9 tries to 1 was pretty convincing as MO, needing to win really to have a hope of a play off place, were run ragged by a tremendous display by the whole Leek squad.
Having had a day off last Saturday, the rest seems to have paid dividends as the Leek players looked fresh and up for the battle against traditionally hard opposition.
Ed Harrison, James Wilson and Luke Staton were all out of this match, so it meant Naz Narawa was drafted into No8 alongside flankers Ad Nettel and Andy McFadden. Tom Sims and Luke Hardern were at lock and Bobby Cheadle, Luke Granger and Tom Hine started in the front row. Dan Needham and Gary McDermott were at half back. Liam McDermott and Nick palmer renewed their centre partnership with Jack Newton Taylor, James Floyd and Sam Hunt making up the back 3.
Shane Dicker and Jake Green were elevated to the first team bench for the time in months after long term injuries and Jason Milner made up the squad.
With overnight rain, the pitch was damp but in great condition as over 320 spectators witnessed the game at Esterchem Park.
The opening 10 minutes saw both sides make strong advances into opposition 22s but defences came out on top until on 13 minutes, a clear offside on the MO 22 at the ruck gave Leek skipper, Gary McDermott, the chance to open the scoring with a simple penalty. 3-0.
MO’s tactic of setting up the rolling maul paid some territorial dividend but they couldn’t keep it together to get into a scoring position.
On 22 minutes, Leek won a penalty just inside their own half and Dan Needham spotted that no-one was at home in the MO 22. His long kick bobbled enticingly near the MO goal line and as the full back ran back to cover, he was pounced upon by 3 Leek players. Dan Needham had worked hard to get to the break down and was on hand to dot down for the opening try, but McDermott's conversion missed. 8-0.
Leek were on top now and the continuity was beginning to come as Leek were held up over the line on 27 minutes. From the scrum , the ball went open and then back blind where Jack Newton Taylor took the final pass to score in the left corner. McDermott converted and Leek was up to 15-0.
MO was under pressure and on 34 minutes a clearance kick found Sam Hunt on half way. His run and then ruck set up on the right allowed Luke Hardern to burst through on the charge and then superb handling by Nick Palmer and James Floyd saw the youngsters interpassing to beat the defenders before Floyd touched down in the right corner for Leek's 3rd try. The conversion missed but Leek had built a 20-0 lead with 5 minutes of the first half left and MO needed to get into the game quickly.
It's exactly what happened as Leek were penalised on 38 minutes for not rolling away from the tackle and MO kicked for the lineout on Leek's 5 metre line.
A good catch and drive saw the Birmingham side score in the left corner. The conversion missed as the half time whistle blew and at 20-5, the visitors probably thought they had a shout having stemmed Leek's lead and finished the half on a positive note.
Jake Green came on for Dan Needham at scrum half and Jason Milner came on for Luke Hardern as Tom Hine moved to lock.
Leek started the 2nd half strongly and had forced a 5 metre scrum after Floyd had made a great step and McDermott had kicked to near the MO line. From the scrum, a quick ruck was formed and then a maul which was controlled superbly for Andy McFadden to crash over for the bonus point try. The conversion was good and at 27-5 MO had a big task ahead of them to get back into the game.
The visitors were brave and skilful and on 48 minutes were pounding the Leek line, but the defence was holding well and then the ball was spilled. A kick ahead and ball retention on half way allowed Naz Narawa to pass to Nick Palmer. He found Gary McDermott on the right on the MO 10 metre line. The skipper then showed sublime skill by showing the ball, dummying and then sprinting down the touchline to score a fine try. He couldn't convert but at 32-5, the game was beyond MO now.
On 68 minutes, a Leek scrum on the MO 22 gave the backs another chance to show their passing skills, sending the defence one way, then the other before Taylor stood 3 defenders still and then sprinted in under the posts for his 2nd try. McDermott converted and Leek was up to 39-5.
3 minutes later and a penalty on half way for offside gave Jake Green the opportunity to tease the defence before Narawa and McDermott combined to put Nick Palmer in for his 2nd try in the left corner. The conversion was successful. 46-5.
From the kick off, Luke Hardern took the catch and broke 3 or 4 tackles before offloading. Great support and handling down the left side finally found Nick Palmer racing in again for his 3rd try of the day. The conversion missed but Leek was up to 51-5.
As the game wound down, it was still Leek forcing the pace and Tom Hine charged down an attempted clearance kick in the MO 22. Nick Palmer picked up and passed to Ad Nettel for the flanker to score the final try for the hard working Leek forwards. The conversion missed, the final whistle went and Leek had won by 56-5.
Technically, Leek cannot be passed now as they hold an unassailable lead with 2 games of the league season to go. Confirmation will only come at the end of the season but the squad knows they have done a great job this season, were not favourites by any means to step up on last year’s 4th place, but have come in on the 5 year plan exactly on schedule.
The hard work and determination of the whole playing and coaching staff deserve all the credit they get and their reward of the league title and the Midlands Cup in one season is justification enough.
Crewe beat Old Salts to maintain 2nd place and are on course for the play-off match if they can beat Stafford in their final match and Camp Hill’s win confirmed Willenhall’s fate along with Aston Old Eds.
This Saturday Leek travels to Old Salts for a 3pm kick off. Please come and support the team.
The following Saturday, Easter Saturday, April 19th, Leek plays host to Aspatria in the RFU National Intermediate Cup semi-final. The day will start at 12 noon. There is a £5 entrance charge on this day, in line with RFU regulations. Under 16s will be allowed in free. This match is unprecedented in the club’s history and the reward for the winner is the national final at Twickenham on Sunday, May 4th. Please come and support the club on this day and if possible, leave the car at home