They knew C&N would be very confident after recent good wins, particularly away at Wolverhampton last week and they had the little matter of a home defeat to the Moorlanders to avenge as well.
As it turned out, the game was hugely competitive and the big crowd (over 350) was rewarded with a cracking game of rugby with Leek confirming their status only in the 7 minutes of overtime at the end of the game.
With the centre duo of Nick Palmer and Liam McDermott out with injuries sustained at Newbold, it was perhaps fortunate that the returning Shane Dicker could slot straight into the number 12 spot with Sam Hunt at 13. Dan Smith took over at full back with Jack Newton Taylor and James Floyd on the wings.
Ian Harris and Gary McDermott were at half back.
Luke Granger was rested to the bench and it meant a start for Tom Hine with Bobby Cheadle moving to hooker and Jason Milner at loose head.
Ed Harrison and Luke Hardern were at lock with Tom Sims starting at blind side with Ad Nettel on the open side and Luke Staton at No.8.
Dan Needham and Andy McFadden made up the bench with Luke Granger.
The pitch had dried out nicely on Friday and the match started off in bright sunlight as Leek elected to kick with the sun behind on a windless afternoon at Esterchem Park.
It took just 4 minutes for the first chance of points as C&N was penalised for not rolling away at the tackle but Gary McDermott's attempt just missed. 2 minutes later and Shane Dicker's drive into the C&N 22 saw a promising move just break down with a knock on. On 8 minutes, a line out for Leek on C&N's 10 metre line was taken by Luke Staton. Off the top to Ian Harris, allowed the speedy scrum half to exploit a big gap between the end of the line and the C&N back division. He darted through, straightened to fix the full back and his perfectly timed pass found skipper Gary McDermott in space on the left to sprint in for the opening try of the game. His own conversion was successful and Leek had started brightly at 7-0.
C&N had a promising move on 12 minutes and were pressing in the Leek 22, but strong defence left Leek with a line out to clear.
On 20 minutes, C&N were mauling the ball out of their own 22, but as the player with the ball went to ground, he was penalised for holding on and McDermott stepped up to increase the Leek lead to 10-0.
The game was tough and fair as both sides tried to wrestle the advantage with nothing between the forwards or backs except for the dominant C&N scrum. As the half wound down, C&N were trying to get on the score board and won a penalty on the Leek 22 for not rolling away at the tackle. The attempt just went wide, but C&N's backs then received the ball back and started to run it wide. Only a great tackle by Dan Smith prevented a score on the right and a line out for his team on their own 5 metre line.
The line was adjudged not straight and C&N had a scrum in a very dangerous position. The Cheshire side couldn't get the drive on, so the ball sped right and another great tackle by James Floyd put the right wing into touch as the half ended with C&N not on the score board but in threatening mode for the last 10 minutes of the half.
Half time - Leek 10 - 0 C&N.
The 2nd half started as the first with Leek dominating the exchanges and on 48 minutes won a penalty on C&N's 5 metre line for offside. It was on the wide right and McDermott elected to kick for goal, but his attempt was wide.
On 59 minutes, Ian Harris made a break but the C&N defence held well. 3 minutes later and Leek were battering the C&N defences with a series of rucks after mauling to the 5 metre line. This time though the ball was quick to McDermott and his pass to Dan Smith coming in on a great angle saw the full back sprint through the gap for a great try. McDermott's conversion near the posts was successful and at 17-0, C&N needed 3 scores to take the game.
On 69 minutes a Leek break from their own 22 allowed Jack Newton Taylor to sprint 50 metres before being stopped by the C&N full back. Leek pinned the visitors in their own half with some fantastic defensive tackles led by Luke Staton and Ad Nettel. Try as they might C&N couldn't crack the organised Leek defensive line and a series of injuries slowed the game as well as producing some changes to the teams’ line ups. Still Leek looked strong as the clock ticked into overtime and on 83 minutes, a Leek line which ended fortuitously with the ball in Ad Nettel's hands was quickly dispatched to Dan Needham. The Leek backs produced quick ball and space for Jack Newton Taylor to get to the C&N line. A great tackle by the full back again couldn't prevent the offload though and Sam Hunt was on hand to take the pass and score Leek's 3rd try on the left. McDermott's conversion was wide again as the score ticked to 22-0 and it was now a question of whether Leek could score a 4th try or C&N to prevent it. It mattered.
Leek recovered the kick off and set off down field finding themselves all over the C&N goal line as Needham, McDermott and finally Floyd knocking on looked likely to have lost the chance for the bonus. However, because of the 2nd half stoppages, Leek did get another chance and on 89 minutes, back came the Moorlanders, battering the C&N line but seemingly unable to unlock the organised and brave defence. Finally Luke Hardern took a crash ball 10 metres from the posts and it sucked in a few defenders. Quick ball from Dan Needham to Gary McDermott, allowed the skipper to crash over for his 2nd and Leek's 4th try to earn the bonus point with the last play of the game. He added the conversion to increase the score to 29-0 as the referee blew for the end of what had been a gripping contest.
C&N had played their part in this game and their skill and determination should be noted and congratulated, but Leek's dominant last quarter had secured another tough win.
The whole squad had given everything to the cause and they can be justly proud of maintaining their position at the top of Midlands 2 West (N).
News filtered through later that 4th placed Bridgnorth had beaten 3rd placed Moseley Oak to leave the Birmingham side nursing their first home league defeat of the season and confirming Bridgnorth's current form.
Camp Hill had a strong win at Ludlow to ease their relegation fears as Wolves pipped Stafford. In the other Staffs derby, Tamworth beat Willenhall. Old Salts had a big win against Aston.
This Saturday, Leek travels to Willenhall for a 3pm kick off in another very important game for both sides as they fight for points at different ends of the table. Please come and support the team.
Then, on March 15th, it's the Midlands Intermediate Cup Final at Esterchem Park, Leek.
Leek plays Bridgnorth for the right to represent the Midlands in the RFU Intermediate Cup semi final. Kick off is at 3pm.
There is a very large crowd expected for this game and access to the clubhouse is restricted on the day.
Marquees will be catering for spectators with food and drink available from 1130. TVs will also be up so that England's game against Italy, starting at 1230 can be watched by anyone arriving early. Wales v Scotland kicks off at 14:45.
After the Midlands Final and presentation, the final 6 nations game of 2014 kicks off at 5pm between France and Ireland. Please stay and enjoy the day with hot food and drink available.
If you are a Leek supporter from Leek, please make every effort to attend, but please leave your car at home, if at all possible.
We're expecting a crowd of 400-500 people and car parking is limited.
This is an historic day for both clubs and we want to ensure everyone who wants to view the match can do so safely. Please note there will not be a charge for entry to the club grounds on the day but a souvenir programme will be available to purchase.
Author John McDermott