Midlands Two West (North)
Stafford 5 Leek 1XV 43
LEEK’S opening away fixture in the league this season saw them make the short trip to Stafford.
It ended in an emphatic win as the Moorlanders made their best start to a league campaign for six years.
Leek fielded another different centre partnership, which saw Liam McDermott paired with Josh Mays Woodhead.
But the rest of the backline looked familiar, with Ian Harris and Gary McDermott at half back, Nick Palmer and James Floyd on the wings, and the improving Jack Newton Taylor at full back.
The Cheadle brothers, Bobby and Ed, started in the front row with Jason Milner. Tom Sims and Luke Hardern were at lock.
Andy Thompson made his full first team debut on the blindside flank, with Ad Nettel and Andy McFadden making up the back row.
The bench will be key to Leek’s success this season. In Jamie Gordon, James Wilson and Dan Needham, they have three impact players.
Stafford rocked their visitors by taking the lead from a touchdown with barely a minute on the clock, but the conversion attempt was missed.
Leek recovered from their early setback in the 12th minute after a Stafford player prevented a release and he was yellow carded. Gary McDermott kicked the penalty.
On 25 minutes, Leek turned over a ball in midfield and the ball sped wide right where Liam McDermott fed James Floyd.
The 21-year-old wing sprinted into the Stafford 22, raced past the tackle of the full back and touched down near the posts. McDermott converted.
On 34 minutes, a Stafford clearance was fielded by Newton Taylor midway inside his own half. He raced down the left touchline and only a tremendous last-ditch tackle prevented what would have been a contender for try of the season.
In the fourth minute of overtime, McDermott added another penalty for offside on Stafford’s five-metre line to make the score 13-5.
Stafford came out strongly in the second half and won a penalty in front of the posts for offside, but the attempt missed.
At this stage, Leek brought on three replacements – Ian Harris, Luke Hardern and Ed Cheadle.
Dan Needham showed his intent with two quick tapped penalties which resulted in play getting into the Stafford 22. An offside decision allowed McDermott to extend Leek’s lead with another penalty kick.
The turning point in the game came in the 50th minute, when the Leek backs countered again outside their 22, prompted by Dan Needham.
Liam McDermott drew his man and kicked through for Mays Woodhead to chase. The Stafford No 13 elbowed the Leek centre in the face and the referee instantly produced a yellow card. McDermott left the field to recover.
From the penalty lineout on the Stafford 22, a series of rucks gave Leek quick ball and allowed James Floyd to score his second try. The conversion attempt was missed.
Stafford came fighting back and a penalty for offside meant a lineout on Leek’s five-metre line.
From a scrum, Leek’s front row came up and Jason Milner was yellow-carded for the technical offence.
Clever handling by Josh Mays Woodhead and the restored Liam McDermott gave Nick Palmer the opening to sprint in from the 22.
Gary McDermott missed with his conversion missed attempt but with 12 minutes to go, it was a matter of whether Leek could score one more try to secure a bonus point.
On 76 minutes, a great tackle on the Leek 22 saw the ball spilled into Leek hands and great running and a fantastic kick behind the Stafford defence looked like giving Newton Taylor a score. However, the referee brought them back for a Stafford late tackle.
Dan Needham again took a quick tap and Nick Palmer sprinted off up centre field with Gary McDermott on hand to take the pass and score under the posts.
His conversion confirmed a bonus point haul for Leek as the lead moved to 33-5.
Stafford were offering little now and on 79 minutes handling by backs and forwards saw an attack which looked certain to bring another try.
However, in the act of taking the final pass, the Stafford 13 hauled Josh Mays Woodhead early and was red-carded for his second yellow offence.
McDermott kicked the penalty and Leek moved to 36-5.
On 83 minutes, the Leek full back finally got the try he deserved after Dan Needham fed James Floyd.
His turn of pace and change of direction saw him race to the Stafford 22 where he passed to the excellent Jack Newton Taylor to round off the try scoring.
Skipper Gary McDermott converted for a personal tally of 23 points and boosted the score to 43-5.
The Leek players could not have put more effort into this game. The forwards worked particularly hard in defence and Andy Thompson had a fine debut.
Tom Sims and Luke Hardern are developing a strong partnership at lock and the front row continues to develop as they adapt to the new scrum law.
However, it’s early days yet and the squad will have to maintain its concentration and training to continue improving.
Leek take a break from league action this Saturday and host Midlands 2 East (N) outfit Dronfield in the opening round in the RFU Intermediate Cup.
The day kicks off at 1pm, with the club’s beer festival continuing from Friday evening.
League action resumes at Esterchem Park, Cheddleton, on Saturday, October 5 with a visit from Tamworth (3pm).
RESULTS Saturday, September 21 Midlands Two West (North) Aston Old Edwardians 6 Bridgnorth 27; Old Saltliens 17 Ludlow 31; Stafford 5 Leek 43; Tamworth 8 Crewe and Nantwich 31; Willenhall 12 Moseley Oak 25; Wolverhampton 36 Camp Hill 19.