Jack Conlon, Jason Milner and Bobby Cheadle were in the front row and Ed Harrison and Luke Hardern were at lock. James Wilson retained the No.8 spot with Ad Nettel and Andy McFadden on the flanks.
Liam McDermott was drafted into scrum half to partner skipper and brother Gary McDermott at half back. Josh Mays Woodhead moved from 13 to 12 this week and Sam Hunt started at 13. James Floyd, Nick Palmer and Jack Newton Taylor made up the back 3.
On the bench, Jamie Gordon, Dan Smith and a welcome return for Naz Narawa were in for a busy afternoon.
For the first time this season, the conditions played their part in the game with a strong wind down field with the slope and Leek elected to play with the elements first half.
The first 5 minutes saw Leek batter the MO line but suffered 2 turn overs and a missed penalty attempt. On 14 minutes though Gary McDermott slotted a penalty from over half way as an MO forward failed to roll away. This showed the strength of the wind and the need for Leek to capitalise in the first half. MO 0 - 3 Leek.
On 19 minutes with Leek on the MO 22, the ball went loose and after one pass to the left wing, he fended off 4 tackles to score a fine try. The conversion missed but at 5-3, it was a big blow for Leek. 4 minutes later and good handling by the MO forwards and then backs saw the right wing sprint in under the posts, again after some poor tackling. The conversion was good and MO were leading 12-3.
On 26 minutes Leek were turned over running the ball out of their 22 and a pick up on the blindside allowed a soft try in the right corner. The conversion missed but at 17-3 against the elements, it was MO in the driving seat.
On 30 minutes Nick Palmer left the field with a shoulder injury and Naz Narawa came on. 3 minutes later and an MO penalty saw them kick for the lineout in Leek's 22. A powerful drive by the forwards and MO scored their 4th try from the maul. The conversion missed but Leek had no answer to the power of the MO forwards and their tackling was letting them down. Mo 22 - 3 Leek.
Naz Narawa's first touch ended with a broken nose as he drove into 2 tacklers and had to leave the field. Dan Smith came on at full back and Jack Taylor moved to the wing.
There was some respite for Leek at the end of the half. On 41 minutes, Leek won a penalty for in at the side of the ruck and McDermott kicked for the lineout in MO's 22. A catch and drive saw Luke Hardern touch down. McDermott converted to reduce MO's advantage to 22-10 at half time.
The Leek coaches needed to lift their team at the half and with the elements against, they knew it was a big ask, but Leek started the 2nd half strongly and on 43 minutes after persistent pressure on the MO 5 metre line, the home forwards were penalised and McDermott converted from in front of the posts to give the Moorlanders some hope at 22-13.
However, this was the closest it would get in the 2nd period of the match for Leek as MO took control. Jack Conlon departed on 47 minutes with a head knock and Leek's scrum came under more pressure. On 52 minutes, a strong scrum near Leek's line led to an unconverted try on the left as the loose forwards drove to the line. MO 27-13 Leek.
Leek then had a chance when Jack Taylor made it to the MO 5 metre line but a penalty against Leek for holding on was then made worse when Jason Milner was yellow carded on 63 minutes for clearing out illegally. The ensuing lineout was followed by a driving maul which was held up over the line, but from the now uncontested scrum, strong ball retention and stretched Leek defence led to the MO lock scoring a great try on the left. The conversion missed and at 32-13, the games was effectively over.
However, Leek then had a spell of keep ball. Ed Harrison tried hard and finally the loose forwards gained some continuity allowing Gary McDermott a one on one and he duly side stepped his man to score a try on 70 minutes. His conversion was charged down but Leek had stemmed the red tide for a while at 32-18.
The last score belonged to MO though as the game entered stoppage time and the impressive No.8 crashed over from a pick up at the ruck to complete the scoring as the conversion missed and the referee blew for time with MO showing no sign of weakness or tiredness right up to the end of the game.
Ad Nettel worked hard all game in the back row and he is showing signs of getting back to top form, but he will need the assistance of the rest of the squad to bounce back and be counted in the upcoming cup games, before the league season recommences on January 4th with a home match against Stafford.
The difference in class was measurable and although Leek didn't play well enough, during most of the game they weren't allowed too by a committed side that bullied Leek out of the game.
With the 100% record gone, Leek must now concentrate on training and working hard to get back on track. There is still half a season to go and plenty of rugby to be played and enjoyed.
Crewe and Nantwich took advantage of Leek's defeat to take over top spot after stopping Old Salts recent 4 game winning run. Wins for Ludlow and Bridgnorth kept the pressure on in the top half with Stafford winning the battle at the basement and Wolves improving in midtable.
This Saturday, Leek travels to Loughborough to take on the Mids East 2 (N) side in the quarter final of the Midlands section of the RFU Intermediate Cup.
There is a coach for players and supporters which is departing the clubhouse at 11am on Saturday. Please be there for 1045.
Can you call Mark Hardern on 07870 559213 or John McDermott on 07973 424225 or email him (firstname.lastname@example.org) to confirm if you are using the coach.
We expect to arrive at Loughborough at 1230. Kick off is 2pm. We expect to arrive back in Leek by about 9pm.
Please come and support the team on what should be a great day out for the club.
Then on Boxing Day, Thursday 26th December, there is the traditional 3rds v Vets game. Clubhouse will open around 1030 with KO around 11am.
Bring your kit and have a game.
We will have a mini beer fest on the Thursday.
This spills over to Saturday, 28th December when the 1st XV takes on Burton from Mids West 1(N) in the quarter final of the Staffordshire Cup at Esterchem Park. Another great afternoon of local sport in store with a 2pm KO. Beer fest continues.
Author John McDermott