…. with the last play in an enthralling encounter on a glorious afternoon.
Leek's pre-season has gone really well and their line up confirmed Jack Newton taylor at full back with Dan Sharratt and Kini Buli on the wings. Tom Scragg and Sam Hunt were in the centre and Ollie Drew and Dan Needham were at half back.
New skipper Ed Cheadle, Bobby Cheadle and Lewis Dunleavy made up the front row. Luke Hardern and Andy McFadden were at lock with Joel Booth, Reece Milner and George Hunt making up a strong back 5.
Tom Fairhurst, Joe Newton taylor and young Sam Brereton made up the bench.
A minute into the game and Leek led after Sam Hunt converted a penalty with Stafford off feet at the ruck. 3-0.
Leek's poor kick off receipts all game started a sequence of events next that led to Joel Booth being yellow carded as Stafford pressed near Leek's line and from a resulting lineout, the Stafford forwards created the momentum for a try which was duly converted with 6 minutes played. 3-7.
Leek played well whilst Joel Booth was off and with 30 minutes on the clock Leek retook the lead after a high tackle gave Sam Hunt the opportunity to kick for the line 5 metres from the Stafford goal. The catch and drive had Ed Cheadle scoring Leek's first try of the season and although the conversion missed Leek led 8-7.
3 minutes later another high tackle led to a Stafford yellow. This created Leek's next chance as the half wound down with an excellent maul being stopped and the Stafford centre yellow carded for in at the side. The resulting lineout on 38 minutes had Ed Cheadle scoring a similar try from the maul in the right corner with the difficult conversion missed. Leek increased their lead though to 13-7. The half ended with leek pressing against the 13 man Stafford outfit and in their desire to end the half a Stafford forward threw the ball out and Leek won a penalty but the last play efforts of Leek couldn't break the stubborn Stafford defence and a knock on ended the half at 13-7.
Stafford started the 2nd half strongly and with all players returned to action the lock scored a good try on 46 minutes after rucks in the Leek 22 led to an overlap. The conversion was good and Stafford retook the lead at 13-14.
Then an unfortunate moment on 50 minutes marred the game. Joel Booth was yellow carded again and so he received the obligatory red card and at a separate incident the Stafford lock was red carded for an alleged stamping offence.
The game readjusted and it still ebbed and flowed with Leek next to score on 58 minutes. Sam Hunt converted another penalty after hands in the ruck on the Stafford 22. 16-14. With Leek now pressing it was disappointing to see poor play and discipline relieve Stafford's 22 on 66 minutes from which Stafford had a lineout on the halfway on the right. From this, the best play of the day saw the ball swept along the backs with the full back incisive for the centre to score a great try. The conversion was missed but Stafford led 16-19 and the game entered the final 10 minutes. Still Leek came back and won another penalty on the Stafford 22 for hands in the ruck and coolly Sam Hunt drew Leek level on 70 minutes. 19-19
Leek were now pressing but Stafford were not retreating as both teams fought each other to a standstill and with less than 2 minutes to go, a draw looked the likely result and possibly the fair one but the game had a couple of twists yet. Firstly on 89 minutes Sam Hunt kicked a superb penalty with the pressure on as Stafford were offside at the ruck. 22-19.
Then all Leek had to do was take the kick-off return and hold on to the ball for a minute or so.
However, the ball went forward and Stafford reclaimed the ball and with exceptional patience against some tough defending edged closer to the line with a series of rucks which resulted in a crash over try with the last play. The conversion was good, the final whistle blew and the visitors edged a cracker 22-26.
Time will tell if these 2 teams are top half sides or not and with cup matches next week, they have an extra week to think about next league matches with Leek travelling to Tamworth and Stafford hosting Longton.
This Saturday Leek hosts Notts Casuals in the 2nd round of the Midlands intermediate Cup. Kick-off is at 3pm at Esterchem Park.
Action attached sees Leek skipper Ed Cheadle throwing in at the lineout with Andy McFadden about to take the catch.