Fantastic advert for Under 16's rugby
By Ian Byrne
Leek 17 - Lichfield 7
The Tigers completed the double over the reigning county champions with a stunning defensive display.
Leek's high pressure game and line speed were the deciding factors in another closely contested game between two well-matched teams.
When the visitors had the ball, they were rushed into poor decisions and speculative passes by aggressive Tigers defence.
And the Moorlanders were ruthless in their execution when their chances came.
With both teams shorn of key players due to county and other commitments, plus a couple of injuries during the game, squad strength was crucial - and the 17 men of Leek rose to the occasion magnificently.
Skipper Ben Wood and props Josh Brown and Jared Leftwich were to the fore in the close exchanges, making hard yards when it mattered. And Henry Thackstone, in only his second start, won crucial lineout ball.
The Leek backline of Ollie Ryder, Sam Brereton, Oliver Corden and Jack Fryer always looked threatening on the counter attack, as well as making every tackle that mattered.
After a cagey opening period, with neither side gaining the upper hand, fly half Joe Byrne settled nerves with a 40 metre penalty (3-0).
Lichfield's game plan was to try to stretch the Tigers' cover by playing wide at every opportunity, and it nearly worked when they broke free on the left, only for man of the match Tom Rigby to bundle the winger into touch a metre short of the line with one of several try-saving tackles.
The Moorlanders were enterprising and ambitious playing out of defence. A move from their five metre line saw James Hunt feed Byrne on the blind side. He passed to Fryer, who glided beyond halfway before an offside at the ruck ended the move.
The ebb and flow of the game continued, with Lichfield fumbling the ball just short of the tryline before a couple of clearing penalties saw the Tigers move to the other end of the pitch.
A successful line out on the Lichfield 22 saw Brereton receive the ball in midfield, and he ducked and side-stepped his way through the cover defence to score under the posts, Byrne converting to make it 10-0 at half-time.
From the second half restart, Charlie Breen's clean catch and drive put Leek on the front foot. Byrne's kick into space saw Ryder outpace the cover defence. His kick ahead set up Corden to side-foot the ball neatly over the line and touch down for the decisive score, Byrne converting from wide on the left (17-0)
Lichfield changed tactics, and a series of driving mauls saw them crash over the line to reduce the deficit (17-7).
Another driving maul put Leek under pressure - Leftwich receiving his first ever yellow card as he stumbled to the ground, pulling players down around him.
But the Tigers' resilient defence held firm, and it was the hosts who ended the game camped deep in Lichfield territory as time ran out.
Leek will welcome Lichfield back to Esterchem Park next month when they contest the county final against Stone.