Sat 24
1st XV
Leek v Stafford Match Report

Leek v Stafford Match Report

By Michael Whitehouse
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This was always going to be a closely fought local derby with both clubs having similar records this season.

On a glorious afternoon, 146 spectators, including the county president and Staffordshire's RFU member, were present at F Ball Park to witness this clash. With Shane Dicker out due to an injured foot and Dave Kennaway crying off late due to sickness, Ian Harris was drafted into the inside centre position and was partnered by the returning George Hunt. Nick Palmer, Lucas Buxton and Sam Hunt made up the back 3 as Gary McDermott and Jake Green continued at half back.
The front 5 is picking itself and the back row had Luke Staton at No8 with Ad Nettel and Andy McFadden on the flanks.

As in the earlier game between these 2 sides, Leek started quickly and were on the board with a try inside 5 minutes. Stafford had a scrum just outside their own 22 and although it was a very stable platform, the ball squirmed out allowing Jake Green to get to the ball first. leek's possession gathered momentum as they set up 2 rucks before Gary McDermott too the ball down the left touch. His inside pass found Ian Harris, whose dash for the line was thwarted by a great tackle, but the supporting Andy McFadden took the offload pass and scored a great try. McDermott's conversion missed to the left but Leek was on the board at 5-0.

Their lead was short-lived however as Stafford powered back into the match with their own score on 15 minutes. From a ball off the top of the lineout on Leek's 22, a clever move by the Stafford backs disguised the flanker with the ball and he sprinted for the Leek line. A couple of strong forces with the ball led to the Stafford No8 crashing over for a try near the posts. The conversion was good and Stafford took the lead at 7-5.
The lead changed hands again on 21 minutes when an offside at the ruck was given by referee Steve Fairclough and Jake Green slotted a 35 metre penalty from in front of the post to give Leek a slender 8-7 advantage.

Then on 27 minutes, Jake Green caught a ball inside the Leek 22 for a mark. Green's kick downfield missed touch on the righthandside and the Stafford fullback decided to kick it back to the Leek 22. The alert Ian Harris caught the ball and his clever kick back to the Stafford 22, knowing the fullback was now out of position, meant that the chase was on. The Stafford No8 was left stranded to collect the ball and deal with it as 3 Leek backs sprinted up after the kick. George Hunt just managed to charge the No8's desperate clearance kick and Ian Harris gathered the ball with Nick Palmer in close attendance. However, the Stafford loose head prop, coming from an offside position, tackled Harris and the referee blew for a penalty infringement and yellow carded the prop. Green stepped up and converted the penalty to extend Leek's lead to 11-7.

The rest of the half saw both sides contesting the ball forcefully but neither gained any worthwhile scoring opportunity, so it was all in the balance at the half. Leek 11 - 7 Stafford.

At half time, Matt Slinn came on to replace the injured Luke Staton and Ad Nettel moved to No8. This meant the scrum was even lighter than before and was going to be a problem for Leek to hold the vastly bigger Stafford 8. On 48 minutes, with Leek's scrum going backwards and just outside the Stafford 22, Ad Nettel's pick up from the base of the scrum and flick out to Jake Green set off a neat move between Gary McDermott and the centres with Ian Harris acting as decoy and George Hunt coming on a great inside angle to split the defence. His pace did the rest as the young centre sidestepped the covering wing to score a try near the left post. Green converted and at 18-7, Leek had some breathing space, but then knew what to expect from the visitors.

Still Leek continued to press and but for a knock on at the Stafford 22 on 54 minutes, a promising position may have forced another score. Indeed a score did occur but for Stafford. The scrum on their own 22 gave steady ball and as the Leek backs rushed the defence, a clever chip by the Stafford fly half bounced behind the Leek centres whereupon the speedy Stafford full back collected and then swerved past Sam Hunt to score a try under the posts having run all of 70 metres. It was a great try and stunned the home side and its supporters. What followed though proved critical to the outcome of the game as the seemingly simple conversion from directly in front of the posts somehow missed. The lead was reduced to 18-12 and the next score would be very important.

George Hunt left the field after the try and Adam Smith came onto the right wing with Lucas Buxton, who has been a revelation this season, moving to the centre.
On 65 minutes, Leek lost a scrum on their own 22 and then the forwards were handed the ball to pound the Leek line. Leek's strong defence held the line, but when the ball was released the useful Stafford lock standing in the centre crashed over for Stafford's 3rd try, with again a simple conversion to come. Unbelievably again though, the conversion missed and Leek still led by the narrowest of margins at 18-17 with 15 minutes to go.

After the try, Charlie Futcher came on at hooker as Dave Ackerley gave way and Leek's determination to stay in the game and win it was evident. The forwards worked tirelessly to keep their opponents at bay and it was becoming clear that Leek's forwards' fitness was keeping them in the game.

As the 78th minute ticked over, it was Leek striving to score again, deep in the Stafford 22. The ball was moving wide and towards the right hand corner when Jake Green had to collect a wayward pass. His clever chip, aimed at the lineout neat the Stafford line, was spotted by the Stafford left wing. His jump for the ball however, only saw him palm it forward into the arms of his own No8. This led to a penalty almost on the touchline and 20 meters from goal. With time ticking away now, it made sense for Jake Green to have a go at the difficult kick and true to his form all afternoon, the diminutive scrum half calmly converted the penalty through the middle of the posts to extend the lead to 21-17.
Leek had a couple of minutes to survive and not without a scare as a penalty for hands in the ruck gave Stafford one last chance to score. The Leek forwards were equal to it though and forced a knock on to close out the game.

This was a tough game for the Leek squad and they had to dig deep to keep a powerful Stafford side at bay and still have the skills to win the match.
Jake Green was the man of the match as he took every opportunity given to him and Leek moved up to 4th place as Bridgnorth lost at home to Old Salts.
Moseley Oak, Leek's opponents next week, drew 31 all at Spartans to record back to back draws. Moseley are 1 point ahead of Leek as Tamworth closed in with a big win against Dixonians.
Anyone travelling to Moseley next Saturday to support the team should know it's a 3pm kick off.
Stoke secured the league title, barring points being deducted, with a home win against Burntwood.

With 3 games to go, the table shows 5 clubs battling for 3rd place and as Old salts confirmed runners up spot. At the bottom, Burntwood still have a 9 point deficit to overhaul Dixonians and save themselves from relegation.

Leek's next and last home league fixture is after Easter on Saturday, April 14th when they entertain Spartans. Kick off is at 3.00pm

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Match details

Match date

Sat 24, Mar 2012




Midlands 2 West (North)