Unavailability is still plaguing the Moorlanders start to the season but Ian Harris was back at half back to partner Gary McDermott. With Sam Hunt out, Rob McDermott moved to full back with James Floyd and Phil Beard on the wings. Nick Palmer moved into the centre with Liam McDermott.
Luke Granger started at hooker with Bobby Cheadle and John Brooks at prop. Tom Sims was also out and Luke Hardern started at lock with Ed Harrison.
The back row saw the biggest changes with Ad Nettel still side-lined and Luke Staton unavailable. In came Adam Smith at open side and young Andy Thompson on the blind side with Andy McFadden at No.8.
The bench saw a first sight of the 1st team squad for lock Phil Tomcat alongside Jake Green and Dan Cooper.
Leek was off the mark quickly on 3 minutes when Rob McDermott chipped into the right corner for James Floyd to win the race for the touchdowm after Gary McDermott broke the first line of defence. His touchline conversion gave Leek a great start at 7-7. 2 minutes later though, Stratford was on the board after winning a ruck outside Leek’s 22, the ball switched blind to an overlap and the right wing scored in the corner. Another great conversion followed and the sides were level at 7 all.
The Warwickshire side then took control of territory for the next 25 minutes but good defence from Leek cancelled the advantage until on 31 minutes from another ruck in centre fie3ld outside Leek’s 22, the full back came in on a superb angle to take a pass from the scrum half and touch down by the posts. The conversion was good and at 7-14, Leek needed to up their game and this they did following a turnover on 39 minutes. Nick Palmer kicked for the left corner and as Leek won the Stratford line, the forwards went on a series of quick rucks before Gary McDermott side stepped his way to the line near the posts. The simple conversion drew the team level as the half wound down but from the kick-off return, Leek was stripped of the ball. The scrum half saw a gap on the blindside and his kick to the corner again saw the right wing win the race for the touchdown. The conversion missed as the half time whistle blew at
Phil Tomcat and Dan Cooper came on at half time but Leek found themselves a further 3 points behind for a penalty infringement in their own 22 for off feet at the ruck. The simple kick from in front of the posts nudged Stratford into a 14-22 lead on 43 minutes.
Leek again responded and lifted their game and on 54 minutes after relentless pressure in the Stratford 22 with Luke Hardern in the van, Ian Harris took a quick tap penalty after advantage was played for offside. The feed for Liam McDermott saw the inside centre twist his way over the line for Leek’s 3rd try. Brother Gary added the conversion as Leek closed to 21-22.
Again from the kick off, leek failed to secure the ball and gave a penalty away for offside. The kick for the corner lineout then had Leek’s defence scrambling at Stratford’s forwards mauled up the line. Leek was penalised for bringing the maul down and Luke Granger was yellow carded. Stratford kicked for the 5 metre lineout but Leek held. A minute later though, a 5 metre scrum saw the powerful No.8 pick up and drive over for Stratford’s 4th try to win the try bonus point. The conversion missed and Stratford led 21-27.
Again Leek responded as the crowd got behind their team and on 62 minutes only a forward pass prevented a try. From the resulting scrum though, the crooked feed decision gave Leek a penalty and good retention and recycling forced an overlap on the right which allowed James Floyd to score his 2nd try. The conversion missed but it became a 1 point game again – 26-27.
Luke Granger came back on after 69 minutes and from a lineout steal in their own 22, Gary McDermott cleared across the field beyond the Stratford right wing. Nick Palmer and Phil Beard chased up as the bounce favoured Leek. Palmer to Beard saw the left wing kick a grubber deep into the Stratford 22 where the full back fielded the ball. Great pressure from Leek couldn’t prevent a clearance but only found Rob McDermott on halfway. His pass to James Floyd had the speedster sprinting back into the 22.
The forwards joined in and some big hits near the Stratford line were superbly defended before Gary McDermott offloaded to the mercurial Dan Cooper. The big prop crashed over from 7 metres, twisting his way past defenders to hand Leek the lead for the first time since the 5th minute. McDermott converted and at 33-27 with 7 minutes to go, it was a question of holding on now for the Moorlanders.
Not so, as Leek had the bit between their teeth now and more pressure built up in the Stratford 22 as the visitors started to tire and from an infringement at the ruck Gary McDermott scored a penalty on 79 minutes to seal the game at 36-27.
It had been a great game with both sides running the ball and perhaps Stratford were unlucky not to get a losing bonus point together with their try scoring point, but in scoring 5 tries Leek took the maximum 5 points from the game to move ahead of Stratford in the table.
This week, Leek travel to Walsall for their first ever league encounter. Kick-off is 3pm
Author John McDermott