Rockcliff advance to Senior Plate last four

Rockcliff made it through to the semi-finals of the County Senior Plate with a good win at Wallsend.

Fielding a side of youthful endeavour and experienced guile, Rockcliff travelled to Wallsend with a mixed side of third, second, and first team players to battle an opposition comprising of a similar mix.

New signing, former Ashington captain Ben Butler started in the pack alongside Leon Smart, which is possibly the first time since 1923 that Rock have fielded a second row of players over 6ft 4in.

They provided the power behind Dan Atkinson, Andrew Moore and Thomas Dawson. Second team captain Gary Lewis, Sean Wood, and Niall Stokes completed the pack.

Lewis Partis returned after a season’s break at scrum-half, Ross Bailey started at ten, and the flying backs were Conor Ball, Sam Stirling, Josh Donnelly, Keiran Lydall, and Andrew Telford.

On the bench, Neil Mather started his 35th season as a Rockcliff 1st XV player, alongside Steve Vert. Both got into the action and contributed to an excellent team performance.

In the first scrum Rockcliff pushed the Wallsend pack back metres, and this continued throughout the match, providing Partis with excellent ball to spread across the backs to great effect.

The pressure resulted in the first try after nine minutes. The backs broke, recycled the ball, and from a forward drive Butler went over the whitewash for his debut try in the Red and Gold shirt.

Dominant forward play provided the base for a second try on 24 minutes when Sean Wood took a pass to smash over.

Josh Donnelly converted then knocked over a penalty to increase the score before Wallsend’s best player Carl Cockburn reduced the deficit just before the break to make the half-time score 15-7 to Rockcliff.

Sam Stirling got try number three for Rockcliff with 52 minutes gone after good work from Ross Bailey, who kicked through for Stirling to pick up and cross the line, again converted by Donnelly.

Wallsend kept themselves in contention with an unconverted try for 22-12, but then Lydall went on a mazy run across the pitch, back again, then back again, before finding a gap to cross the line to score.

There was still time for a mini Wallsend revival and a spell on the sidelines for Wood as Rockcliff finished with 14 men.

Man of the match was awarded to Dan Atkinson, ran great lines and was as solid as a Rock at scrum time.

League action in Durham and Northumberland Division 2 starts next starts next week with a trip to Ashington.

Meanwhile Rockcliff 2nds were in action at Blyth ten-a-side competition, against Blyth, Morpeth, Novovcastrians and Westoe, and it was a good final workout for the Vikings. The competition was won by Morpeth.

All players new and old are reminded that training takes place on Tuesdays and Thursdays, from 6.30pm onwards at the clubhouse in Lovaine Avenue, Whitley Bay.

For more information contact the club on (0191) 251 3704, or at www.rockcliffrfc.co.uk