In the end an 11 try haul for Leek kept the momentum going ahead of the remaining 2 league fixtures this half of the season.
Bobby Cheadle started at hooker with Tom Hine and Jason Milner completing the front row. Tom Sims and Ed Harrison were at lock with Ad Nettel, Luke Staton and James Wilson in the back row. With Dan Needham injured, Ian Harris took over at 9 with skipper Gary McDermott at fly half. Liam McDermott and Josh Mays Woodhead resumed their centre partnership and the back 3 was James Floyd, Nick Palmer and Jack Newton Taylor.
The day was still and perfect for a good match and Leek started quickly after a clearance kick from the Willenhall centre only found Jack Newton Taylor on half way. He ran right and interpassed with James Floyd who sprinted in under the posts. Gary McDermott converted and with less than 2 minutes on the clock Leek was 7-0 up.
On 10 minutes, a penalty to Leek for offside at the ruck, allowed McDermott to extend the lead to 10-0.
James Wilson was injured in that ruck and was replaced by Luke Hardern.
On 14 minutes, a Leek scrum on their own 10 metre line saw the ball passed blind to full back Taylor who sidestepped and dummied his way past 3 would be tacklers to score under the posts again. McDermott converted at 17-0.
Willenhall then contained Leek for the next 15 minutes as they finally had their hands on the ball and started to tackle, but on 31 minutes great continuity by Leek’s forwards and backs eventually led to the Willenhall defence being stretched on the left and Nick Palmer burst through to score. The conversion missed but it was 22-0.
Willenhall won a penalty on 33 minutes and kicked for the lineout. Good rucking and retention saw the forwards score a deserved try in the right corner. The conversion was good and Leek’s lead was reduced to 22-7.
4 minutes later and Willenhall’s backs crossed the half way line in determined fashion but were penalised for holding on in the tackle and a quick tap by Ian Harris to Jack Newton Taylor saw the full back sprint in from half way for his 2nd try. The conversion missed and Leek restored the momentum at 27-7.
AS the game entered added time on in the first half, Leek scored twice. Firstly, superb hands and support on the right sucked in the Willenhall defence and then good passing left allowed Nick Palmer in for his 2nd try on the left as he sprinted in. The conversion was good and the score raised to 34-7.
From the kick-off return, retention of the ball and good mauling again had Willenhall on the back foot and after good hands another maul near the Willenhall line broke up with Ad Nettel able to crash over for the try. The conversion missed, the half time whistle went with Leek leading 39-7.
In the opening minute of the 2nd half, a Leek penalty for a scrum offence saw the decision to kick 3 points by McDermott vindicated as he kept the score ticking over. 42-7.
On 48 minutes, Nick Palmer made a break to the Willenhall 22. Leek lost the ensuing ruck but a charge down and gather by Ad Nettel then released Liam McDermott for a try under the posts. Brother Gary converted and the score was 49-7.
Jack Conlon came on at hooker on 52 minutes and then on 57 minutes Luke Hardern was yellow carded for a lineout pulling down. This signalled a change in the game as Willenhall opted for the scrum in the Leek 22. After successfully holding the first scrum, Willenhall’s 8 picked up on the 2nd scrum and crashed over for a try. It was unconverted but Willenhall had reduced the deficit to 49-12.
With Leek at 14 men, Willenhall took control for the next 10 minutes and retained the ball well. Leek waited patiently and had to put in the tackles against a hard working team which refused to lie down. Eventually as Willenhall ran the ball from their own 22 on 73 minutes, an interception by Liam McDermott who went in under the posts sapped the energy from the Willenhall lads and with the conversion Leek was up to 56-12.
The last 4 minutes produced another 3 tries for the Moorlanders. On 79 minutes the pack won a tight head in midfield and James Floyd sprinted in at the right side. McDermott converted. 63-12. From the kick off a Leek maul on the right and then great passing found Jack Newton Taylor in space. He went in under the posts for his hat trick try and no less than the Staffs under 20s player deserved. McDermott converted. 70-12.
With the last play of the game, Leek fielded the kick-off return on their own 22. The forwards mauled to their 10 metre line before Ed Harrison and Jason Milner saw the defensive line open up. Harrison timed his pass to Milner perfectly and the prop ran as fast as he could to the try line for the final score. The conversion missed and the final whistle went with Leek winning 75-12.
This was a lot tougher game than the score line suggested and all credit to the Willenhall players who, to a man, worked hard and never gave up. The Leek squad is full of confidence at the minute but must remain committed and focussed as the games come thick and fast right through December. Next up is the visit of Ludlow to Esterchem Park next Saturday. Kick-off is at 2.15pm.
Please come and support your team in what will be another tough encounter.
On the same day Crewe and Nantwich takes on Moseley Oak. 3rd v 2nd.
Then on December 14th, Leek travels to Birmingham to take on Moseley Oak, who are just 2 points behind the Moorlanders.
On December 21st, Leek travels to Loughborough in the RFU cup 4th round. KO 2.15pm
On December 28th, Leek hosts Burton in the Staffs Cup quarter final. KO 2.15pm
Author John McDermott