A FINE display by Percy Park Lions means they leapfrog West Hartlepool Stags in the league and move up to second behind high-flyers Tynedale Raiders.
With no first XV fixtures, this was the top club game in Northumberland, and it proved to be a fast and exciting contest with both sides playing their part in a free flowing match which entertained the spectators who braved the gale force winds.
The Stags kicked off with the wind at their backs and opened their account after 12 minutes through a Zac Southern penalty.
West had the upper hand early on, particularly at the scrummage, although this was soon rectified and in the second half the Park pack turned the tables on the Hartlepool visitors.
With 20 minutes gone, Park mounted an attack outside the West 22, the ball was played to Thomas Turnbull at fly-half who, seeing the rush defence, chipped the ball through to Jonny Ward who snapped up the ball and sped across the line to score the opening try. Paul Spowart then converted to give Park a 7-3 lead.
The Stags hit back immediately when Craig Gilmour picked up from the base of an attacking scrum and set off past the Park back row with only the full-back to beat.
The burly number eight barged over the line, and with the conversion by Southern, West were back in front.
The home side came back with their second try on the half hour when open side Hamish Lockwood picked up a loose ball and breezed past the Stags defence.
He ran a full 40 metres with players in support to score close to the posts, which assisted Spowart with the conversion in the difficult conditions.
Some back chat to the referee following the touchdown resulted in Park being awarded a penalty from the restart.
With Park ahead 14-10, West regained the lead when veteran Davy Tighe made a telling break and popped the ball inside to Gilmour in support. The conversion again by Zac Southern took the score to 17-14 to the visitors.
The game was evenly poised when from a West attack the ball was spilled and right wing Ward picked up and raced to the line leaving defenders in his wake. Paul Spowart was bang on target with the left footed conversion at the break Park led 21-17.
In the second half the strong wind picked up even more and Percy Park used this to their full advantage to keep the Stags penned in their own half.
Almost from the kick-off Park were awarded a penalty which Spowart converted for 24-17.
A high tackle on Zak Appleby-Rutter gave Spowart a further opportunity to stretch the lead but the long range effort went wide.
Park were then awarded another penalty and again the option was to go for goal.
What followed can only be described in golfing terms as a ‘shank’ as Spowart mis-hit the ball which turned into a nice cross field kick which was pounced upon by Ward who crossed the line for what he and the team thought was his hat-tick.
However, referee Richard Kain thought different, giving a penalty to West on their 22, judging the Park wing to have been in front of the kicker.
West tried valiantly to run the ball back on every occasion they had the play, but the home defence held strong.
The Lions were looking for maximum points and a fourth try.
Unlike their illustrious first XV counterparts, Park’s second XV have managed to score bonus points in most of their games.
Park attacked from a scrum in the West half with Ian Bradley picking up from the base to feed replacement scrum half Stevie Irving, who spun the ball out to Howard Stock on the left. The young wing did well to pick the ball up from his boot laces and recovered his stride to go over in the corner. Spowart notched the conversion on 75 minutes for a lead of 31-17.
West threw everything back at Park as a converted try would have given them a losing bonus point, but the home side held firm.
On Saturday the Lions are again at home to Darlington Mowden Park in the league, with the first XV travelling to Hollow Drift in a resumption of the league.
The Pumas are still looking for a fixture and the Marauders are away to Blyth 3rds in a friendly.
GOSFORTH FALCONS 17 PERCY PARK PUMAS 37
THE Pumas kept up their assault on the league title with a good away win at Druid Park.
Mike Baker, looking to re-stake his place back in the Lions, scored a brace of tries.
WB ROCKCLIFF VIKINGS 22 PERCY PARK MARAUDERS 0
THE Marauders, missing a couple of players in key positions, lost out to Rockcliff’s second XV.
Despite the loss to their local rivals, team stalwart John Todd could hardly wipe the smile from his face in the bar afterwards.
Having just come back from injury he achieved a landmark not many players can claim in that he has now played in all 15 positions for the Marauders.
The only position to have eluded him so far was scrum -half, and with the regular number nine not available, Todd stepped in.