Leek 1st XV 41
Stafford 1st XV 10
STAFFORD 1st XV’s first encounter of 2014 saw them take the short trip to high flying neighbours Leek.
The county town team were looking to build on their recently improved form, but were expecting a tough afternoon of rugby, and so it proved with no less than six yellow cards.
On a heavy pitch, both teams came out fighting, but Leek fared better on the slippery surface to snatch an early lead with a converted try.
Stafford responded and bullied their way back into the match with a Richie Martin penalty to reduce deficit. The teams continued to slug it out in various areas of the pitch, neither able to find the rhythm to prise open the opposing defence.
As the skies darkened the referees patience was tested, forcing a series of penalties. Leek received the first yellow of the match reducing them to 14 players. The home side then dug in to endure a concerted assault by the visitors.
As Leek were restored to full playing strength, it was Stafford’s turn to be punished and have their team reduced by one.
Further pressure was heaped on the visitors when a second consecutive yellow temporarily reduced them to 13 and only a sustained magnificent defence kept a snarling home side at bay.
As Stafford endured, sufficient time elapsed to bring their playing compliment back up to 14 players. Leek responded by incurring their second yellow of the afternoon to reduce their team by one. The half drew to a close with both side having gained two yellow cards and both teams having played some good periods of rugby on an unforgiving pitch.
The two 14-man teams kicked off the second half with a gloomy sky and slippery surface continuing to make playing conditions difficult.
Leek adjusted quicker and soon gained their second try. The home side continued to exert pressure, but a tenacious Stafford defence saw the attack disrupted and Vinny Hogan pounced on loose ball to run in the visitors first try, Martin narrowing the gap to two points.
Leek pressure was relentless and they added a penalty, followed by a converted try. The yellow card was in use again as Stafford were reduced to 14 again. The visitors endured a ferocious barrage, which resulted in a further Leek try, prior to the home side incurring their third yellow of the afternoon to even up the number of players on the pitch. Stafford continued to fight valiantly but were unable to prevent two further Leek tries.
This Saturday, Stafford entertain Ludlow in the league (2.15pm).