Leek’s run of defeats continued at Whitchurch but not without an almighty effort from the squad and no-one at the game on Saturday would have denied Leek the win having dominated both territory and possession in both halves.
For the first time in a while Leek’s squad was almost unchanged from the previous week and the intensity of the forward display from the kick off showed a strong commitment against a howling gale blowing down the pitch against Leek.
Leek was pressing as early as the 3rd minute but a clearance kick from Whitchurch’s own 22 showed the strength of the wind with the ball bouncing all the way towards the Leek line. Nick Palmer had to touch down to give Whitchurch a 5 metre scrum but strong defence and a penalty allowed Leek to clear.
Another clearance kick from the Whitchurch 22 on 6 minutes bounced towards Leek’s line again but Sam Hunt collected and ran the ball to his 22. As the Whitchurch defence came up he cleverly chipped the ball over them, collected the ball himself, fed Gary McDermott and the skipper ran in for the opening try by the posts. He converted to give Leek a 0-7 lead.
4 minutes later and things got even better for the Moorlanders when Liam McDermott kicked ahead and won the ball on the ground. Great hands with short passing gave James Floyd a chance on the right wing. He crashed into the last defender and scored a try in the right corner. McDermott couldn’t convert but at 0-12 Leek had stunned the home team and were playing with real passion and no less skill.
3 minutes later and Leek was running the ball again down the blindside with an overlap but then the luck changed. The Whitchurch centre intercepted one of the passes and sprinted in for an unlikely score against the run of pay. The conversion missed but it was a reminder to Leek that Whitchurch were dangerous. 5-12.
On 16 minutes a penalty for Whitchurch for not releasing in the tackle gave the fly half an easy chance at goal and he duly converted. 8-12.
Whitchurch was trying to get a grip on the game and after 20 minutes, their forwards won good ball and territory on the right side before the backs saw the ball on the left. Poor tackling then let Leek down as the Whitchurch 12 ghosted through to score under the posts. The conversion was good and Leek had surrendered their lead at 15-12.
Still Leek was the better team and on 26 minutes won a penalty on half way for holding on in the tackle on half way. With the strong wind, Leek decided to run the ball and poor tackling from Whitchurch allowed Gary McDermott to weave his way through the defence and then sprint in for his 2nd try by the posts. He converted to put Leek back in the lead at 15-19.
Whitchurch’s wind advantage was not proving successful and they had only one further chance in the first half but the penalty on 29 minutes missed and Leek comfortably held their hosts for the remainder of the half to set themselves up for the 2nd period with a 15-19 lead.
The omens looked promising as Leek camped on the Whitchurch 5 metre line after a penalty was awarded for offside and McDermott went for the lineout. For 3 minutes Leek’s forwards pounded the Whitchurch line when eventually as the ball was released to the backs, the Whitchurch centre was there also and was duly yellow carded for a cynical offence. McDermott converted the simple penalty to extend Leek’s lead to 15-22.
Time now to put the game beyond Whitchurch as they were hampered by the wind and only 14 men. No, none of it as Leek relaxed and the determined Whitchurch forwards suddenly realised they had better start imposing themselves. When Leek lost the ball on 48 minutes, it led to a series of plays by Whitchurch that eventually opened Leek up and a forward crashed over for a score on the left. The conversion missed but at 20-22, Leek needed no reminder that Whitchurch was determined to win as well.
Leek came back and had another penalty chance on 57 minutes but the decision to go for lineout backfired as the yellow carded player came back on at 57 minutes with Whitchurch’s defence holding Leek.
Still Leek was pressing and Liam McDermott crashed to the line on 59 minutes but as the ball came back a fumble let the Whitchurch wing pick up and only a desperate tackle in Leek’s half by Nick Palmer prevented a score. This change of momentum though had Whitchurch’s forwards retaining ball again and on 62 minutes after they had battered the Leek defence, the prop ran in under the posts for Whitchurch’s 4th try. With the conversion successful, Leek now found themselves 27-22 down and 16 minutes to play.
The whole of this period seemed to be played in the Whitchurch 22 as time and again the Leek forwards crashed into solid defence for the ball to be worked back and then a crucial error forced a turnover. Gary McDermott changed that tactic on 68 minutes with a deft chip towards Whitchurch’s left corner. The wing was forced to kick clear from his own line but James Floyd charged the ball down, he collected and only had to touch down to score but an unbelievable tackle dislodged the ball in the act of scoring and Leek’s best chance had gone.
The final 12 minutes were played entirely in Whitchurch’s half and mostly in the 22 but credit where it’s due. The home defence was magnificent in holding up the determined Leek offensive and the final act came when on 83 minutes Gary McDermott’s drop goal attempt went agonisingly wide of the right post.
Jack Taylor had one more darting run to within 2 metres of the Whitchurch line but then a knock on had Whitchurch clear to touch to end the game.
Special mention must go to Jason Milner who had a tremendous game with his forward bursts, strong scrummage and urging of the pack. Luke Granger at flank gave Leek an added dimension and young Ollie Drew’s first full match at scrum half bodes well for the future.
It had been a great game played with good spirit and a howling gale which is a credit to both teams but Leek will wonder how they managed not to win the game.
Another losing bonus point meant they came away with something and with none of the teams below them getting any more than a losing bonus point as well, the Moorlanders are still above the relegation battle.
In other games, Hereford won at Walsall, Stratford beat Silhillians and Earlsdon lost at Crewe. Hereford won at Berkswell & Balsall and Barkers Butts just lost out at home to Kenilworth. The Coventry side make the journey to EsterChem Park next Saturday for a 2.15pmkick off. Please come and support your team.
Leek remains in 10th place in the league with 36 points.
PLEASE NOTE – 6 NATIONS CHAMPIONSHIP – WALES v ENGLAND
On Friday night, February 6th, the club house will be open from 7pm for the opening game of the 2015 6 Nations Championship with the mouth-watering clash at the Millennium Stadium.
Please come and support your team, White or Red, enjoy the atmosphere. Bar and food will be available.
On Saturday, February 7th, as well as Leek v Barkers Butts kicking off at 2.15pm, live on the big screen at the club will be the other 2 opening 6 Nations Games.
Italy v Ireland at 2.30pm
France v Scotland at 5pm
All other 6 Nations games will be live at the club during February and March.