Midlands Two West (North)
Willenhall 10 Leek 33
Leek extended their winning league run to seven games after a very tough encounter with Willenhall at Bognop Road on Saturday.
The visitors were forced to make six changes to the squad that beat Crewe and Nantwich the previous week, and without any recognised centres, Leek did well to earn a bonus point win.
Jason Milner, Bobby Cheadle and Tom Hine started in the front row, with Luke Hardern and Tom Sims at lock. Andy McFadden, Luke Staton and Ad Nettel combined in the back row. Dan Needham started at scrum half with skipper Gary McDermott at stand-off.
In the centres, Simon Drew and Ben Smith made an unlikely partnership and Ollie Drew, Jack Newton Taylor and Sam Hunt made up the back three. Neil Edge, Dan Cooper and James Wilson were on the bench.
Willenhall won the toss and asked Leek to kick with the slope and wind first half, so the pressure was on to take advantage early and try and secure a lead to defend in the second half.
The opening five minutes saw Leek looking dangerous on the Willenhall five-metre line but a series of errors and good defence kept Leek out until on six minutes, an offside decision allowed Gary McDermott to open the scoring with a simple penalty.
Leek continued to pressurise Willenhall but once Leek were penalised in the Willenhall 22 on eight minutes, a spirited home side then fought their way upfield for the next 10 minutes forcing Leek errors and combining forwards and backs to win a penalty under their opponent's posts. The Willenhall scrum half and skipper kicked the home side level.
Two minutes later, McDermott restored Leek's three-point lead after Willenhall were penalised at the lineout for closing the gap.
Willenhall fought back again, retaining the ball and forcing indiscipline in the Leek ranks and on 30 minutes, they had another penalty attempt after Jason Milner was penalised for going in at the side of the ruck – but the attempt went wide.
On 36 minutes, Jack Newton Taylor took a pass from Sam Hunt and the wing went on a mazy run before being high tackled in the Willenhall 22. McDermott was successful again and increased Leek's lead to 9-3 as the half wound down.
Leek needed more points in the first half and pressure started to build in the Willenhall 22 as overtime was being played. The home flanker was yellow carded for slowing the ball and Dan Needham took a quick tap.
A couple of rucks later, the second one a devastating burst by Luke Hardern, saw the ball virtually on the Willenhall line and then Needham picked up and crashed over for the opening try of the game. McDermott converted and the whistle blew for half-time with Leek holding a non-too-convincing 16-3 lead.
From the kick-off, Leek knocked on in their own 22 and Willenhall had two penalty attempts on 42 minutes and 48 minutes, as Leek tried to halt the lively home advance.
The first attempt fell short and the second attempt was wide, as Leek regrouped for their 22.
It was at this point that James Wilson, fresh on as a replacement, turned the mentality around. He fielded the 22 superbly to put Leek on the front foot.
Another yellow card was produced for going in at the side of the maul on 53 minutes, as Leek mauled from their own 22 into the Willenhall half.
Great ball retention and speed now helped Leek as they rucked under the Willenhall posts, sucking in the defence and ball out wide allowed Ollie Drew to touch down for Leek's second try on 56 minutes.
McDermott's conversion was short but at 21-3, Leek had fought their way back and was looking stronger as the game progressed.
On 59 minutes, Leek stole a Willenhall lineout on the home 22. A good maul by the forwards had Leek up to the try line. Good recycling and passing left allowed Sam Hunt to score Leek's third try.
McDermott's conversion was good and at 28-3 with a quarter to go, the question was whether Leek sneak the bonus point.
Willenhall came back at Leek and on 67 minutes, won a penalty in the Leek 22. They opted to scrum, but Leek's defence was strong. Newton Taylor went off on 72 minutes and two minutes later, Leek had a scrum in their own 22.
Luke Staton picked up at the back and went off on a 50-metre dash over the half way. Great continuity and support nearly saw a try in the right corner but for a knock-on.
