Indeed, no-one from Leek could remember winning at Ludlow before at 1st team level. It is fair to say Ludlow has had some challenges recently with coach Dave Irish leaving, captain Darren Brick moving to Bridgnorth and several other players moving to other local clubs.
Leek was coming off the back of the Midlands Cup final win last Saturday and were missing Tom Hine, Dan Smith, Ian Harris and Luke Staton. James Floyd was fit enough to take his place on the bench with Simon Drew and Luke Hardern.
Jason Milner, Luke Granger and Bobby Cheadle were in the front row. Ed Harrison and Tom Sims were at lock. Andy McFadden and Ad Nettel were on the flanks and James Wilson was given the No.8 start after his performance coming on for Luke Staton last week.
Dan Needham and Gary McDermott were at half back. Naz Narawa started at 12 with Liam McDermott ay 13. Nick Palmer, Jack Newton-Taylor and Sam Hunt were the back 3.
Although Leek started brightly on a sunlit day, a knock on 2 minutes into the game on Ludlow’s 10 metre line allowed the mercurial fly half to pick up and work his way through some poor defence before passing to the centres and thence to the right wing for the opening try of the game. The conversion missed but an early score had the home support hoping. 5-0. It didn’t last as Leek came back strongly, dominating possession and territory and on 6 minutes, after maul and ruck, the ball went wide left on the blindside and Sam Hunt scored the try. Gary McDermott converted to steady the Moorlanders and give them the lead at 5-7.
Ludlow had a 9th minute penalty attempt for offside but the winger couldn’t find the posts and then on 20 minutes, the Ludlow prop was yellow carded for slowing the ball down under his own posts. McDermott opted for the penalty and increased the lead to 5-10.
At this point, Bobby Cheadle went off with a rib injury and time will tell how serious it is. Simon Drew came on at hooker as Luke Granger moved to loose head.
From the kick off, Leek won the ball and great hands and continuity saw Naz Narawa crash through the heart of the defence. Support came from Luke Granger and after a couple of rucks, James Wilson forced his way over in the right corner for a try. McDermott’s conversion missed but Leek was up to 5-15.
5 minutes later and Narawa got on the score sheet under the post after Jack Newton Taylor fielded a clearance kick and went on a run into the Ludlow 22. Great recycling meant the Ludlow defence was powerless to stop the big Fijian scoring. McDermott converted and Leek was up to 5-22.
3 minutes later and Leek’s pace of game and superb handling saw Nick Palmer score a try in the right corner after a quick tap penalty in the Ludlow 22. The conversion missed but Leek had scored their 4th and bonus point winning try to lead 5-27.
As the half ended, Jack Newton-Taylor sprinted 50 meters to the Ludlow line before slipping in front of the full back and was penalised for holding on, but the half had been very fruitful for Leek and their discipline and continuity almost irresistible. 5-27.
The 1st minute of the 2nd half saw Luke Hardern on the charge. He sucked in the defence and allowed space on the left for Newton-Taylor to score. Again the conversion missed. 5-32.
Again, 4 minutes later and Leek were all over the Ludlow defence. It took another 2 minutes before the defence allowed another try when Luke Granger burst through for a deserved try. 5-37.
Leek’s final try came on 55 minutes when going through the phases, the left wing was exposed and Jack Newton-Taylor scored his 2nd try. McDermott’s touch line conversion was successful and Leek was up to 5-44.
Leek introduced James Floyd for 15 minutes to test his knee and he came through without a reaction as Leek continued to dominate possession and territory but usually now not tying in the defence which was extremely courageous.
With time running out, Leek was again pressing on the Ludlow 5 meter line, but an intercept by the fly half saw him sprinting into the Leek half. An intelligent kick across field allowed the right wing to collect and score despite the attention of Nick palmer. He converted his own try and the game ended at 12-44.
With 3 games to go, Leek extended their lead over Crewe and Nantwich who lost in the most important game of the day at Moseley Oak. The Birmingham side now sit 3 points behind Crewe with a game in hand and 15 points behind Leek with a game in hand.
Bridgnorth won at Stafford to maintain 4th place.
Leek has a rest day next week ahead of the April 5th clash with Moseley Oak at Esterchem Park. This is Leek’s last home league game of the season and we would like the whole club membership to come and support the squad in what is already a fantastic season. There is a beer festival and other side shows and a disco on as well, so please come and spend the day and evening at leek ends its league campaign.
On April 12th, Leek travels to Old Salts and then on April 19th is RFU National Cup semi-final day at Esterchem Park, when the Moorlanders take on Aspatria from Cumbria for the right to play at Twickenham in the National Intermediate Cup Final.
Watch out for further information about this day on the club website, local media and from committee members. If you can volunteer to help on the day, please contact Mark Hardern.
Leek completes its league campaign on April 26th with an away fixture at Camp Hill. All kick offs now start at 3pm.
Please come and support Leek at the away matches. The season is building up to a fantastic climax.
Author John McDermott