Leek’s first visit to Earlsdon had the visitors fielding quite a changed side from the previous week due to unavailability. Dan Needham was at half back with skipper Gary McDermott. Liam McDermott and Jack Taylor were in the centre with Dan Sharratt, Sam Hunt and returning Dan Smith making up the back 3.
Jason Milner, Bobby Cheadle and John Brooks made up a familiar looking front row and Tom Sims and Ed Harrison were at lock. Luke Staton and Luke Granger returned to the back row joined by Ed Cheadle starting as well.
On the bench, Leek had Phil Tomczak, Simon McNicol and Ad Smith.
It was a sunny, blustery day with the wind blowing across field with no advantage to either side and Leek started brightly when a penalty for not rolling away at the tackle presented Gary McDermott a 30 metre penalty which he duly despatched. 0-3.
The lead wasn’t to last long when Earlsdon’s scrum on half way led to a dangerous attack because of poor tackling and after a ruck on Leek’s 22, the home side fly half kicked over the top and the bounce favoured the wing who kicked ahead in goal and touched down for the opening try. The centre converted and Earlsdon took the lead at 7-3 on 10 minutes. Dan Smith injured his shoulder at this point and was replaced by his brother Adam. He moved to centre as Jack Taylor moved to full back.
5 minutes later and Gary McDermott was upended dangerously by the scrum half and he was yellow carded for the offence. McDermott stepped up to reduce the deficit with a well taken penalty. 7-6.
Then Leek had its best phase. From the kick off Luke Granger caught the ball and set up a ruck mid field. Ad Smith took the ball on and after another ruck quick hands left allowed Jack Taylor to sprint in from half way for a try on the left.
McDermott’s great conversion extended Leek’s lead to 7-13 on 18 minutes.
That was it as back came Earlsdon on 20 minutes. Winning a penalty for off feet at the ruck, a ruck Leek had won, allowed the kick to find touch in Leek’s 22. A good maul then had the backs moving and after initial good defence by Leek, the outside centre burst through some indifferent tackling to score Earlsdon’s 2nd try. The conversion was good and the lead changed hands again at 14-13.
5 minutes later and for the 4th time the lead changed as Leek won a penalty for offside at the ruck and from the left touch McDermott converted his 3rd penalty. 14-16.
On 29 minutes, an increasingly confident Leek was running the ball out of its own 22 when it was dropped. The centre pounced on it, gathered well and went in for an unopposed try in the left corner. The conversion was good again and Earlsdon retook the lead at 21-16.
On 34 minutes, Gary McDermott converted his 4th penalty after the Earlsdon scrum was penalised for losing its binding. 21-19.
As the half wound down in stoppage time, Leek was again running the ball out of its 22 when Gary McDermott was tackled and hit the ground causing a shoulder injury. His departure meant brother Liam moved to out half, Phil Tomczak came on in the pack as Luke Granger moved to centre.
Leek had a chance to take the lead right on half time with a long range penalty attempt from Sam Hunt, but it fell just short and an eventful 1st half came to an end with the home side holding a narrow 21-19 lead with everything to play for in the 2nd half.
Strangely, the 2nd half gave up only another 3 points as defences and mistakes had the upper hand mainly in midfield. Earlsdon had the better of the opening 10 minutes with 2 close calls for Leek and then Leek’s scrum started to get under pressure with the changes made and on 54th minutes, it was penalised for collapsing and the Earlsdon centre converted what would be the final score of the day to extend the home lead to 24-19.
Little continuity followed until Leek had a couple of late ruck series but strong defence led to turnovers and the final act was a penalty for Leek to go for the lineout but the ball went dead in goal.
It had been a frustrating afternoon for all concerned with the Moorlanders squad and although the players tried hard, the team lacked cohesion today and the injury disruptions didn’t help. Taking nothing away from Earlsdon, they deserved their win with 3 tries and a dominant scrum and will be hard to beat in the final 4 games they have remaining.
Leek will need to nurse its injuries and have a good week’s training in preparation for the re-arranged fixture with Barkers Butts Saturday at EsterChem Park. Kick-off is at 3pm.