Gary McDermott was back at fly half and Ian Harris moved to his more customary scrum half position. Adam Smith and Lucas Buxton were on the wings with Sam Hunt at full back. Shane Dicker and Nick Palmer formed the midfield partnership that is beginning to look like a good combination.
With Luke Granger out, Dave Ackerley was asked to hook and the front row was completed with captain Jason Milner on the tight head side and Joe Taylor on the loose head.
Tom Sims and Luke Hardern were at lock and Luke Staton was at No8 with Andy McFadden and Adam Nettel on the flanks.
With a heavy downpour in the morning, the pitch was damp, but in superb condition as referee Dave Watt signalled a minute's silence before the game in remembrance of Cliff Brittle, a Staffordshire man who reached the top of the RFU at the time professionalism was introduced. He also opened the Leek clubhouse in 2000.
The opening quarter of the game was not very constructive as both sides struggled to impose themselves on their opposition and it was characterised with poor kicking and lack of control. Leek needed a break and it came on 23 minutes after good counter rucking saw the backs move the ball deep into AOE's 22 before a dropped pass gave the visitors the chance to clear. However Leek won the ensuing lineout and quick rucking across the line saw the AOE scrum half adjudged offside and Sam Hunt stepped up to land a simple penalty and hand Leek a 3-0 lead.
From the kick off, Leek didn't field the ball and that led to a penalty attempt on 29 minutes for not rolling away at the tackle, but the AOE fly half's attempt went wide.
The rest of the half followed a similar pattern to the first quarter as neither side could impose themselves, but in the 4th minute of added time, AOE gifted Leek a penalty attempt after Leek lost a lineout and the ball was fly hacked by an AOE forward into his own player. Sam Hunt stepped up again to double Leek's lead to 6-0 as the half closed out.
At half time, Simon Drew replaced the injured Adam Smith on the wing.
AOE started the 2nd half with their own piece of luck as Leek failed to deal with a deep kick into their own 22. Somehow the ball came off a Leek defender and AOE had won a lineout on Leek's 5 metre line. A simple catch and drive saw the AOE No.8 go over for a try. the conversion was missed, but at 6-5, it was anyone's game now.
On 45 minutes, a mix up in the AOE defence sees them hand Leek a penalty and Hunt's kick for the corner gave Leek a lineout on AOE's 5 metre line. A sound win and quick rucking looked like Leek may score a try, but as the ball sped out the AOE defence was caught offside and Sam Hunt converted his 3rd penalty of the afternoon and increase Leek's lead to 9-5.
AOE came back into the game then and only a poor pass on 56 minutes prevented real danger on the Leek line. 2 minutes later and strong Leek defence allowed Sam Hunt to clear and effectively end AOE's ambitions.
On 59 minutes, the AOE tight head was sin binned for punching and finally Leek's scrum got moving forward. McDermott moved the ball wide and only great defence stopped Dave Ackerley from scoring as finally Leek started to impose themselves on the game.
On 64 minutes, Leek pushed the AOE scum off their ball and Ad Nettel picked up. A quick ruck later and Dave Ackerley went over for the try. Sam Hunt converted and Leek were up to 16-5.
Jamie Gordon came on for Joe Taylor on 75 minutes and with Leek pressing in the later stages of the game, they won another penalty on the AOE 5 metre line which Sam Hunt duly converted to end the scoring at 19-5.
It had been a tough match with Leek gaining in confidence as the match progressed and it looked like a steady improvement from last week. It's going to be a long hard season and leek will have to continue to work positively with coach Chris Mudd in the absence of head coach, Ian Gittens. The club wishes him a speedy recovery from his illness and hope to see him back soon.
Elsewhere, Stoke put 61 points on promoted Moseley Oak who have had the misfortune to play Bridgnorth on the opening day as well and it is these 2 sides that set the early pace along with Tamworth who have won twice including this week against Old Saltleians.
Burntwood thumped Shrewsbury away by 47-7 and Stafford recovered from their opening day blitz at Stoke to overcome Dixonians 20-10.
This week starts the opening round of the national Cup competitions and Leek has a bye. The intention at the time of writing is to play Newcastle at home this Saturday. Check the website for confirmation.
On October 1st, Leek has a difficult away match at Bridgnorth and will be keen to start well on their away travels.
Author John McDermott