With Dave Ackerley injured, Luke Granger was back at hooker with Jason Milner and Joe Taylor at prop. Tom Hine and Tom Sims were at lock and without Luke Staton now until the new year through work commitments, it was good to see matt Slinn returning from injury, joining Adam Nettel and Andy McFadden in the back row.
Jake Green and Gary McDermott were at half back and Shane Dicker was joined by Simon Drew in the centre as George Hunt was injured. Adam Smith and Nick Palmer were on the wings with Sam Hunt at full back.
The Moorlanders started at a pace and were on the board with a try in 3 minutes. After a lineout on the Stafford 22, Gary McDermott sidestepped past his opposite man and sprinted for the line to score by the post. Sam Hunt converted and Leek had started strongly at 7-0.
On 7 minutes, Leek were all over the Stafford 22 again, gaining several penalties before the referee yellow carded the Stafford centre for persistent offside.Sam Hunt converted the penalty and Leek were up to 10-0.
Leek were pressing for the next 10 minutes as Stafford had failed to muster a worthwhile attack and on 22 minutes, another Leek penalty for in at the side of the ruck saw Sam Hunt kick his 2nd penalty for a 13-0 lead.
At this stage, it was hard to see how Stafford was going to get into the game and not concede a lot of points as the rampant Moorlanders looked to press home their game plan advantage.
Then on 26 minutes, a poor pass saw Leek having to concede a line out on their own 22. Stafford's forwards catch and drive was held up by the Leek defence. The subsequent backline attack to the right was well defended before the bal sped left. As the full back caught the ball, Nick Palmer sprinted into him and was adjudged to have high tackled. It looked the right decision although the initial contact was at the ball. The Stafford crowd and players made the yellow card easy for the referee and then Stafford kicked for the corner.
After this lineout on 34 minutes, Luke Granger came in at the side and he was harshly yellow carded, when Stafford's forwards had been guilty of it persistently in the o opening quarter. Down to 13 men, and on 37 minutes, Stafford finally managed to overcome the heroic Leek defence and from the next catch and drive, the No8 drove over for the try. The conversion was good and at 13-7, Leek needed the half time whistle and they defended bravely as the break came. HT 7-13.
The break probably suited Stafford more than Leek as in the opening minute of the 2nd half, Stafford spurned a penalty attempt and opted for a lineout in Leek's 22. Nick Palmer came back on, but that could not prevent another catch and drive try from the Stafford forwards. The conversion was good and the home side took the lead at 14-13.
Luke Granger came back on and on 47 minutes, Leek were pressing again and won a penalty for not releasing on the Stafford 22. Hunt stepped up to convert his 3rd penalty and hand Leek the lead again at 14-16.
It promised to be a thrilling last half hour, but on 50 minutes, a kick to touch and follow up to retrieve the ball by the Stafford wing for a quick throw was seemingly blocked by Luke Granger. It was innocuous and in front of where the line would have been, but the referee got his card out again and this time it had to be red for Luke's 2nd offence.
With Leek's hooker and thrower off the pitch for the final 30 minutes, it was going to be very tough to stay in the match and on 53 minutes, the quick Stafford centre had his first sniff of space and his peed got him through the stretched Leek defence after they had lost their own line out on the 22. The conversion was good and Stafford was up to 22-16.
On 60 minutes, Tom Bourne came into the front row as Matt Slinn had to give way.
On 72 minutes, another kick to the corner and catch and drive saw Stafford score their 3rd such try, but with the conversion hitting the bar and staying out, at 26-16 with 10 minutes to go, Leek still had a chance to nick a bonus point if they could score a penalty.
The chance came with a minute to go, but as it was near the touchline, Jake Green elected to set up the ruck. The forward drove and then made space for McDermott to side step the defence again. With the line at his mercy and Nick Palmer a pass away, he drove for the line with a tackler holding on and holding the ball off the ground. Great defence then from the ensuing 5 metre scrum left Leek without at least a losing bonus point, their play had deserved.
Nevertheless, although the club dropped to 6th from 3rd place, there was every reason to be proud of the performance and on another day, the score may have been different.
Next week, Leek hosts Moseley Oak, a side that is quietly climbing the table with victories at Stafford last week and at home against Spartans this week. Kick off is at 2.15pm for the last league game before the Christmas break.
Don't forget the Club Christmas Party this Saturday evening - fancy dress is optional - food and music a plenty. Entry £6