Jason Milner, Jamie Gordon and Ed Cheadle started in the front row with Tom Sims and Luke Hardern at lock. Ad Nettel was injured and Andy Thompson unluckily fractured his ankle last week, so it meant Luke Granger came straight back into the side with Andy McFadden on the flank and James Wilson was at No.8.
Gary McDermott and Ian Harris were at half back with Liam McDermott and Sam Hunt in the centre. Nick Palmer, James Floyd and Jack Newton Taylor made up the back 3.
On the bench were Dan Needham and Bobby Cheadle along with a returning Luke Staton.
A minute’s silence preceded the game for a Tamworth member on another perfect day for rugby. Tamworth won an early 1st minute penalty for not releasing but the long range attempt fell short and then on 4 minutes a Leek penalty was prodded into the Tamworth 22 for a lineout. The subsequent drive was held up over the line and from the scrum, Tamworth defended aggressively to deny Leek, but conceded a penalty for hands in and Gary McDermott slotted the simple penalty to hand Leek an early 3-0 lead.
On 13 minutes, Tamworth should have equalised the scores after a penalty for offside but the straight forward attempt missed.
The game was tough and fair with both sides giving everything they had in trying to break through at close quarters, but strong defences were winning until on 18 minutes Leek won another penalty for off the feet at the ruck but McDermott’s straight forward attempt missed. However from the 22 drop out, which reached the Leek half, the Leek backs conjured up the first meaningful wide break when Liam McDermott broke right and delivered a superb pass to James Floyd on half way. It bisected the defence but Floyd still had work to do in rounding the full back before dotting the ball down for the first try of the day. McDermott’s conversion hit the post and stayed out, but Leek was up to 8-0.
On 27 minutes, a Tamworth scrum in centre field was steady but a poor pass in the backs allowed Liam McDermott to secure the ball. A quick ruck later and Jack Newton taylor had supported from full back and his pass to James Floyd saw the winger sidestep his man and round the full back to score under the posts. McDermott converted and Leek was up to 15-0 .
On 34 minutes another Leek penalty for player on wrong side of ruck and Gary McDermott nudged Leek up to an 18-0.
Tamworth had a chance to take a lineout deep in Leek’s 22, but the kick went dead and Leek cleared on 37 minutes and the same happened again deep in overtime at the end of the half as Tamworth failed to get on the score sheet as the half time whistle blew on an entertaining game.
The 2nd half started poorly for Leek when they failed to drop kick the ball 10 metres from the kick off. A Tamworth scrum on half way then saw the Tamworth centre sprint blind and was only tackled just short of the Leek line. A penalty came for not releasing in the tackle and the lineout option was taken. Great Leek defence kept “Town” out for 8 minutes, as Leek conceded a couple of more penalties, but the Tamworth backs’ determination led to another penalty for a deliberate knock on and the resultant penalty saw Tamworth deservedly win their first 3 points. 18-3.
For the next 20 minutes, Tamworth tried to break through the Leek forwards with strong running and rucking, but the blue line of defence held firm and disciplined and when the chance came to open up on 66 minutes, after a turnover on half way, James Floyd jigged his way into the 22 and then Jamie Gordon reached the Tamworth 5 metre line before the ball was spun wide right and Liam McDermott scored his try in the right corner, after Ian Harris has secured great ball on the floor. Gary McDermott’s conversion missed but at 23-3, it was a tough ask for Tamworth now and Leek was one try away from a bonus point.
To their credit, Tamworth came back strongly and only a great saving sprint back by Floyd prevented a clever kick, which reversed back to blindside with 2 Tamworth chasers hunting the ball down, from creating a try.
From the resultant 5 metre scrum though, the Tamworth forwards controlled the rucks and the lock finally crashed his way over the Leek line for a try. The conversion was good and Tamworth had reduced the Leek lead to 23-10 on 76 minutes.
The remainder of the game was fought out in midfield as both sides continued to probe each other’s defence, but no further score could be made. It was a great spectacle for the large crowd and both sides deserve credit for the way they played the game. Leek can be happy they won and Tamworth will be disappointed they couldn’t gain a losing bonus point at least, but the season is still in its infancy and there is a long way to go for both these sides.
Despite the win, Leek drops from 2nd to 4th as early pacesetters Crewe and Nantwich continues to dominate with Bridgnorth and Moseley Oak picking up bonus points and also maintaining their unbeaten starts to the season.
Next week, Leek travels to Wolverhampton for another hard encounter. Kick-off is at 3pm.
The following week, October 19th, sees the Moorlanders entertain Aston Old Edwardians at Esterchem Park.