Another week and another few changes in the Leek starting line up as Dan Smith reported in sick and was replaced by 18 year old Jack Newton-Taylor at full back in his first full game at this level.
Ian Harris and Gary McDermott were at half back and Shane Dicker returned at 12 to partner Sam Hunt in the centre. Adam Smith and Nick Palmer were on the wings.
The front row remained unchanged with skipper Tom Hine, Ed Cheadle and Jason Milner starting, but a new lock combination saw two 20 year olds boost the power in the engine room as Luke Hardern and Ed Harrison combined for the first time. Ad Nettel was unavailable and so Neil Edge was drafted into the open side with Tom Sims on the blind side and Andy McFadden at no.8
Simon Drew, Tom Bourne and Tom Tavakece were on the bench.
Veseyans (Vs) chose to kick with the wind and slope in the first half and had the added advantage of the sun at their backs, so Leek needed to start strongly and try to wrestle the initiative. They won an early penalty and Sam Hunt kicked for the lineout but a not straight decision in the wind allowed Vs to clear. Then on 6 minutes an unfortunate injury to the Vs tight head prop saw him leave the field and Vs next scrum was disrupted by the Leek 8.
On 10 minutes, Leek cleared the ball into the Vs half only to watch the Vs full back sprint past defenders to get to Leek's 5 metre line. Then the forwards picked up and Leek's defence managed to hold the rush over the line. From the 5 metre scrum, Leek might have expected to hold the Vs scrum, but mentally the Vs pack moved up a gear and they won the shove to drive over the line for the No8 to score a try. The conversion was missed but Vs had the early advantage. V5-0L
Leek's riposte was immediate.
Sam Hunt's excellent restart kick was knocked into touch midway in the Vs half for a Leek line. Off the top, Luke Hardern was sent on the charge. Quick ruck ball and partner Ed Harrison burst through 2 tackles and sprinted in from 22 metres to score under the posts. Sam Hunt converted and Leek led 7-5 on 14 minutes.
On 23 minutes, Leek were penalised for pulling down in the line and a chance for 3 points was spurned by Vs skipper who opted to kick for position, but good Leek defence snuffed out any danger.
Leek were beginning to gel as the forwards drove at the heart of the Vs defence in midfield and sent the ball wide, but on 32 minutes a change of tactic on the right side saw the Leek pack maul from the Vs 10 metre line to inside the 22. Having sucked in the fringers, McDermott went blind and his pass to Shane Dicker saw the big centre ride a tackle to score in the right hand corner. Hunt's conversion missed but Leek were up to 12-5.
2 minutes later and Leek had another penalty which allowed them a lineout on the Vs 5 metre line, but a not straight let the home side off the hook with a scrum. However, at the scrum, Leek had a shove on and the scrum half's pick up and pass only found the dead ball line, so Leek had another chance with a 5 metre scrum. This time, the control was good. Ian Harris picked up, slipped the blindside tackle and Adam Smith was given the chance to dive in the right corner for Leek's 3rd try of the afternoon. Sam Hunt's superb conversion rounded off a great half for Leek as they extended their lead to 19-5.
At the half, Neil Edge gave way to Simon Drew on the flank and it was a question of if Leek could maintain their first half pressure or would Vs galvanise and get back into the game.
2 minutes in and Leek won a penalty for slowing the ball at the ruck on half way. Some back chat saw the referee walk the Vs back 10 metres and Sam Hunt punished them with a superb penalty conversion to move Leek to 22-5.
On 50 minutes, another penalty for Leek as the flanker was caught offside at the scrum, saw Sam Hunt convert to move Leek up to 25-5.
From the kick off, Leek made an error that left the Vs with a scrum on the Leek 22 in centre field. However, strong defence and then a penalty allowed the Moorlanders to clear and on 60 minutes, Vs had a chance from a 5 metre lineout, but again strong defence by the forwards won a penalty for Sam Hunt to clear and effectively ended Vs hopes as Leek moved up a gear to close out the game.
On 68 minutes, Nick Palmer and Jack Taylor combined on half way to win the ball in the tackle. Palmer then set up the ruck and McDermott's clever chip into the left corner was anticipated by Shane Dicker who bore down on the covering full back. He tried to grab the ball but knocked on. Advantage played, McDermott followed up and passed to Nick Palmer who scored in the left corner and win the bonus point for the 4th try. Sam Hunt just missed the conversion. 30-5.
On 77 minutes, with Leek on the Vs 22, the referee produced 2 yellow cards as back chat indiscipline finally told on the Vs. With 10 minutes still to go, Leek had the opportunity to add to their score and on 84 minutes a clearance kick from the Vs fly half found Nick Palmer taking the ball on the Leek 10 metre line. He was caught in the tackle but a brilliant offload to the supporting full back, Jack Taylor, saw the youngster pin his ears back and sprint up the touchline and then under the posts for a deserved debut try. Sam Hunt converted and with seconds to go it was 37-5.
Vs, to their credit, came at Leek and were pressing in the Leek half when a stray kick allowed Leek to ruck in midfield. McDermott moved left and then switched right as he saw an overlap. A good pass from Hunt drew the wing and Tom Tavakece raced down the right touch, evading the tackle and rounding under the posts to score his try. Hunt converted and the game ended with Leek's regular supporters quizzing about the last time 40 points were scored away from home in a league fixture.
This was a good performance from Leek as again the depth of the squad was tested, but now face all 4 current sides that surround them in the league from leaders Wolverhampton in 3 weeks to Old Salts who visit St Edwards this Saturday.
Wolverhampton regained top spot after inflicting Moseley Oak's first defeat of the season. Salts edged Spartans and Silhillians won their 4th game in a row with a close win against Bridgnorth. Stafford kept the pressure up with a win against Tamworth
Please note that with the hour going back, all kick offs through to the end of February are at 2.15pm.
It is also Vice Presidents day at the club this Saturday. All members and friends are invited to the pre match buffet and we encourage you to come along and support the club on this important day. Bar will be open from 12.30pm, buffet from 1pm.
Author John McDermott