Park closing in on league promotion

SUPERIOR fitness and forward power was the difference between the sides as Park stepped up a gear in the last ten minutes to move five points clear of Middlesbrough in third place in North One East.

The game was evenly poised on the hour mark at 22-22 before the visitors moved into over-drive with four tries in 14 minutes to bring Northern’s winning streak to an end.

Park were forced to make several changes ahead of the game with Howard Stock, Liam Blackburn, David Griffiths and Simon Greetham all out with injuries.

Phil Morse, who came back into the side at full back after a long absence, kicked Park’s opening points with a penalty on two minutes, before former Tynedale player Kris Borthwick brought Northern level.

Park had the upper hand in the early exchanges, but there was little in it until Ali Blair crossed the line for Park’s opening try.

Park had a scrum inside the home side half and with the ball won, Kai Downey-Stevenson crashed the ball up into the heart of the Northern defence, the ball was quickly re-cycled as Greg Dixon powered ahead, quick ball again gave Blair space wide on the right as he glided past the last defender stepping inside towards the posts to make the conversion a little easier.

Borthwick had the chance to bring Northern closer with a relatively easy penalty, but the normally clinical left footed kicker was just off target.

Park were soon on the attack again and with the backs all up in the line, Phil James saw the opportunity to seize an interception and the right wing raced 60 metres to score. Borthwick’s conversion brought the sides level again.

It was then the home side’s chance to exert pressure before a loose pass in the midfield was toe-ended by Ash Smith. Blair and Smith raced off up field to retrieve the ball which bounced on its end and into the hands of Blair who ran 50 metres to the line to score under the posts.

Park had stretched referee Tony Parlett’s patience to the limit giving away a string of first half penalties, and five minutes into the second period, the yellow card was brandished to Craig Fidler for slowing down the Northern ball in the Park red zone.

The numerical advantage gave Northern the edge seeing prop Chris Stewart go over from a catch and drive before Borthwick again levelled the scores with the conversion.

Greg Dixon was replaced by Sean Williamson in the back row, and it was he who gave the try scoring pass to Johnny Ward on the right wing to move Park back in front. The overnight rain had made conditions a little greasy underfoot and Morse slipped as he attempted the conversion.

Northern hit back and on the hour mark, full back Olly Walker scored a fine individual effort cutting through the Park defensive line and going in at the left hand corner.

As in the recent game against Cleckheaton, Park found another gear in the closing stages which Northern just could not live with. Smith was again involved in creating the next try as his delicate chip over the Northern defence put him in space to retrieve the ball ten metres out before off-loading to openside Jack Davidson in support, for the bonus point try which Morse converted.

With two minutes of normal time remaining Park picked up the pace again and attacked the Northern line. Quick recycling saw Andy Dunn in space with a three man overlap on the left. The Park hooker threw a high wide pass which found prop Joe Wafer on the left wing, who went over for the touchdown.

Northern were now waiting for the final whistle which did not come as Park notched two further injury time tries through Downey-Stephenson and Blair.

Percy Park now need 5 points from their remaining two games to secure second spot and a chance to expunge the painful memory of last year’s playoff defeat to Burnage.

Yesterday (Wednesday), Percy Park were home to Alnwick in the semi-final of the Northumberland Senior Cup, and return to league duties at home to Durham City on Saturday.

BLAYDON II 37

PERCY PARK LIONS 51

PARK’S second XV bounced back from last week’s cup final disappointment to win at Crowtrees and stay in second place in Candy League division one.

Colts lock Josh Hedley, who was drafted into the side, scored two tries. Others to feature on the scoresheet were Matthew Dale, Andrew Clyde, Matthew Ovington, Stephen Baskerville and Phil Thompson. Paul Spowart kicked two penalties and five conversions.

On Saturday the Lions take on Morpeth Reivers at Mitford Road.