NORTH Shields took the trip up to the Recreation Ground to face Ashington on Saturday.
Both teams knew this game was going to be the most important game of the season so far as whoever won would secure fifth place in the league for the Christmas break. Shields welcomed back Rob Dixon to the bench and Dom Casey in the back line.
The whistle blew and standoff Gavin Duffy floated a huge kick right into Ashington territory, the receiving player dropping the ball due to the pressure Shields put him under.
From here the Blues blitzed the ruck, Mark Hall picked up from the back of the ruck and barged up field to then go to ground and provide scrum half Warren Anderson with quick ball. Duffy grubber kicked through to winger Rhys Coltherd who outpaced the Ashington players and scored in the corner with less than a minute gone.
After this score the game was well contested by both sides with both attacking and defending very well.
Shields made a lot of ground on a few occasions with Anderson capitalising from quick penalties. Ashington found their way in to the Shields half and elected to kick for posts from a penalty, which was narrowly missed.
From here the Shields pack started to dominate in the loose with some excellent play and this helped the backs get clean ball.
With approximately ten minutes left in the half prop Chris Spedding broke and offloaded a pass to flanker Tony Jordon, who put number eight Andrew Leitch away in the centre of the park. Leitch dummied the fly half and put his head down to score under the posts from over 30 meters out, smashing through the opposition’s defence.
The hosts began to play some good forward orientated rugby with some strong driving mauls and scrums producing clean ball for their backs.
When the Ashington side found themselves 22 metres out with a lineout, there was nothing Shields could do to stop the powerful maul from crossing the try line.
The second half kicked off and Shields were the superior team in the opening ten minutes with some excellent attacking runs from the forwards and backs.
Shields’ pressure was rewarded with a penalty on the half way line that Duffy kicked into the corner.
Shields elected for a quick catch and drive that the hosts had no answer for as they made their way up to the try line. Hall broke off the back of the ruck to score in the corner, assisted by flanker Ben Dalton who smashed Hall over the line.
Ashington started to play some excellent attacking rugby that saw Shields concede two tries within 20 minutes, but Shields refused to let their heads drop.
Shields again upped their work rate, playing some outstanding attacking rugby, led by some great runs from centres Dom Casey and Ryan Ramsey in particular.
With 12 minutes left on the clock, Shields had a penalty in front of the posts that was converted by Duffy, leaving only one point between the sides.
Shields were dominating in attack now. When Shields won another Ashington lineout, they quickly got the ball out to Paul Wells on the wing, who brilliantly broke the line and passed back inside to the on-coming Leitch, who drew the covering tackler and then offloaded to Ramsey who scored the try in the corner.
Ashington attacked in desperation to try and recover the game, however Shields defended extremely well and let nothing past and in the end deserved their bonus point win. Men of the match on this occasion had to be Warren Anderson who gave Shields that extra edge with excellent quick ball and some decisive decision making and full back Dale Jones who kicked out of hand very well and gave Shields another option in the defence to crash the ball up field.
Overall this was a fantastic result for North Shields. Special mention has to go out to coach Ian Chandler who has really turned Shields around this season, especially the team’s fitness and also his assistants Barry Elliot and Ian Hook.
Shields now have a two week break for Christmas, with the next game being a league fixture at Preston Playing Fields against Prudhoe & Stocksfield on Saturday, January 5, with a 2.15pm kick-off.
North Shields RFC is always looking to welcome new players to the club, young or old, experienced or novice.
If you’re interested in coming along to play, training sessions are at 7pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Or you can contact the club on (0191) 257 7352, or via the website, www.northshieldsrfc.co.uk