from absorbing the pressure and then opening up in the final quarter to secure a bonus point win which leaves Leek still 3 points from safety with 3 games to play.
Leek welcomed back a number of players. In the back 3, Jack Newton Taylor and James Floyd were back joined by Ian Harris. Liam McDermott and returning Ollie Drew were at half back. Adam Smith and Sam Hunt were in the centre. Jason Milner, Ed Cheadle and skipper Bobby Cheadle were in the front row. Ed Harrison and Phil Tomczak were at lock. Luke Staton was at No.8 and Andy McFadden and George Hunt were on the flanks.
Andy Thomson, John Brooks and Dan Needham were on the bench.
It was a perfect day for fast open rugby with the pitch firming up and the conditions still and cool as Leek ripped into their visitors early on and won a penalty on 40 seconds for in at side of maul and Sam Hunt duly added the score. 3-0. Constant retention and pressure led to a 5th minute attempt from Hunt but dropped short and then on 10 minutes another simpler attempt was converted by him as Hereford was penalised again for not rolling away in the tackle. 6-0.
It took Hereford until the 16th minute to get the ball but it proved decisive as they ran from their own 22 and after setting a maul in the Leek 22 following a great cover tackle from Ian Harris, the ball was shipped wide right and the wing scored the opening try. The conversion missed. 6-5.
Back came Leek though and on 21 minutes the referee lost patience with Hereford and yellow carded the 12 for not releasing in the tackle as Leek were dangerous again in the 22. Sam Hunt kicked his 3rd penalty to ease Leek to 9-5.
4 minutes later and Hereford won a penalty after Jack Taylor’s run out of defence led to an offside decision. The attempt was good and at 9-8 the game was set up nicely for the remaining 55 minutes.
The rest of the first half saw Leek dominating possession and territory but strong and disciplined Hereford defence meant the Moorlanders could not find a way through. Half Time - 9-8.
The 2nd half opened as the first with a strong start from Leek and after Jack Taylor’s break down the right and support from James Floyd, it looked for all the world Leek would score a try in the opening minute. The forwards were held up over the line and from the scrum, Leek’s loose forwards pounded the line and when it came out left, just safe hands would have given Leek the try they deserved but an unlucky knock on a metre from the line allowed Hereford to win their scrum and clear their lines.
Still all the action was in the visitor’s half and on 49 minutes the flanker was yellowed for hands in ruck with Leek pressing in the 22 and on 55 minutes Leek won a penalty for a deliberate scrum wheel. Sam Hunt converted again and at 12-8, it was nothing less than the home side deserved.
Then the game changed on a piece of indiscipline. With the ball won at the ruck on half way, Ed Harrison followed through on a player on the ground and was yellow carded. It seemed to signal to the Hereford players this was their moment and from the resulting lineout only a brilliant hold up over the line from Ed Cheadle prevented a try on 64 minutes. However from the scrum 5 metres out, the mounting pressure left Leek’s defence short on the left and the centre scored Hereford’s 2nd try. The conversion was good and for the first time Hereford had taken the lead on 67 minutes. 12-15.
2 minutes later and a penalty on the Leek 22 for collapsing the maul allowed another penalty conversion. 12-18.
Then on 72 minutes with a scrum in their own half centre field, a missed tackle after the pick up at the back of the scrum left Leek’s defence short and good hands saw Hereford’s backs complete their 3rd try with a score in the left corner. The conversion was good and at 12-24, Leek was now searching for a losing point.
It wasn’t to be as Leek’s last attacking phase had Ollie Drew breaking down the left on 83 minutes but lacking support the Hereford wing brought the ball away and then won a penalty for a late tackle. The ensuing lineout had the visitors deep in Leek’s 22 but the valiant defence forced a knock on. Leek just needed to secure the scrum but after a pick up at the back the ball was lost and the flanker pounced on the ball to score Hereford’s 4th and bonus point try with the last play. The conversion missed but the 12-30 points win showed why Hereford lie in 2nd place and they will go on now to fight for the play off place with Worcester.
Leek’s performance had been a considerable step up over the last 2 games and the players can be proud of their efforts, only conceding in the last quarter. However that is where games are won and lost, so the requirement this week in training must be to focus on converting possession into points early and defending strongly through the 80 minutes as the game this Saturday away at Kenilworth is vital to the Moorlanders’ season.
Note that the team bus will arrive at the club at 1115 Saturday and will depart at 1130. If you want to travel on it please call Mark Hardern.
In other games this week, Berkswell lost at Stoke and Earlsdon were beaten heavily at Newport and neither can now catch Leek. With 3 to go down though, Barkers Butts remarkable winning streak continued at Stratford with Silhillians losing out at home to Crewe. Both Sills and BB can catch Leek, so the 3 remaining games still have everything on them.
Leek’s final 2 games are both at home.
Following the Easter break, Leek entertains Worcester Wanderers on April 11th. Breeze House is sponsoring the game and anyone who played for Leek with Andy and Chris Peck is welcome as their guest.
The final league game is on April 18th against Newport who are already confirmed as champions. There is a beer festival on that weekend and it promises to be a great season’s finale at EsterChem Park. Save for your diary.