The Moorlanders were forced to make 6 changes to the squad that beat Crewe and Nantwich the previous week and without any recognised centres, did well to earn a bonus point win.
Jason Milner, Bobby Cheadle and Tom Hine started in the front row with Luke Hardern and Tom Sims at lock. Andy McFadden, Luke Staton and Ad Nettel combined in the back row.
Dan Needham started at scrum half with skipper Gary McDermott at stand off. In the centres, Simon Drew and Ben Smith made an unlikely partnership and Ollie Drew, Jack Newton Taylor and Sam Hunt made up the back three. Neil Edge, Dan Cooper and James Wilson were on the bench.
Willenhall won the toss and asked Leek to kick with the slope and wind first half, so the pressure was on to take advantage early and try and secure a lead to defend in the 2nd half.
The opening 5 minutes saw Leek looking dangerous on the Willenhall 5 metre line but a series of errors and good defence kept Leek out until on 6 minutes an offside decision as Leek pressed again allowed Gary McDermott to open the scoring with a simple penalty success. 3-0.
Leek continued to pressurise Willenhall but once Leek were penalised in the Willenhall 22 on 8 minutes, a spirited home side then fought their way upfield for the next 10 minutes forcing Leek errors and combining forwards and backs to win a penalty under Leek's posts. The Willenhall scrum half and skipper kicked the home side level on 15 minutes at 3 all.
2 minutes later and McDermott restored Leek's 3 point lead after Willenhall was penalised at the lineout for closing the gap. 6-3.
Willenhall fought back again, retaining ball and forcing indiscipline in the Leek ranks and on 30 minutes had another penalty attempt after Jason Milner was penalised for in at the side of the ruck but the attempt went wide.
On 36 minutes, Jack Newton Taylor took a pass from Sam Hunt and the wing went on a mazy run before being high tackled in the Willenhall 22. McDermott was successful again and increased Leek's lead to 9-3 as the half wound down.
Leek needed more points in the first half and pressure started to build in the Willenhall 22 as overtime was being played. The home flanker was yellow carded for slowing the ball and Dan Needham took a quick tap. A couple of rucks later, the 2nd one a devastating burst by Luke Hardern, saw the ball virtually on the Willenhall line and then Dan Needham picked up and crashed over for the opening try of the game. McDermott converted and the whistle blew for half time with Leek holding a non-too convincing 16-3 lead with the 2nd half elements and slope to be faced.
From the kick off, Leek knocked on in their own 22 and Willenhall had 2 penalty attempts on 42 minutes and 48 minutes as Leek tried to halt the lively home advance. Unfortunately the first was short and the second was wide as Leek regrouped for their 22. It was at this point James Wilson, fresh on as a replacement, turned the mentality around. He fielded the 22 superbly putting Leek on the front foot. Another yellow for in at the side of the maul on 53 minutes as the Moorlanders mauled from their own 22 into the Willenhall half. Great ball retention and speed now helped Leek as they rucked under the Willenhall posts, sucking in the defence and ball out wide allowed Ollie Drew to touch down for Leek's 2nd try on 56 minutes. McDermott's conversion was short but at 21-3, Leek had fought their way back and was looking stronger as the game progressed.
On 59 minutes, Leek stole a Willenhall lineout on the home 22. A good maul by the forwards had Leek up to the try line. Good recycling and passing left allowed Sam Hunt to score Leek's 3rd try. McDermott's conversion was good and at 28-3 with a quarter to go, the question was could Leek sneak the bonus point.
Willenhall came back at Leek and on 67 minutes won a penalty in the Leek 22. They opted to scrum, but Leek's defence was strong. Jack Newton Taylor went off on 72 minutes and 2 minutes later Leek had a scrum in their own 22. Luke Staton picked up at the back and went off on a 50 metre dash over the half way. Great continuity and support nearly saw a try in the right corner but for a knock on.
The Willenhall scrum was good but a great charge down as the defence cleared gave Leek a 5 metre scrum. Good ball and driving to the line allowed the ball to be moved left before an offside decision under the posts gave Dan needham the signal to tap and go right. It caught the home defence napping as Ben Smith crashed over in the right corner to secure the 4th try for Leek. McDermott's conversion missed but at 33-3 with overtime to come, Leek had finally overcome the spirited and hard working Willenhall side. Still there was time for Willenhall to hit back and they deservedly scored with the last play after Ben Smith was yellow carded. The lock crashed over following some good driving. The conversion was good and the game ended at 33-10.
The home side fought hard all game and all sides know it is a very difficult place to come and win. All credit to the Willenhall players who have to gather themselves for the survival fight over the next 5 games. Meanwhile Leek maintained its 7 point advantage over Crewe as they beat Ludlow comprehensively. Moseley Oak and Bridgnorth both had bonus point wins, so the league table didn't change at the top. Stafford's win at Aston helped them climb the table and Wolves beat Tamworth.
This week, whilst a number of league matches are played to help catch up following the weather postponements, all eyes are on the Midlands Intermediate Cup Final for Leek and Bridgnorth.
The two Midlands 2 West (N) rivals have fought through 5 rounds of cup matches against opposition from the other 3 Midlands leagues at this level to find themselves playing each other for the right to represent the Midlands in the RFU Intermediate Cup semi final.
Leek was drawn at home, so there is a big crowd expected at Esterchem Park on Saturday. If you are coming, get there early and leave your car at home.
Leek United Building Society has kindly sponsored the match.
The day starts at 12 noon when the bar opens in the marquee and clubhouse.
Italy v England is live on all screens in the marquee and clubhouse. This is followed by L eek v Bridgnorth kicking off at 3pm.
After the cup presentation, France v Ireland kicks off at 5pm.
There is a taxi leaving Derby Street Taxi Rank from 12 noon until 2pm to take supporters up to Cheddleton for £1. Returns start from 5.30 until 7.30pm.
Food and drink will be on offer all day as will the match day programme.
Please come along and support your local team as they bid to become Midlands Champions.