Midlands West 1
Worcester Wanderers 42
Leek emerged from playing the sides in 2nd, 3rd and 4th places over the last 3 weeks with 2 losing bonus points and although returning home with no point from Worcester, it was a real insight to watch a team that is clearly the benchmark in this league.
Conceding 7 tries and not looking like scoring all match is a harsh lesson for the Moorlanders but in blooding 2 more youngsters and welcoming Ed Cheadle back, Leek must now focus on the 2nd half of the season starting this Saturday at Silhillians.
Dan Needham was back at scrum half with skipper Gary McDermott at 10. Sam Hunt and Nick Palmer continued in the centre. There was a debut for 17 year old Dan Sharratt on the left wing with Phil Bould on the right wing and Jack Newton Taylor at full back.
Ed Cheadle joined Jason Milner and John Brookes in the front row. Ed Harrison and Tom Sims were at lock and veteran Neil Edge was drafted in at No.8 supported on the flanks by Andy McFadden and Simon Drew.
On the bench, Adam Smith, Simon McNichol and a debut for Nick Thompson.
Leek kicked off on the good pitch with the low sun in their eyes and proceeded to concede 3 penalties in the opening 4 minutes. The last one led to a 5 metre lineout for the vaunted Worcester maul to open the scoring from the resulting drive, but Leek held the drive and this was one of 4 such set plays during the game close to the Leek line that the home side did not score from as the Leek pack’s excellent drive disrupted the initial drive causing the maul to disconnect and the referee awarding Leek scrums for truck and trailer.
However, on 8 minutes Leek lost their first lineout on their own 10 metre line and after the ball went left, the retention and then rucking allowed an overlap on the right and the wing scored the opening try. The conversion missed. 5-0.
2 minutes later after disrupting the Worcester scrum and winning the loose ball, the clearance kick saw the Worcester backs carve through the poor Leek defence and the wing scored his 2nd try under the posts. The conversion was good and the lead extended to 12-0.
It took Leek until the 20th minute to retain any possession at all and they were rewarded with a penalty for not rolling away at the tackle. McDermott’s long range attempt just went wide and so ended Leek’s scoring opportunities until the final 10 minutes of the game.
3 minutes later and Leek conceded 2 penalties near their line but held the maul until Worcester opted for the scrum at the next penalty. The push over try followed, the conversion missed but at 17-0, it was to become a long afternoon for the Moorlanders.
Leek then defended well for the next quarter but lost Nick Palmer to a 38th minute shoulder injury and then in overtime, Gary McDermott was yellow carded for not rolling away at the tackle following a series of penalties against Leek earlier. Still Worcester couldn’t convert the penalty and Leek ended the half 17-0 down.
2 minutes into the 2nd period and Worcester’s kicker did convert a penalty as Leek were penalised for off feet at the tackle. 20-0.
On 47 minutes with the Worcester back row making yards over the gain line, Leek’s defensive line was in trouble as Andy McFadden was yellow carded for loitering back and getting in the way of a try scoring opportunity. The resulting penalty and scrum allowed the home team to score their 2nd push over try from the excellent No.8. The conversion missed as McDermott came back on at 25-0.
The try of the day came on 52 minutes when from a scrum on Leek’s 10 meter line, the inside backs brought the ball back on a straight line before releasing the outside backs in a flowing move which saw the right wing score a fine try in the corner. 30-0.
With Nick Palmer off, Simon Drew had to play in the centre and before Andy McFadden came back on Worcester had scored another try on 57 minutes. Similar to the previous try, simple hands, pace and poor defence allowing another try in the right corner. 35-0.
Finally as the last 10 minutes approached and perhaps with the game sewn up, Leek had a couple of penalties and made some quick breaks with Dan needham and Jack Newton Taylor making a run each. A penalty on the Worcester 5 metre line was bravely rucked up to the line but great defence forced the turnover and Leek lost their only try scoring attempt.
As the game entered its last phase, Leek was trying to run the ball on its 22 when the replacement scrum half cleverly spotted Leek were about to try an inside pass after the scrum and darted in to win the interception and score under the posts. A bit cruel for Leek at the end as the conversion sealed the deserved 42-0 win for Worcester.
It had been a difficult match for any Leek supporter to watch let alone the coaching staff and players to take part in, but there can only be positives taken from it if the Moorlanders are to compete in the 2nd half of the season, at least knowing that Worcester and Newport are their final 2 games at EsterChem park in April.
With Silhillians away this Saturday, Leek will need to regroup and train hard this week in order to give themselves a chance of competing at a traditionally difficult venue to win.
In other games, Sills game at Hereford was postponed, Newport won at Kenilworth, Stoke and Crewe both won and Walsall had a good away win to leapfrog Leek into 7th as the Moorlanders drop to 8th.
The traditional Boxing Day game at the club welcomes any player that wants a run out. Please try and be at the club around 10am for selection.
Leek’s next league game is at EsterChem Park on Saturday, January 3rd against Stoke. KO is 2.15pm and the game is sponsored by Brian Mellor Financial Services.