BURTON were dumped out of the Staffordshire County Cup in the opening round after suffering defeat at lower league Leek on Saturday.
The Staffordshire Moorlands outfit have enjoyed a great start to the season, winning 10 out of 11 league games in Midlands Two West (North) and reaching the last eight in the RFU Intermediate Cup.
Leek took that form into the opening half to establish a 13-0 lead at the interval. And despite a second-half try from Ian Gilmour, the hosts ran out deserved winners at F Ball Park.
Leek started in lively fashion, and only resolute defence by Ben Marshall prevented the Moorlanders from taking the lead.
After withstanding the early onslaught Burton gradually began to get into the game with Tom Harris and newcomer Ed Nicholls prominent.
The Burton scrummage also began to function well with a penalty awarded for persistent infringements by the Leek front row.
But Dave Archer was unable to take advantage, missing his three-point attempt on goal.
Leek then began to take control and following a series of strong drives Burton were penalised for offside – and Gary McDermott kicked the hosts into a 3-0 lead.
Burton responded well but an indiscretion by Joe Gazzard saw him receive a yellow card.
The Moorlanders took advantage to score a fine converted try shortly after, and added a further penalty in the last play of the half with the Crofters again caught offside.
With a deficit of 13 points at the interval. Burton needed a strong start in the second half - but a penalty following the kick-off saw Leek extend their lead even further.
In reply Burton enjoyed their best phases of play with strong running from Josh Cartwright, Lawrence Betty and Nicholls leading to Betty being held up over the try line.
From the resultant scrum Harry Titley was able to kick through, enabling Gilmour to touch down for an unconverted try.
Minutes later a drive by Leek saw Burton once again penalised for offside. And a quick tap saw the visitors caught out for not retreating the full distance.
McDermott dissected the posts to give the hosts a 19-5 lead.
Burton then came alive with Marshall making a jinxing run, and with good support from the forwards the Crofters continued to press forward.
Betty appeared to have scored a try only for the referee to adjudge that he had benefited from a forward pass.
The unfortunate Ben Burchill then had to leave the field with a leg injury.
Leek attempted to take advantage by pressing forward, but good Burton defence prevented a try.
The re-jigged Crofters front row of Charl Neethling, Matt Tivey and Tom Murphy began to take control of the scrummage, and following strong runs by Archer, Titley and Betty Burton nearly played themselves back into the game.
But a penalty for not releasing saw the momentum broken.
Craig Dutton replaced Ben Cooke in the back row and a dangerous tackle by a Leek player saw the hosts reduced to 14 men for the latter stages of the game.
Despite the numerical disadvantage, it was the impressive Moorlanders who scored a last-minute try to make the score 24-5 at the final whistle.
Burton must now concentrate on the league and remain in second place in Midlands One, with everything to play for in 2014.