Leek 1XV 34 Market Harborough 1XV 31
LEEK were looking forward to playing in the third round of the RFU intermediate Cup for the first time.
The hosts’ determination not to lose their season’s unbeaten record was achieved with a spirited second half comeback after being 13-31 behind.
A powerful driving maul which went 20 yards before being collapsed was rewarded with a penalty try and conversion, which put Leek in the lead with only a minute left.
The restart was taken and Leek finished off the game by putting the ball out to hear the final whistle blow and a fantastic finish 34-31 to Leek Leek took the field with five changes from the previous week.
Jake Green came in for his first game of the season for winger James Floyd and Tom Hine took Australia-bound Ed Cheadle’s place in the front row for his first game also.
Tom Sims replaced flanker Andy McFadden’s and James Wilson took No 8 Luke Staton’s place. Jack Newton-Taylor replaced Nick Palmer on the wing.
The game was always going to be a great measure of how Leek are playing this season but Market Harborough had other ideas and immediately showed power in the scrums and pace in the backs which disconcerted Leek.
Within five minutes, penalties were scored and with the score 3-3, both sides tried to attack with Market Harborough being more likely to score, as their pack gained some control over the Leek eight.
Both sides lost scrums against the head and the visitors had several opportunities to score which failed narrowly.
After around 20 minutes, penalties were scored by the Market Harborough centre and Gary McDermott to see the score at 6-6 but the Leicestershire side were putting Leek under more pressure than they had seen this year.
However, Leek broke through after a tap penalty and James Wilson latched on to an inside pass to score a converted try under the posts for 13-6.
A Market Harborough penalty for offside quickly followed to make it 13-9 and then Leek held out until the 37th minute – only to see the opposing winger deservedly score a try in the corner after several phases of play.
In the last movement of the first half, Market Harborough extended their lead with another penalty as the scrum was driven backwards and Leek were penalised.
At half-time, Matt Slinn replaced Ed Harrison and from the kick-off, Leek took the ball down to the visitors’ 22 – only to give away a penalty after losing the ball close to Market Harborough’s line.
The visitors regrouped and from Leek’s 22, a poor kick from Leek was taken by a Market Harborough full back – and two passes saw his colleague on the left wing scoot over in the corner to score a well deserved converted try to make the lead 13-24.
Leek missed a penalty to reduce the score and were soon punished further when a kick rebounded up into the hands of the Market Harborough flanker, who drove over the Leek line.
The conversion was successful and Leek were now 13-31 behind and looking for some inspiration On 50 minutes, Ian Harris replaced Dan Needham at scrum half and Luke Granger took over from Tom Hine.
As the team began to work harder and upped the pace of their game, Leek began to attack with much more determination.
They knew that it was their only way back and on 55 minutes, Adam Nettel scored in the corner after Leek had moved the ball through several phases.
Captain Gary McDermott converted and Leek grew in confidence as they began to dominate possession and put their opponents’ defence under pressure, with the score now 20-31.
The game still ebbed and flowed as Luke Hardern and Ed Harrison ran hard at the visitors and Leek began to control the ball better and manage the rucks properly.
Eventually, after several strong attacks were defended well, Ian Harris dived on the ball to score a try after charging a kick down.
MacDermott’s conversion put Leek back in the game at 27-31 with 12 minutes left to play.
The rest of the game was a terrific advert for rugby as both sides worked hard to claim a victory.
Leek seemed to be growing in confidence and Market Harborough had to defend really well to keep the home side from scoring.
Both sides worked hard to finish the game off and soon Leek were in the position to do it.
On 39 minutes, Leek caught a lineout on Market Harborough’s 22 and drove forward strongly, with Jason Milner’s dancing feet controlling the back of the maul.
Some backs joined in also and as the maul drove on, Market Harborough were caught offside and then deliberately collapsed the maul which was going to go over the line.
The whistle blew and Leek saw the referee indicating a penalty try, which was converted from under the posts.
Leek had taken a 34-31 lead, after being behind for over half of the game, and the final whistle blew soon after.
This Saturday sees Leek away to Crewe and Nantwich (2.15pm). They are top of the league one point above Leek.
Both teams are unbeaten this year and it promises to be an exciting contest.
Leek’s seconds play Rugeley’s first team, while Leek thirds are at home against Trentham seconds (2.15pm).
