Sam Hunt started at full back with Will Graham and Tom Scragg on the wings. Rob McDermott and George Hunt were in the centres and Ollie Drew and Gary McDermott resuming at half back.
Lee Williams, Bobby Cheadle and Ed Cheadle were in the front row as skipper Luke Hardern was joined by Andy Thompson at lock.
Luke Staton, the returning Joel Booth at No.8 and Luke Granger gave the back row a very experienced look.
On the bench, Kini Buli, Jacob Bainbridge and Matt Leadingham.
On a cold clear day, the opening quarter produced a whole host of mistakes and errors as the players from both sides fought off the Christmas fare. Veseyans had an early chance on 2 minutes when the left wing was only hauled down 5 metres from the Leek line. His knock on let Leek clear though. 2 minutes later Leek were in the Vs 22 and winning lineout and then scrumming on the Vs 5 metre line. A pick up by Joel Booth and run blind looked positive but a knock on spoiled the chance.
14 minutes in and a great break by Leek down the right wing saw Tom Scragg and Luke Staton get into the Vs 22 but another knock on prevented more pressure being applied.
On 19 minutes, perhaps against the run of play, Leek lost their own scrum ball and the backs strayed offside allowing the Vs 10 a penalty attempt which he duly slotted to hand the visitors a 0-3 lead.
From the kick-off, a towering Luke Staton caught the ball and a maul was set up as Leek’s forwards trundled towards the Vs 22. The Vs were penalised for in at the side and Gary McDermott’s penalty attempt brought Leek back to parity at 3 all.
The game earlier in the season had ended in a draw so perhaps the faithful gathered on the touchline were expecting a nip and tuck game and it was looking likely as the 2nd quarter opened.
Leek were next to score on 28 minutes after a deliberate knock on penalty allowed McDermott to kick for the lineout deep in the Vs 22.
Good, patient possession by Leek got the ball up to the line with a series of rucks on the right and when the ball came out a swift pass to veteran Luke Granger saw the flanker score by the posts. McDermott converted and gave Leek the lead for the first time at 10-3.
The next 15 minutes was very scrappy highlighted only by a remarkable Tom Scragg break. He fielded a kick just inside his own half before setting off down the right wing where he battered off 4 separate would be defenders to reach the Vs 22 and an open run to the line at which point the ball managed to elude his grasp and save Vs blushes.
As the game entered added on time, a Vs kick ahead on the right nearly had them scoring but the centre was adjudged offside at the kick and then the Vs lock was yellow carded for the culmination of team offences in the 5th minute of added time.
Another deliberate knock on from the ensuing Leek attack gave McDermott the final chance to increase the lead before half time and the stand-off duly delivered to end the half with Leek leading 13-3.
The 2nd half opened with Vs getting on the score board after 5 minutes when Leek was penalised for not releasing in the tackle and the simple penalty was duly converted to reduce the Leek lead to 13-6.
3 minutes later and Vs were deep in Leek’s 22 when a knock on started a counter attack up the right side of the pitch involving Will Graham and Gary McDermott as they passed their way towards the Vs 22. With one player to beat the pass to George Hunt left him in the clear but a knock on prevented the score and a big let off for Vs.
However from the scrum, Leek won a penalty and chose to kick for the lineout. Intense pressure on the Vs line then gave the Leek backs the opportunity to pass the ball wide right where Sam Hunt pirouetted his way to the line and momentum took him over for Leek’s 2nd try.
The conversion just failed but at 18-6, the lead looked convincing on 53 minutes.
Leek then lost Joel Booth for a yellow card as Vs attempted to run a quick penalty in Leek’s 22 on 64 minutes. The visitors opted for the 5 metre scrum but Leek’s defence held firm and despite a poor lineout next by Vs, they managed to win it at the back before Luke Staton intervened with a huge tackle to win a penalty for holding on and Leek cleared the danger on 68 minutes.
Still Vs were pressing and refusing to take 3 points opting to run the ball. Leek were getting a bit ragged as they tried to get hold of the ball when on 75 minutes, replacement scrum half Kini Buli picked up from the back of a ruck in his own half and weaved his way to within 5 metres of the Vs line. He was stopped by the full back but won the penalty as the defence slowed the ball coming out and McDermott converted the penalty to clinch the game at 21-6 on 77 minutes.
With 8 minutes of overtime played, Leek dominated the final phases and looked certain to add to their total when the ball came out of the ruck 3 metres from the Vs line but the Vs left wing intercepted and sprinted the length of the field to score a deserved try. The conversion was good and the game ended at 21-13.
It had been a typical game coming back from a break and both sides can be happy with their application, not necessarily with their accuracy which will improve as training and playing get into full swing for the 2nd half of the season.
The win lifted Leek to 5th as Tamworth lost at Ludlow and Leek now sit 1 point behind Walsall who also lost on Saturday at Kidderminster.
This Saturday Leek travel to Walsall in what has become a very tight set of games over the last few years and it will be interesting to see which side can take the honours. Kick-off is 2.15pm.
This game precedes the Midlands intermediate Cup semi-final match at Esterchem Park on Saturday, January 20th, kick off 2pm against runaway Midlands 2 West (S) leaders Droitwich.
Please come and support the Moorlanders as they try to reach their 2nd Midlands final in 4 years. It should be a great occasion with plenty going on at the club to keep everyone interested.
Author John McDermott