Midlands West 2 (N) Wolverhampton 27 Leek 20
LEEK gave Wolves their sternest test at Castlecroft in the league this season but couldn't prevent the home side from scoring a bonus point win, although the consolation of a losing bonus point was the least Leek deserved.
With Nick Palmer, Dan Smith and Ian Harris unavailable in the backs, George Hunt returned at 13, allowing brother Sam to revert to full back. Dan Needham came in at scrum half to partner Gary McDermott. Shane Dicker started at 12 with Tom Tavakece and Adam Smith on the wings.
Leek started quickly on a good surface with no wind and Sam Hunt had a third minute chance to score a penalty for handling in the ruck, but his 38 metre attempt went wide.
On six minutes, Leek were in the Wolves 22 as good forward driving tested the home defence, but a knock on gave Wolves a scrum. The scrum was won by Wolves but a wayward pass meant the ball was hastily grounded in goal for a Leek scrum on 5 metres.
McFadden picked up, set up a series of rucks as the forwards neared the goal line and then Dan Needham used his bulk to crash over for the first try on 10 minutes. Sam Hunt missed the conversion but Leek led early 5-0.
On 14 minutes, Leek were penalised for offside and the Wolves fly half kicked an excellent penalty to reduce Leek's lead to 5-3.
Two minutes later from the kick off return, Andy McFadden ripped the ball from the Wolves and then won a penalty for slowing the ball. Sam Hunt missed his third kick, though, and an off day from the usually reliable boot would prove costly in the final analysis.
Nevertheless, it was still Leek doing all the good work in the opening quarter and on 19 minutes Dan Needham pinched the Wolves scrum ball, then set up a series of 3 rucks before Tom Sims burst through the gain line. His pass to Ad Smith on the left flank outside the Wolves 22 saw the winger draw his man then pass inside to Gary McDermott who beat the cover defence to the line for a great score. Sam Hunt kicked the conversion, and at 12-3 Leek were in the driving seat at this stage of the game.
It lasted only three minutes though as the superb outside centre took the ball on the left side and sprinted past 3 Leek defenders who couldn't live with the pace of the young man and he dotted down to stun Leek. The conversion missed but at 12-8 Wolves had something to work on now.
On 29 minutes, Leek were defending on their line as Wolves attacked strongly and a series of scrums still couldn't give Wolves a break for the line as the fierce Leek tackling eventually forced a penalty and a clearance.
As the half entered injury time, Leek pressed into the Wolves 22 where the outside centre fielded the ball. Three Leek defenders looked to have him pinned down, but deft hands and footwork left the Leek men for dead. His pace took him near half way down the right before his chip kick and chase saw him touch down for his and Wolves 2nd try. It was another great piece of individual skill and with the conversion successful, Leek were left wondering how on earth they were losing 15-12 at the half.
The second half started brightly for Leek as Sam Hunt converted a 42nd minute penalty for not retreating at the ruck and that drew the teams level at 15 all.
Wolves upped their game whilst they were a man down and took the game to Leek and on 52 minutes another piece of individual brilliance, this time from the very speedy full back, saw him take a ball in his own half and carve through the centre of the field to be untouched whilst going under the posts for Wolves' third try. The conversion was simples and at 22-15, the next score was going to be crucial.
Leek were pressing on 67 minutes but knocked on close to the line and then a poor clearance from Wolves gave Leek a lineout on the Wolves left 22. A catch and drive caught the Wolves pack unprepared and Leek drove over the line for Jason Milner to ground the ball and bring the Moorlanders right back into the game. Hunt's conversion just failed but at 22-20, 3 tries all and with 10 minutes to go, all points possibilities were still options.
The game see-sawed for the 10 minutes until a penalty in the Leek 22 led to a lineout win for Wolves. Several phases of rucks and defence allowed Wolves to manoeuvre the ball to the left where the flanker went over for the score to clinch the game.
The conversion mattered and the alert George Hunt raced out to prevent the fairly simple conversion from going over. He made a sufficient impact to help see the kick go wide and keep Leek within seven points with only injury time left.
Still Leek weren't done and had a penalty on the Wolves 22 which Dan Needham took quickly but strong Wolves defence meant with a leek mistake the game was gone.
It was a real hard fought game where three long range tries from Wolves underlined their dangerous running backs with pace but showed Leek's loose forward play to match the league leaders and give them a fright on home soil. Still it will take a very good side to win at Castlecroft and Wolves remain favourites now to top the league.
This Saturday see leek taking on their nearest neighbours in the league, Stafford at St Edwards park. Kick off is at 2.15pm.