Percy Park return to winning ways

Percy Park's Michael Stephenson in action during their narrow win over Billingham. Picture by Stu Robertson.
Percy Park's Michael Stephenson in action during their narrow win over Billingham. Picture by Stu Robertson.

A SUPERB second half performance with 21 unanswered points gave Percy Park a bonus point win over Billingham, a result which seemed unlikely after the home side scored within 30 seconds.

Park welcomed back Ali Blair and Adam Morton in the centre, while Andy Dunn was back on the bench after several months on the sidelines due to a shoulder injury.

From the start Park took possession and the ball was played back to Michael Stephenson who kicked the ball deep behind his opposite number Craig Shepherd.

The Billingham full back retrieved the ball then set off at pace and a delicate chip over the heads of the oncoming defence, allowed him to re-gather the ball and feed fly half Peter Evans who ran in under the posts for the opening score.

When Billingham were penalised for side entry in a ruck, Ash Smith kicked the penalty and a few minutes later Park took the lead with when Ali Blair finished off a well worked try as the visitors patiently went through several phases before spinning the ball wide to their pacy back line.

Smith missed the conversion, and missed a penalty to further extend their lead.

Billingham’s backs are renowned for their innovative play and always looked dangerous with ball in hand. With an attack just inside the Park half, fly half Evans spotted Park napping wide out and a cross kick to full back Shepherd put him in at the corner as his side regained the lead 12-8.

Minutes later another chip through saw Michael Evans retrieve the ball and score under the posts.

Park were guilty of missing several first up tackles and when Jack Davidson was sin binned for repeated offending on 35 minutes, the omens were not good as Evans kicked the penalty and then a well placed drop goal a few minutes later to put his side 25-8 ahead.

With the last play of the half, Percy Park were awarded a penalty just inside the Bill half, Smith went for a long range kick at goal which hit the crossbar and stayed out.

In the second half Park had the slope, but started a man down. Smith had a penalty chance go wide as Park seemed to step up a gear and used the powerful running of James Bird who tore great holes in the Billingham defence.

On 58 minutes after several penalties, the referee ran out of patience and the home side hooker Dave Reay was yellow carded.

Two minutes later Park stretched the Billingham defences and a wide cut out pass saw Stephenson just hang on to the ball and go over in the corner for the try. Smith converted.

Less than a minute later Jack Davidson crossed the line on the right wing, and another well placed conversion brought Park right back into the game at 25-22 with the last quarter to play.

Nerves seemed to get the better of the home side as their supporters went quiet and Park piled on the pressure.

Bird had been proved Park’s most potent strike force and eventually he got his reward as he rounded his man on the left wing to score Park’s fourth try and seal the bonus point. Smith was on target with the conversion and Park led 25-29 with four minutes of normal time remaining.

Park continued to attack but when Billingham were in possession they still looked dangerous. As more and more time was added, the Park supporters were praying for the final whistle to secure a five point win.

Well into added time Stephenson came close to making it five tries when he chipped ahead close to the line with one defender to beat. The ball went loose over the line and Howard Stock touched down in the corner but the referee blew for a knock on.

When the final whistle did go, after 11 additional minutes, Park were delighted to have done the double over Billingham, and retain fourth place in National 3 North.

Next week the 1st XV play Burnage at Preston Avenue, kick off 3pm.

ALNWICK II 23, PERCY PARK LIONS 20

WITH injuries, and unavailability galore, Park’s second XV travelled to Alnwick with a bit of a scratch side which included regular Lions players, third teamers and Colts.

They played some good rugby in parts and scored three tries through Harry Thorpe, Zak Rutter and Rob Lenderyou, with a conversion and penalty from Alun Barlow.

Park were unlucky not to win the game with a great one-handed off load by Barlow to Thorpe being judged a forward pass with the speeder Park winger with the line at his mercy.

Next week the Lions play Morpeth Reivers at Mitford Road in the semi final of the Northumberland No2 Cup, kick off 2.30pm.