A TWENTY-minute spell either side of half-time was the difference between two sides who wanted to play open and expansive rugby.
Team Northumbria, still smarting from their 20-3 defeat against Park at Bullocksteads earlier in the season, kicked off with a slight wind advantage, and showed their intent penning Park in their own half for most of the first five minutes.
Showing their willingness to run, the visitors scored after four minutes when Adam McKenzie finished off a good move which saw Park run out of defenders wide on the right. Joe Rowntree missed the conversion.
Park regained their composure after a shaky start and a good run by Thomas Turnbull was halted inside the Northumbria 22.
The ball was recycled, but the visitors, in an attempt to close down the attack, were offside in front of their posts giving Ash Smith the simplest of penalties. Surprisingly the kick went wide.
For the next ten minutes Park repelled everything the University could throw at them, with some bone crunching tackles particularly by Park’s hooker Andy Dunn.
Park spent several minutes without the ball as the visitors pressed looking for a weakness to exploit, but found none.
When Park looked to run the ball from their own 22 and were penalised for crossing, Joe Rowntree opted for the kick at goal, but missed an easy opportunity to stretch the lead.
With eight minutes to go in the half, the home side went on the offensive as both Martin Shaw was stopped, then Brett Sylph, before the ball was spun wide to Howard Stock on the right wing to go over for the try as referee John Ash played advantage.
With the difficult conversion missed, Park’s efforts were made a little easier when open side Ben Frankland was yellow carded for repeated infringement just before the break.
Park patiently built up another attack and Brett Sylph scored on 42 minutes. Smith’s conversion dropped under the cross bar, so the half ended 10-5.
In the second period with only a minute on the clock, Ali Blair crossed the line on the left wing to score for the home side, after the heavy cavalry had taken on the ball first through Sylph, then Reekie and Dunn. Smith converted from out wide.
Team Northumbria kept in touch with a penalty by Rowntree, before Park then stepped up a gear to take control of the game.
In the first 20 minutes of the second half Park played some of their best rugby all season, with superb interplay between backs and forwards, denying the visitors any ball to work with.
On 50 minutes Smith scored a well worked try, from a set scrum. The ball was fed to fly half Martin Shaw, who passed to Smith then ran around the Park centre to make the overlap.
Smith dummied the defender and stepped on the gas to go through the gap and scored under the posts for the bonus point. Converting his own try, the Northumberland County Under 20 stretched Park’s lead to 24-8.
Park thought they had scored moments later when Chris Reekie barged over the line, but the referee adjudged the ball to be held up.
John Scott’s men were in the ascendancy and the visitors could do nothing to stop the assaults on their line.
Park’s next attack led to a try by centre David Griffiths after Martin Shaw stabbed the ball through the gap and the ball sat up nicely for Griffiths to take the ball over the line. The conversion took the score to 31-8 and Park looked to be cruising for another big win.
The Team Northumbria spirit although dented, was still in evidence and a good move up the right, saw centre McKenzie go over for his second try of the game on 67 minutes.
Park resumed their strangle hold on the game. After a couple of re-sets close to the try-line, No. 8 Sylph picked up and drove for the line to score, his second of the game and Park’s sixth try on 73 minutes.
Northumbria scored the last points of the game on the stroke of full time through replacement Bellon.
On Saturday Percy Park travel to Carlisle hoping to avenge last season’s defeat and maintain the drive for promotion to the national leagues.
Meanwhile Percy Park Lions kept their grip on top spot of the Candy Division 2, with an emphatic second half display to beat Gateshead II 31-0. The Pumas went down in a close game to Blyth II, but the Marauders continued their rich vein of form with a 61-0 demolition of Blyth III.