....all 3 results were possible before Leek held on for the win and OS went away with a losing bonus point.
Leek’s changing side week in week out presents challenges to the selection committee but it does give players the chance to take their opportunity to get a regular place.
Bobby Cheadle is out injured allowing Adam Smith to join Ed Cheadle and Lee Williams in the front row. Skipper Luke Hardern missed his 3rd game in a row and so Jake Bainbridge started at lock with Ben Barlow. Joel Booth at No.8 was joined by George Hunt and Jack Conlon on the flanks.
Ollie Drew and sam Hunt were at half back with gary McDermott and Nick palmer in the centres. Will Graham continues hi education at full back and Tom Scragg and Matt Leadingham were on the wings.
Liam McDermott and Ryan Day were on the bench along with debutant, 17 year old flanker, Jake Hartley, coming through the Leek junior ranks.
The day was surprisingly calm and although the underfoot conditions were sticky, the day was perfect for a rugby match but not before there was a minute’s silence for the passing of club stalwart Malcolm Kerr. Malcolm had spent many years working with the nascent junior section of the club and raising funds for the club and being on the committee. His son, Tom, played for Leek for many years and the club expresses its sympathy for his family at this time.
Leek started brightly and were pressing in the OS 22 on 3 minutes but indiscipline caused a penalty and OS cleared. 5 minutes later and Leek were again penalised allowing OS a lineout on Leek’s 22. From there the referee had to stop the game as a fracas broke out and he spoke to both captains. From the scrum , OS were rucking on the Leek 22 and Joel Booth was yellow carded for entering the ruck with a no arm bind. The penalty gave OS a 5 metre lineout but Leek’s strong defence repelled the drive and from a scrum Leek cleared.
Still Leek’s penalty count was rising in the first quarter and a similar 13th minute maul from the lineout was again stopped by the Leek forwards.
However on 17 minutes, Leek were caught offside in front of their posts and the OS fly half gave them lead with a successful penalty kick. 0-3.
5 minutes later, Leek responded in kind with a penalty kick of their own and Sam Hunt equalised the scores at 3 all.
This signalled the start of a more focussed Leek effort and Jake Bainbridge led the charge when he got to within 5 metres of the OS line on 25 minutes. This followed a superb break from Sam Hunt, spotting forwards in the back line and darting between them.
The scrum won, Leek’s forwards trundled to the OS line where the OS forwards disengaged and the referee awarded a penalty try to Leek. With the conversion not now required, Leek took the lead for the first time at 10-3 on 27 minutes.
Then on 30 minutes, the OS flanker was yellow carded for pulling back a Leek player without the ball.
On 33 minutes, an OS scrum in Leek’s 22 after the ball went forward allowed the OS forwards to ruck near the Leek line and the excellent outside centre eventually crashed over for an OS try. The conversion was good at it was 10 all.
The first half concluded with a long passage of added time which culminated in a Leek lineout on the OS 22 on the left. A catch and drive to within 10 metres of the OS line then led to a series of rucks before Jake Bainbridge crashed under the defence to score a try on the line.
Sam Hunt converted to end the first half at 17-10 for Leek.
Leek had an escape 3 minutes into the 2nd half after dropping the ball in their own 22 and only a forward pass stopped the inside centre from a score. But it took only another 4 minutes for OS to get back on level terms when from a lineout on Leek’s 22 on the left a simple catch and pass back to the fly half saw him dart through a weak defence and score by the posts. He converted his own try and it was 17 all with 48 minutes played.
Leek needed to play with some patience now and following a George Hunt quick tap penalty on 52 minutes, Leek gained a penalty for not 10 metres and this gave Leek a penalty on the OS 5 metre line. Leek opted for the scrum. As the forwards nudged the ball forward, the referee awarded Leek another penalty as the OS scrum half interfered with the ball and he was yellow carded. Leek opted for the scrum again and as the flanker and No.8 disengaged from the scrum with Leek in control, the referee awarded Leek another penalty try on 57 minutes.
Young Jake Hartley came on for his senior debut for Leek on 65 minutes.
OS had a chance a couple of minutes later after winning a couple of penalties but a poor lineout on Leek’s 5 metre line had Leek clearing.
With 72 minutes on the clock, it was still an open game and then the OS flanker was yellow carded again for a technical offence and he had to receive a red for the accumulation. Sam Hunt kicked the penalty from the incident and Leek led 27-17. It should have signalled the end of some great resistance by OS but it actually inspired the 14 into greater effort and as the game entered its 84th minute, they won a penalty just outside Leek’s 22 for not releasing at the tackle. The OS fly half slotted the penalty to close the gap to 27-20 and there was one more play from the kick-off.
It proved nearly disastrous for Leek as the superb outside centre broke from his own 22 to mid-Leek’s half before throwing a long, wide forward pass, which if going to hand may well have been a try scoring chance. As it was, the pass signalled the end of an incident packed game with Leek winning a close fought battle.
OS’s point moved them clear of Newcastle into 10th spot as Leek consolidated 4th place on 45 points. Whitchurch beat Walsall 64-0 in the league’s only other game.
Author John McDermott