackle again but his kick faded wide. At least it meant a drop out for Ludlow and Leek receiving the ball back.
Leek won another penalty out wide and the decision was to kick for the lineout in the Ludlow 22. A maul ensued and another penalty for in at the side produced a position for skipper Luke Hardern to request the penalty attempt in the 85th minute. This time McDermott’s kick split the uprights and at 12-10, Leek just had to retain the kick-off and get the ball off the field which is what happened to deny a spirited Ludlow challenge.
It had been a gruelling game in the gloom, rain and cold and both teams worked hard to create enough space to score but it was limited in the conditions and Leek can be pleased with the outcome and Ludlow disappointed not to hang on.
The win lifted Leek to 5th place as Walsall (4th)defeated Tamworth (now 6th)14-7. The top 3 sides, Whitchurch, Crewe& Nantwich and Spartans all won.
Next week, Leek travel to Newcastle for a local derby where the home team will be looking to build on their away win at Kidderminster this week. Kick-off is at 2.15pm
Author John McDermott