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Rugby: Staffordshire Cup quarter-finals

By Leek Post and Times  |  Posted: January 01, 2014

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LEEK completed a remarkable first half of the season by registering their 10th successive home win against high-flying Burton in the Staffordshire Cup quarter-finals.

Burton currently sit second in Midlands West One (North), a division above Leek.

The visitors arrived at Esterchem Park boasting an unbeaten away league record this season, so Leek's decisive cup win shows how far they have come since Ian Gittens and Chris Mudd took over coaching duties some five years ago.

Leek matched Burton in every phase of the game except the scrum.

The hosts welcomed back Luke Granger to hooker, Luke Staton at No 8, Ad Nettel to the flank, Ian Harris to scrum half and Nick Palmer to the wing in front of 250 spectators.

Leek had a chance to open the scoring in the fourth minute when Burton were penalised for offside at the ruck, but Gary McDermott's long-range effort missed.

On 11 minutes, a similar effort from Burton, after Leek's scrum was penalised, fell short.

The Leek scrum found themselves under pressure from the bigger Burton eight.

The opening quarter saw an injury to a Burton prop and to Jack Newton Taylor, who limped off with a twisted ankle.

Burton wasted another penalty kick warded in the 24th minute, before McDermott put Leek ahead with a penalty given for offside five minutes later.

On 33 minutes, the Burton full back retrieved his own kick in Leek's half and then a deft chip had the home defence conceding a five-metre scrum.

Leek caused enough disruption to make Burton play the ball out, but were then penalised for not releasing in the tackle. But the penalty attempt from Burton missed.

Luke Hardern came on for Ed Harrison on 35 minutes.

Burton were pressing in Leek's 22 before their lock was yellow carded and Liam McDermott left the field to apply ice to an injury.

This proved costly for Burton, as Leek then went on to score 10 points in time added on to the first half.

From a lineout in the Burton half following a penalty, Luke Granger made a break and two rucks later, the ball went blind and James Floyd sprinted in for the game's opening try. McDermott converted and Leek were 10-0 ahead.

Leek had their tails up now and Granger was on the charge again into Burton's 22. Burton were then penalised for offside and McDermott concluded the first half with a well-taken penalty goal, to leave Leek leading 13-0.

The second half started fruitfully for Leek as Burton were penalised for obstruction at the kick off. McDermott's attempt was good and at 16-0, Burton needed three scores to win.

The East Staffs men then upped their game and only a superb hold-up over the line prevented a score on 42 minutes.

The scrum on Leek's five-metre line allowed the Burton forwards to batter the home line and then a superb kick for the wing allowed him to gather and score in the right corner on 44 minutes.

The conversion missed but at 16-5, it was very much game on.

Three minutes later, though, Leek added to the scoreboard again after winning a penalty for not releasing.

Ian Harris took a quick tap and won another 10 metres from which point Gary McDermott slotted his fourth penalty to increase Leek's lead to 19-5.

Back came Burton and on 51 minutes, the forwards were held up over the Leek line. The scrum followed and then a penalty. A quick tap and a try looked on, but a forward pass was given and Burton's chance had gone.

The next 20 minutes saw both sets of forwards trying to dominate each other but Leek were just as strong as their opponents and gradually the hosts got on top as Burton tried to create the space.

On 77 minutes, Ed Harrison was yellow-carded for offside as Leek took a team yellow and then Tom Sims came off injured.

Leek continued to press and a kick through saw Ian Harris retrieve the ball in midfield. He was then caught on the ground and Burton suffered another yellow card.

Leek turned over a ball midway in Burton's half on 88 minutes and Liam McDermott chipped down the line. Ian Harris retrieved the ball, set up a couple of rucks, sucked in the Burton defence and then fed James Floyd to step inside and score a fine try.

The conversion attempt by McDermott hit the post but Leek had ended the game in fine style to win a semi-final tie with Lichfield at Esterchem Park, to be played before March 31.

The other semi-final is between Longton and Walsall.

This Saturday, it's the turn of Stafford to visit Esterchem Park for a return league fixture.

LEEK face a journey into the unknown the semi-finals of the RFU Midland Intermediate Cup on February 1. They face 2011 Midlands Senior Vase winners Newbold-on-Avon away.

Newbold beat Midlands Two West (North) leaders Crewe & Nantwich 17-10 in the quarter-finals.

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