The win increased their lead at the top of the table to 4 points as Crewe and Nantwich defeated Mosley Oak in Cheshire.
21 years old Jack Conlon received his first start for the 1st XV at hooker on Saturday with Jason Milner and Bobby Cheadle making up the front row.
Luke Hardern and Ed Harrison were at lock. With Luke Staton unavailable now for some weeks, James Wilson was given the chance at No.8. Experienced flankers Ad Nettel and Andy McFadden completed the Moorlanders pack.
Ian Harris and skipper Gary McDermott were at half back. Liam McDermott and Josh Mays Woodhead were in the centre and the talented back trio of James Floyd, Nick Palmer and Jack Newton Taylor made up the Leek back division.
Tom Sims, Jamie Gordon and Sam Hunt on the bench confirmed the strength of the available current squad.
Ludlow had lost by a single point at home in the previous week to Crewe and Nantwich and so coaches Ian Gittens and Chris Mudd knew that Ludlow presented a formidable challenge to the unbeaten league leaders.
With the ground damp and underfoot conditions slippery due to heavy overnight rain, it was the first taste of the pitch in winter for Leek and the game kicked off on a windless afternoon watched by another crowd of over 100.
It took Leek just 3 minutes to get on the score board when the Ludlow backs were penalised for offside at the ruck. Gary McDermott's 35 metre kick from in front of the posts giving the hosts an early 3-0 lead. 4 minutes later and the lead doubled after a dangerous break from the Leek backs into the Ludlow 22 found the defence offside again. A simple conversion followed and Leek were 6-0 up.
The long journey for the Ludlow lads was beginning to ease out when on 13 minutes their excellent No8 picked up from the base of a scrum on Leek's 10 metre line. He was hauled down 5 metres from the Leek line and then Leek was penalised for not releasing in the tackle. A quick tap followed, Leek's good defence held but there was a warning of the offensive capability of the visitors.
On 16 minutes, Ian Harris had a fine blindside break into the Ludlow 22 and another offside offence gave McDermott a penalty chance but this time it missed. On 19 minutes, after a Ludlow clearance found James Floyd on half way, the right wing broke into the Ludlow 22. Liam McDermott crashed his way to the 5 metre line before great hands left saw Nick Palmer sprint in for the opening try of the day. McDermott's conversion missed but an 11-0 lead at the end of the first quarter was reward for the Moorlanders attacking mentality.
It was soon 14-0 on 22 minutes with another penalty from Gary McDermott for not releasing in the tackle and the same offence on 29 minutes ticked the score to 17-0 when McDermott converted.
On 36 minutes Ludlow finally had some reward for their efforts when they won a penalty for offside and a quick tap saw Leek's defence stretched again. Another penalty came on Leek's 5 metre line and quick ball left allowed a good final pass to find the left wing who scored a try in the left corner. The conversion missed but at 17-5, Ludlow had reduced the lead and had real hope as the half closed out.
Leek started the 2nd half with determination and only a not straight lineout on Ludlow's 5 metre line on 48 minutes stopped a dangerous position. 2 minutes later and Leek was mauling on the Ludlow 5 metre line. With ball secured, Leek's Jason Milner was penalised for an illegal bind and was yellow carded. Still Leek pressed and on 56 minutes, Ludlow's No8 was yellowed for a deliberate palm down as he prevented a pass that may have led to a try. the ensuing penalty allowed Gary McDermott to kick for the lineout about 15 metres from the Ludlow line. A solid catch and drive, then led to a couple of rucks before Gary McDermott fed brother Liam. His back angled run saw the youngster sprint through the hole and past would be tacklers to score Leek's 2nd try. Brother Gary's conversion was good and Leek was up to 24-5.
Back came Ludlow and two chances in the next 10 minutes were rebuffed by Leek's determined defence until on 70 minutes, after rucking near Leek's line, the ball sped out to the Ludlow backs. A fine tackle saw the ball go loose and Ad Nettel picked up. He fed Jack Newton Taylor just outside the Leek 22 and the Leek full back left every defender in his wake as he scored under the posts. Gary McDermott converted and at 31-5 with 8 minutes to go, it was now a question of whether Leek could score the 4th try.
On 76 minutes, a Leek break on the right from their own 22, saw Gary McDermott chip the ball down the right wing for James Floyd to gather. He secured the ball, set up the ruck and the ball sped out left where Sam Hunt ghosted between the last two defenders over the line. Somehow, the cover defence brilliantly held the ball up and a 5 metre scrum was awarded.
The ball was won and try as they might, the Ludlow defence held and then it won a turnover under the posts. The backs tried to run the ball out of defence, but persistent tackling by Leek now gave them a turnover. Jason Milner and Ian Harris combined to get to the Ludlow line. The ball was recycled and Luke Hardern crashed through two defenders to score the bonus point try. Gary McDermott converted and the game ended with a final score of 38-5.
Leek can be extremely satisfied at the performance and result against a tough and resolute opponent in Ludlow. The result sets up next week's encounter at Billesley Common against Moseley Oak perfectly. Unbeaten at home and nursing a pointless defeat at Crewe this week, Oak will be a formidable test for the Moorlanders. Kick off is at 2.15pm.
Old Salts won their 4th consecutive game at Camp Hill and Bridgnorth got back to winning ways against Stafford. Wolves pipped Willenhall and Tamworth won comfortably at Aston.
As the season approaches half way next week, Leek's players know they have to maintain their focus and commitment to training as December's league and cup fixtures fit around the seasonal break.
Please note that the quarter final of the RFU Midlands Intermediate Cup match is to be played on December 21st. Kick-off is 2pm at Loughborough RUFC.
We are contemplating taking a supporters coach. If you can advise if you would like to go on a coach (players won’t be on it, they’ll do their normal Saturday thing!) – its supporters only, the possible schedule would be meet at clubhouse at 10am, arrive Loughborough about 12 noon. KO 2pm. We’ll ask Loughborough to lay on food for us and pay. Then after the drinks after the game, we’ll stop at Ashbourne on the way back for a couple before coming back to the club / town later on. Expect cost to be £10 a head of we get 30 – 50 takers.
Author John McDermott