Tamworth have become a bogey side for Leek since the pair of clubs were promoted to this league 3 years ago and so it proved again on a glorious day at St Edwards.
There was a one minute silence to commemorate the passing of 1952-53 captain, Fred Smith whose son, Will, also played for the club in the 1970s and 80s.
With the beer festival in full swing, Tamworth kicked off and soon had Leek on the back foot. On 5 minutes they had won a penalty in the Leek 22 for not releasing n the tackle but inexplicably the full back struck the penalty wide. From the 22 drop out, confusion in the Tamworth half mean the ball wasn’t fielded and Andy McFadden got his toe on the ball to kick it deep into the Tamworth 22 . Leek won a penalty for holding on and Sam Hunt kicked Leek into a 3-0 lead on 8 minutes. It was to be Leek’s only real position of the first half as Tamworth shrugged off the mistake and resumed their attacking mode.
On 12 minutes Nock palmer was yellow carded for a deliberate one handed interception but the resulting kick for lineout when out in goal for a Leek 22. However 2 minutes later and another penalty in Leek’s 22 for a high tackle was duly converted to bring the scores level at 3 all.
On 20 minutes, a forward pass prevented a Tamworth try but from the Leek scrum on their own 5 metre line, the ball was lost in the ruck and the Tamworth scrum half sneaked in under the posts for the first try of the afternoon. The conversion was good and Tamworth had taken a 10-3 lead.
From the kick off, Leek drove to the Tamworth line and it looked inevitable they would score, but strong Tamworth defence and then a penalty for not releasing saw Tamworth clear. Sam Hunt had a penalty attempt from 45 metres with the wind, but it hit the post and went wide after Andy Mcfadden stole a lineout ball.
Then on 36 minutes, Leek were caught in possession on their own line and the Tamworth scrum was well held by Leek, but from the next ruck Leek was penalised for a player loitering and interfering and the penalty attempt was good to extend the Tamworth lead to 13-3 as Sam Hunt went off injured to be replaced by Dan Smith at full back.
Half time came not soon enough for Leek as they needed to think about their game in order to wrestle better control against their determined opponents.
Luke Granger came on at hooker, but it was as much the mistakes Leek were making when getting into decent positions and missed tackles that needed to be eradicated for them to get back into the game as Tamworth grew in confidence as the half ended.
Tamworth had a 48th minute penalty for a scrum offence but the kick went wide and then Leek had a penalty on 51 minutes for offside and Smith kicked for the corner lineout. Andy Mcfadden took the ball and it was fed to Jason Milner at the back of the maul. The Leek pack drove over the line but the referee could not see a grounding and awarded Leek a penalty for dropping the maul earlier. Leek opted to kick for the line and although the initial drive was sound, leek was then penalised for holding on in the ruck and Tamworth cleared.
On 55 minutes, Jamie Gordon came on for Tom Sims as skipper Tom Hine dropped to lock, but 2 minutes later and another offside at the ruck allowed the Tamworth full back to slot another penalty to extend the visitors’ lead to 16-3.
On 72 minutes, Tamworth again found themselves with a 5 meter scrum and this time the No8 picked up and drove over for his deserved score. A solid conversion and Tamworth were nearly out of sight at 23-3.
Leek’s afternoon was compounded then on 76 minutes as Dan Needham was yellow carded for stamping. In the next few minutes though leek revived after a high tackle and finally Naz Narawa broke the Tamworth line and crashed over for a try. Dan Smith missed the conversion but at 8-23, Leek would need 3 scores to haul the game out of the bag and Tamworth were not letting up.
From the kick off, a complete mess in defence led to a Tamworth 5 metre scrum and from it the left wing was only just stopped from scoring in the corner. The resulting 22 drop out reached half way but lacklustre defence allowed a simple passing move down the left to outflank the tired defence and the wing scored an unopposed try there. The conversion was superb as the referee ended the game with Tamworth 30-8 winners.
It was extremely disappointing to end the season on such a note following 3 wins in a row, but there was no denying Tamworth’s desire, commitment and skill that saw them win quite comfortably in the end. It means survival for them and a 4th place finish for Leek.
On other results, Silhillians claimed the championship shield after defeating Stafford, but 2nd place is still up for grabs with Moseley Oak needing 1 point against Sils next week to confirm 2nd place and a play off match.
At the foot, Veseyans are likely to be relegated depending on other league placings.
Overall, the season has seen another improvement for Leek as they finished in their highest position in 3 years and they will look to have a rest now as the coaches plot next season’s fixtures.
The squad has been ably captained by Tom Hine and he has had a fine squad of players that have responded well to the coaches.
Author John McDermott