The Willenhall scrum was good but a great charge down as the defence cleared gave Leek a five-metre scrum. Good ball and driving to the line allowed the ball to be moved left, before an offside decision under the posts gave Needham the signal to tap and go right.
It caught the home defence napping, as Ben Smith crashed over in the right corner to secure the fourth try for Leek.
McDermott's conversion missed but at 33-3 with overtime to come, Leek had finally overcome their spirited and hard-working opponents.
Still, there was time for Willenhall to hit back and they deservedly scored with the last play after Smith was yellow-carded.
The Willenhall lock crashed over following some good driving. The conversion was good and the game ended at 33-10.
The home side fought hard all game and all sides know it is a very difficult place to come and win.
All credit to the Willenhall players who have to gather themselves for the survival fight over the next five games.
Leek maintained their seven-point advantage over Crewe & Nantwich, who beat Ludlow comprehensively.
Moseley Oak and Bridgnorth both had bonus point wins, so the league table didn't change at the top. Stafford's win at Aston helped them climb the table and Wolves beat Tamworth.
This weekend, while a number of league matches are played to help catch up following the weather postponements, all eyes are on the Midlands Intermediate Cup Final between Leek and Bridgnorth at Cheddleton's Esterchem Park.
The Midlands Two West (North) rivals have fought through five rounds of cup matches against opposition from the other three Midlands leagues to find themselves playing each other for the right to represent the region in the RFU Intermediate Cup semi-final.
Leek United Building Society is sponsoring the match.
The day starts at noon, when the bar opens in the marquee and clubhouse.
Italy v England is live on all screens in the marquee and clubhouse. This is followed by Leek v Bridgnorth game at 3pm.
After the cup presentation, France v Ireland kicks off at 5pm.
There is a taxi service from Derby Street taxi rank, running from noon until 2pm, to take supporters up to the ground for £1. Return journeys run from 5.30pm until 7.30pm.
Food and drink will be on offer all day, as will a matchday programme.
Aston OE 10 Stafford 62; Bridgnorth 43 Old Saltleians 0; Camp Hill 18 Moseley Oak 34; Crewe & Nantwich 72 Ludlow 18; Willenhall 10 Leek 33; Wolverhampton 29 Tamworth 12.
Stoke 26 Leek 42
THE FIRST score of the day went to Leek captain Joel Hine, whose clever support play saw him collect an offload and force his way over the line.
Next to score was scrum half Sam Lloyd, who was as sharp as a tack as he collected a loose ball from the back of a Stoke scrum and sprinted clear to cross the line.
The Leek lineouts and rucking showed an improvement on the previous week's performance at Macclesfield.
Stoke now moved onto the front foot and an upfield kick was collected brilliantly on the bounce as they grabbed a try back - unfortunately the conversion was missed.
The final score of the half came from fly half Will Midwinter, who finished off a good team assault involving five different players.
Two conversions from Midwinter and one from Josh Cartlidge saw the half time score 21-5 in Leek's favour.
In the second half, Josh DeGale grabbed Leek's first try but Stoke quickly responded as they began to get more possession and match Leek blow for blow.
Josh Cartlidge capped a fine performance as he collected Mitch Whilock's pass and raced clear to score.
The home side had their best period of the game and put together a number of phases to pen Leek back on there own line before powering over to score.
Stoke quickly added another try as they grew in confidence.
Leek regained their composure, though, and Sam Brereton fired a sharp pass out on the blindside to Midwinter, who rounded the defence to score the final try.
Three conversions from Midwinter saw the game end 26-42.
Leek squad and try scorers: Callum McCarron, Drew Pitts, Henry Weetman, Josh Cartlidge(1), Josh DeGale(1), Josh Lyttleton, Josh Sales, Joel Hine(1), Max Hine, Mitch Whilock, Reagan Chell, Rowan Blanchard, Sam Brereton, Sam Lloyd(1), Shane Salt, Tom Leach, William Midwinter(2).