It was a frustrating day all round for Leek, although on the positive side the number of tries conceded prevented Stoke from winning a bonus point and with a bit of luck the slow improvement game by game will start to reward the hard work most players are putting in.
Adam Nettel is still missing following his pre-season injury and so the back row saw the return of Naz Narawa to the blindside with Luke Staton at No.8 and Andy McFadden at open side.
John Brooks, Bobby Cheadle and Jason Milner were in the front row and Tom Sims and Ed Harrison at lock.
Jake Green partnered Gary McDermott at half back with Liam and Rob McDermott in the centre. James Floyd, Nick Palmer and Sam Hunt made up the back 3.
On the bench, Leek gave a first chance to Phil Beard and he was joined by returning Luke Granger and Luke Hardern.
Stoke had the slope first half as the day began to clear and were soon on the scoreboard when on 3 minutes Leek’s backs were offside in their 22. Stoke’s fly half converted. 3-0.
2 minutes later and a high tackle on Leek’s 10 metre line allowed the 10 to double the score. 6-0.
Leek hit back on 9 minutes as Gary McDermott made a clean line break into the Stoke 22. Stoke’s scrum half was yellow carded for a deliberate knock on as McDermott slotted the goal. 6-3.
McDermott broke through again on 22 minutes and Leek had a scrum inside the Stoke 22 but the feed was deemed crooked and Stoke cleared
On 27 minutes, a penalty for obstruction allowed a kick for a lineout in Leek’s 22. A catch and drive had Leek desperately defending before a pass right gave the first try to Stoke. The conversion missed but Stoke were up to 11-3.
4 minutes later, Leek grabbed another 3 points through McDermott for off feet at the ruck. 11-6.
Disaster then struck for Leek as on 34 minutes Naz Narawa was yellow carded for bringing the maul down and the kick for the lineout resulted in a great catch and drive for a try. The conversion was good and at 18-6 Stoke had stretched to a useful lead.
As the half closed down, Leek made another dangerous break and as the Stoke full back was tackled deep in his own 22, Leek was penalised and in the ensuing discussions a quick tap was taken which ended with a 90 metre run under the Leek posts for the centre. The simple conversion extended Stoke’s lead to 25-6 as the half ended
8 minutes into the 2nd half and Leek had a penalty for offside and McDermott kicked his 3rd penalty to reduce the lead to 25-9.
Leek was trying to wrestle some control but kept coming up against resolute Stoke defence and as they continued to incur penalties against them Liam McDermott was yellow carded for a deliberate knock on in his own 22. Stoke’s 10 converted and at 28-9, Leek needed to get back into the game quickly. It took until the 68th minute however before Ed Harrison breached the Stoke line and score a try. Good momentum from a lineout drive and then a penalty gave Jake Green the opportunity for a quick tap and Harrison was on cue to crash over. McDermott’s conversion missed and at 28-14, there was still hope of a losing bonus point, but Stoke held out comfortably to frustrate Leek despite a yellow card in the 72nd minute for the Stoke hooker and a last minute try saving tackle from Nick Palmer to deny Stoke the bonus point.
This Saturday Leek plays host to Stratford on Avon and kick off is at 3pm