Under 12s Leek 40 Stoke 7
THE HOME team began brightly and winger Josh Lyttleton grabbed the first try of the day, followed by a brace from Will Midwinter.
The Leek scrum proved to be dominant, with Reagan Chell, Henry Weetman and Josh Sales proving a formidable front row.
In the second half, Josh DeGale powered his way through the Stoke defence to add two more scores. Stoke battled valiantly, putting in tremendous tackles, but Leek rucked them at will, with Max Hine and Callum McCarron proving most effective.
As the game became more stretched, Leek found more room to attack the flanks and a combination of passes from Jenny Hesketh and Sam Brereton released flying full back Josh Cartlidge to race clear to score.
Conversions from Midwinter (2), Cartlidge, Hesketh and Brereton completed the home team’s scoring before the visitors put together some good phases to score the consolation try their play deserved.
Leek 45 Stoke 0
IN THE second game, Leek added winger Josh Challinor to the backs plus forwards Shane Salt and Callum McCarron to the front row.
Despite the changes, the home side kept the advantage in the scrums.
This allowed centres Mitch Whilock and Josh DeGale to combine for the play of the day, pulling off a training ground move to send DeGale clear to score. Josh Lyttleton grabbed his second try of the day before scrum half Sam Lloyd darted clear to score.
From the re-start, second row Tom Leach caught the ball and set off on a barreling run three-quarters the length of the field, powering through the defensive line and off-loading to captain Joel Hine, who surged on to score.
The Leek forwards drove up the field, with Hine again surging forward. A smart pass found Midwinter in space to finish off the move with a try.
Leek’s pack continued to have the upper hand and rumbled up the center of the pitch with a rolling maul, allowing Rowan Blanchard to claim the home team’s sixth try. DeGale scored Leek’s final try of the day.
Under 9s Leek 35 Stoke 5
NOAH Reaney made a superb tackle which forced a Stoke player to spill the ball and Joseph Meakin gathered superbly to feed Kinney Critchlow to score.
It was not long before Joseph Meakin passed to Reaney, who slipped the Stoke defence with a quick side step to increase Leek’s lead.
Strong tackling from Louis Torr and Theo Bettany forced Stoke into making mistakes, and a quick pass from Joseph Meakin to Critchlow saw Leek score again. Another forced mistake by Stoke saw Lewis Sale and George Bailey exchanging passes, leaving Sale to run in a superb try.
Stoke piled pressure on Leek in the second half but Bailey, Bettany and Reaney kept them at bay. Critchlow slipped past Stoke to score his hat-trick Joseph Meakin played the pass of the game out wide to the waiting Sale, who showed a clean pair of heels to run in another spectacular try.
Stoke kept trying and were rewarded for their efforts with a consolation try.
But Leek were not finished and another newcomer, Torr, broke through a tired Stoke defence for Critchlow to take his try tally to four.
Leek 35 Stoke 0
LEEK won the toss and got off to a flyer from the start, Joe Knight powering his way in to score his first ever try.
Joshua Nadin then turned from provider to scorer with one of his trademark hard runs.
Newcomer Danny Day took a lovely pass from Nadin and slipped tje Stoke defence to join in the scoring – also the first try of his career.
Stoke started the second half brightly before Oliver Hall broke free of his defenders to increase Leek’s lead.
Mistakes forced by the hard-working Sam Heath, Harry Byrne and Danny Day made the opportunity for Joe Knight to grab his second try.
Leek sealed Stoke’s fate in the closing minute with Hall scoring his second of the day.
Leek 25 Stoke 5
LEEK combined the two teams for this game, using rolling substitutes throughout.
Some excellent runs and teamwork by Stoke tested Leek – but the Moorlanders stood firm and forced Stoke to spill the ball.
Joseph Meakin was on hand to pass to teammate Joshua Nadin, who opened the scoring.
Newcomer George Bower showed that he will soon be in the thick of the action and Alistair Leonard, returning from injury, came close to opening his account.
Kinney Critchlow scored after yet another mistake by Stoke, as the Moorlanders kept up the pressure. Sam Heath then made Stoke spill the ball and again, Joseph Meakin picked up the loose ball and fed Critchlow to score.
Leek had the last say, with Critchlow getting his second hat-trick of the day.