Park edging closer to West at the top

Percy Park's Ali Blair in action against Durham City.
Percy Park's Ali Blair in action against Durham City.
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A LATE Durham City try, although fully deserved, made percy Park’s winning margin look closer than it was.

In reality, Park had the upper hand from the off with only Durham’s dogged determination keeping the home side from a comprehensive win.

Nevertheless, a bonus point win moves Park a point closer to West Hartlepool, who sneaked an injury time try through Gareth Foreman to deny Wheatley Hills a win.

Although overnight rain meant the pitch was bound to cut up a little, the surface was sound enough for running rugby with all seven tries coming through the three-quarters.

The kick-off was delayed by ten minutes as City had some players and officials stuck at the new Tyne Tunnel crossing.

Park started well and within five minutes were on the scoresheet after Ali Blair touched down in the left hand corner following a pass from Ash Smith.

Man of the match Smith nearly got on the scoresheet minutes later with another break down the left, but a last ditch tackle caused a knock-on just short of the line.

The home side had kept Durham tied down in their own half for long periods, and when a maul was driven over 20 yards from a lineout just outside the 22, Park opted to move the ball out to the back line, when they had the line at their mercy, and a good try scoring opportunity went begging.

Nevertheless Park kept up the pressure and on the half hour the Smith–Blair combo worked again as the Park full-back used his pace to breach the defence.

With only the young City winger to beat, Smith lobbed an inside pass to Blair which was knocked back by the Durham player.

As both players wrestled for the ball it was Blair who came out on top and drove over the line to score. Smith kicked the conversion.

City’s restart went dead, gifting Park a scrum on halfway.

After a series of drives by the forwards, the ball was spun left and Smith burst through several tackles to go over for the try, which he was unable to convert.

Percy Park then had a spell camped on the City line from which they took a scrum five metres out after a penalty was awarded to the home side.

With the home side 17-0 up, City came back into the game and scored just before the break when full-back Rob Smith broke through a couple of tackles to score under the posts. Arnie Stevenson kicked the conversion.

Just before half-time, City’s open-side Jeff Roberts was sent to the sin bin as referee David Charlton ran out of patience, having previously warned City about persistent infringing.

In the second period Park had the advantage of the slope and the swirling wind, and made immediate inroads through the City defence.

After a passing move, Adam Fidler made a break for the line but was stopped with no immediate support.

City had rarely been allowed to venture out of their own half, and eventually the pressure paid off with a try by centre David Griffiths after another telling break by Smith and flanker Anth Dunn.

With Park now 24-7 up and the try bonus point in the bag, the foot came off the gas.

City then came back into the game, the home side tried to run the ball from behind their posts and were caught in possession, with City awarded a five-metre scrum. The ball was spun right and full-back Rob Smith broke through some ineffective tackles to score.

Park restarted and continued to lay siege to the City defence.

Rutter surprisingly missed an easy penalty kick in front of the posts.

City, to their credit, never gave up and were rewarded for their persistence with an injury time try by wing Luke Burgess, which remained unconverted.

On Saturday it is second versus third as Park play host to Wheatley Hills, kick-off 3pm.