Leek's George Hunt was again missing and Ian Harris came into centre as an otherwise unchanged back division took the field.
In the forwards, the front 5 is selecting itself currently, but the back row saw Matt Slinn return to the flank with Ad Nettel at No8 and Andy McFadden on the other flank.
The Old Salts started strongly and clearly meant business from the start as their game plan was quick to see, relying on the brute power of their big forwards at lock and No8 to drive the ball on and then when released to bring the ball back to the forwards through the stocky inside centre. Included in all of this was some good offloading in the tackle which kept Leek's defence on the back foot and it was no surprise to see the visitors take the lead on 10 minutes when they won a penalty for offside and the reliable fly half kicked the penalty for 3-0.
It took Leek until the 16th minute to get to the OS 22 when they were awarded a penalty for a deliberate knock, but McDermott's attempt drifted wide. Leek retained ball well after this and shook the Old Salts when on 20 minutes with speed on the right, they created some quick rucks. With the OS defence committed, quick ball left allowed Nick Palmer to easily outsprint the remaining defenders and score the try to give Leek the lead. The conversion missed but at 5-3, it was hoped Leek would take the initiative against the wind and the low sun in their eyes. OS had different ideas and immediately hit back though when Leek was penalised for hands in the ruck from the kick off. A line kick gave OS a lineout about 10 metres from Leek's line. A shortened line ensued, simple ball sent wide and OS were rucking under Leek's posts. Quick ball saw the outside centre crash over near the posts for OS's first try. The conversion was good and Leek's lead had evaporated in 3 minutes as OS regained the advantage at 10-5.
On 29 minutes, Leek found themselves with a lineout 5 metres from their own line and a not straight call gave OS a scrum. The big No8 picked up at the back of the scrum and ran blind and despite brave tacklers, there was no stopping the versatile back rower as he crashed over for OS's 2nd try. An unerring conversion from the touchline and OS stretched their lead to 17-5.
On 33 minutes, Nick Palmer was replaced after an injury to his knee and Matt Slinn had to move to the wing as Luke Staton came into No8 with Ad Nettel moving to the flank.
Leek did well to hold OS for the rest of the half as they battled for more ball and territory.
Half Time - Leek 5 - 17 Old Salts.
The 2nd half gave Leek the wind advantage and the lowering sun was still a problem, but a quick score and the next score was vital to Leek getting back into the game. 2 minutes in and a penalty for not releasing gave McDermott that chance and he took it to lift Leek to 8 points to 17.
On 44 minutes, McDermott raked a kick deep into the OS 22 where the full back fielded the ball. Shane Dicker sprinted up and bundled the 15 into touch for a Leek line. Although Leek lost the line ball, they recovered it in the ruck that followed and with quick hands the ball sped wide to Lucas Buxton who touched down in the right corner. Jake Green's conversion was superb and Leek had moved to 15-17.
Momentum was with the Moorlanders now and on 49 minutes another penalty gave McDermott the chance to move Leek into the lead but the kick just faded past the post, but on 51 minutes another penalty for offside allowed Jake Green to kick a success goal and as unlikely as it may have seemed at half time, Leek had taken the lead at 18-17.
On 60 minutes, an OS penalty for deliberate knock meant OS retook the lead at 20-18 and it was becoming apparent now that discipline or lack of would determine the outcome of this gripping game.
On 64 minutes, Leek were all over the OS line and McDermott was held up over the line, but from the scrum a knock on prevented them from getting back into the lead. On 70 minutes however, Leek did win another penalty for hands in the ruck and McDermott struck the ball well to give Leek the lead again at 21-20.
It was all about keeping the ball now, but still OS weren't done and on 76 minutes they won a penalty for offside at the ruck and the 100% kicking machine that was the fly half slotted the goal to hand back the lead to OS at 23-21.
Still there was one more twist as on 79 minutes from the kick off, Leek won another penalty for holding on in the tackle and McDermott had a long range penalty attempt. The kick was bang on target but fell agonisingly under the bar and OS cleared to close out the game.
It had been a great game again between these 2 sides and although Leek won a losing bonus point, there will be disappointment at not winning the game in the 2nd half. OS consolidated 2nd place as Leek moved down a notch to 5th with Bridgnorth winning.
Next week, Leek travel to Shrewsbury for a 3pm kick off.
The players will be leaving Leek on a coach. Anyone wishing to travel with them should contact Mark Hardern