The defeat left Leek still in 5th position as Bridgnorth and Moseley Oak continued their surge up the table to create a mid table that is extremely congested and Leek will have to improve in the New Year to match their record last year and retain their status at level 7.
Simon Drew was drafted into scrum half after the late cry off from Jake Green. He partnered Gary McDermott at half back. Shane Dicker and Lee Williams were at centre with Nick Palmer on the left wing and debutant right winger Ben Smith on the right wing with Sam Hunt at full back.
Joe Taylor, Dan Bould and Jason Milner were in the front row with Tom Sims and Ed Harrison at lock. With Andy McFadden unavailable, Neil Edge came into the back row with Ad Nettel and Dave Ackerley starting as matt Slinn hadn't arrived on time.
Leek lost the toss and were asked to kick down the slope and with the wind first half, so they knew that a lead was required in order to defend the slope in the 2nd half.
Leek started brightly and were all over the Spartans 22 and had a chance on 6 minutes with a scrum under the posts. The ball was spun out but a penalty was awarded for diving into the ruck and Spartans cleared.
On 16 minutes, McDermott kicked Leek to the Spartans 22 and a lineout for not releasing in the tackle. The line was good and several rucks later, Leek were under the posts and Ed Harrison burst over for a good score. Hunt converted and Leek led 7-0.
On 21 minutes, McDermott kicked for the Spartans line again and the full back reached his own 22 for the clearance. Leek's line took the ball and drove the home pack over its own line for Harrison to score his 2nd and Leek's 2nd try. Hunt's conversion missed but at 12-0, Leek were beginning to build a lead they would need.
Then on 26 minutes, Sam Hunt was injured and replaced by Dan Cooper at full back. Spartans won some midfield ball and retained possession well as Leek's defence was tested. The bigger Spartan forwards started to nudge the Leek pack in the scrum and on 34 minutes, a simple pick up and drive saw the No8 score by the posts. The conversion was good and at 12-7. leek had given up an important score.
As the game entered the 3rd minute of added time at the end of the first half, leek at last managed to quell the Spartan forwards long enough to be awarded a penalty for offside. McDermott's good kick sailed between the posts to hand Leek a 15-7 half time lead.
It took Spartans only 4 minutes of the 2nd half to score their 2nd try when a simple passing move had Leek's backs outnumbered on the left. The conversion was missed but at 15-12, it was going to take a great effort to retain the lead.
On 54 minutes, skipper Jason Milner limped off to be replaced by Tom Bourne, but 4 minutes later, a scrum on Leek's 22 saw the No8 pick up and run blind. Several poor tackles failed to stop the hard running forward and he touched down for Spartans 3rd try, also going unconverted. Spartans had the lead for the first time at 17-15 and Leek would have to dig deep now to hold onto a point unless their backs could be released.
Matt Slinn came into the fray on 59 minutes as Ed Harrison left the field and Dave Ackerley moved to lock.
On 68 minutes, Spartans scored their 4th and bonus point try when again poor tackling allowed the centre to score. The conversion missed importantly, but at 22-15, leek had an uphill struggle to retain the losing bonus point.
Leek then probably had their best phases of the 2nd half, as they retained the ball at last and started to test the Spartans in their own half. It was welcome relief because it dented Spartans desire and in the end the home side kicked the ball out to end the match.
All in all, a point was as much as Leek deserved on the day and with every club except Shrewsbury doing exactly that, getting at least a point, it shows the highly competitive nature of this league.
Leek will need to regroup and put some hard work in over the next 2 weeks before they resume their league matches with a game away at Aston Old Edwardians on Saturday, January 7th.
Have a happy Christmas and peaceful New year and see you on Boxing Day for the annual 3rds v Veterans match. Players should arrive at 10am for the 11am kick off.