Saturday 7th March 2020
Midlands 2 West (North)
Leek 1st XV 32 v 23 Crewe & Nantwich 1st XV
Leek won their first league match since 25th January when getting the better of a Crewe & Nantwich (C&N) side that fought all the way to the end in a close match played on a perfect surface at Esterchem Park on Saturday.
Leek’s side was much changed again given that this weekend was supposed to be a league free Saturday due to the 6 Nations but with all games cancelled a couple of weeks ago for Storm Dennis, it meant Leek had to make a number of changes due to unavailability, drafting in no less than 4 youngsters and 3 players normally playing 2nd team football this season.
Dan Sharratt was at full back with Sam Brereton and Ben Twigg, 2 colts on the wings. Tom Scragg and Jack Newton Taylor were in the centres. Isaac Reaney and Kini Buli were at half back.
Joe Newton Taylor, Ed Cheadle and Bobby Cheadle were in the front row. Jake Bainbridge was partnered by Matt Tanner at lock with Tom Fairhurst, Billy Kidd and Reece Milne in the back row.
D J Allen was joined by 2 more colts on the bench in Josh De Gale and Sam Lloyd.
Conditions were good for rugby thankfully after the recent weather and it was C&N into their stride first as they went 0-3 up in 3 minutes winning a penalty and converting it for not rolling away at the tackle.
On 9 minutes a Dan Sharratt break from outside the Leek 22 to inside the C&N 22 was supported by Tom Fairhurst but his pass to Ben Twigg just failed as the cover defence came across and then on 11 minutes after a clearance kick from Dan Sharratt, C&N ran the ball back strongly at the Leek defence and with some poor tackling assisting the attack, the right wing went in for the first try of the game in the right corner. The conversion missed but C&N had made a positive start and led 0-8 with 12 minutes gone.
2 minutes later and Leek responded dramatically. Instead of the clearance kick, Dan Sharratt, this time, ran the ball back at C&N. The ruck formed outside the Leek 22 on the right and the ball shifted to Jack Newton Taylor. He was already building up to speed as he ghosted past the first line of defence and into the C&N 22, pursued on all sides. It looked like he had nowhere to go but somehow the hand off to the would be tackler added momentum and he sprinted in under the posts for Leek’s opening try. Isaac Reaney converted and C&N’s lead reduced to 7-8.
On 25 minutes a series of penalties to Leek after lineouts on the left with mauls to C&N’s 5 metre line, led to the referee awarding a penalty try to Leek and a yellow card for the forward committing the last offence. As the captain started to talk to the referee, he too was carded as C&N were reduced to 13 men as Leek led for the first time at 14-8 with 28 minutes gone.
5 minutes later and man of the match, Billy Kidd, scored Leek’s 3rd try after he charged down the clearance kick and won the race for the touchdown. The conversion missed but Leek extended their lead to 19-8.
From the kick off, the 4th try came for Leek. Reece Milner was involved twice with strong runs getting Leek into the C&N half before the ball was worked to the right wing for young Ben Twigg to run into space, chip kick ahead, gather the ball and score a great try in the right corner. Again, the conversion missed but at 24-8 with the try bonus point won, it was going to be an uphill battle for C&N, not helped by a last play penalty miss for offside in front of the posts.
Half Time – Leek 24-8 C&N.
C&N started the 2nd half strongly and were scoring their 2nd try after just 4 minutes with another run back from a clearance kick giving the C&N backs the chance to score a fine try by the posts. The conversion was good and the scores tightened to 24-15.
C&N then lost another player to the bin on 49 minutes for handling in the ruck but despite Leek’s incessant attacking the C&N line held firm until the man came back on and then C&N scored their 3rd try on 63 minutes in the right corner after good possession and a patient build up gave an overlap on the right. The conversion missed but at 24-20, it really was game on.
C&N’s man of the match, the hooker, had been increasingly influential in open play with some strong running but in the 69th minute was stripped of the ball outside the C&N 22. It led to Leek’s forwards setting up Jake Bainbridge for a charge at the line and the big lock scored a fine try. The conversion missed but Leek edged out to 29-20 as the last 10 minutes approached.
On 71 minutes, Leek’s scrum was penalised and this led to another penalty in front of the posts for not releasing and C&N opted to kick the penalty to get within 7 points of Leek as the clock ran down. The kick was successful and at 29-23, it was still anyone’s game to win or lose.
Leek’s forwards were pressing as the clock turned 80 minutes and Joe Newton Taylor was held up over the line for a scrum. C&N were then penalised for losing the binding at the scrum and Isaac Reaney kicked the goal to win the match for Leek at 32-23.
There was one last play but C&N couldn’t work the field position and a knock on ended the game.
It had been a tough encounter with the visitors pressing Leek all the way.
Leek’s coaching staff can be well pleased with the way the youngsters performed stepping up to senior rugby and the 5 points meant Leek moved closer to Stafford in 3rd place after their loss at home to league leaders Wolverhampton. 2nd placed Camp Hill won at Longton.
Next week is a free Saturday although Tamworth plays Wolverhampton in a rearranged fixture.
Leek travel to Mosley Oak next on Saturday 21st March for a 3pm kick off.
Author: John McDermott