ON a crisp and dry winter’s day at Hillheads, Rockcliff welcomed a much improved Seaton Carew side in one of the day’s few surviving fixtures due to heavy frost that had hit the region.
Rockcliff rang the changes in the pack, welcoming back veteran forwards prop Drew Hayton and lock Neil Thornton.
Dale Harrison moved to the flank to partner the versatile Josh Donnelly as breakaway forwards, and a recovered Jonny Birkett was back in at number eight.
Dan Simpson returned to scrum-half with skipper Andrew Webster pulling the strings at fly-half.
Seaton came to Hillheads on a good run of form and wanting to reverse the result of the fixture at their home when Rockcliff came out with a hard fought win, and the watching crowd expected a tough game.
The Seaton pack is a good unit, and the red and golds got what they expected.
Rockcliff started well, the forwards were solid and the backs looked dangerous.
After 12 minutes Bryan Stewart sliced through the opposition backs to create a try which Richard Berne touched down in the corner.
Stewart is having a great season and this match was typical of his preformances – great vision and excellent distribution which surely make him a contender for player of the year if he keeps this up.
The following 40 minutes of the match saw a complete change in the game with Seaton coming back strongly and dominating possession and territory.
The Seaton pack are no pushovers and they started to apply real pressure on the Rockcliff line, recycling the ball, going through phase after phase with their big forwards making ground.
And it was no shock when they piled over for two tries before half-time, also adding points with a penalty as a result of a forward infringement to lead 13-5 at the break.
The second half started in much the same vein, with the visitors pounding the red and gold’s line, but with less success as in the first half and the Rock supporters in the large crowd sensed that the match was turning.
The tackling from both sides was ferocious, with no quarter asked or given with Dan Timney and Paul Ellwood putting in and taking some shuddering tackles.
Gradually Rockcliff started to see more of the ball and a good passage of play saw the ball moved out to Stewart who sailed through the defence.
A great try which he ran in under the posts for skipper Andrew Webster to convert for 13-12.
Back came Seaton Carew and again the Rockcliff defence held out.
After a period of Rockcliff pressure led a good catch and drive move saw substitute Karl Briggs and he dived over for a try.
A fantastic performance by the forwards who had been under the cosh for a long period of the match.
Again Webster added the conversion for 19-13.
The final Rockcliff score was a penalty after a decision was marched ten metres forward after backchat, allowing Webster to slot it home with aplomb.
There was still time for a final try from the big Seaton pack, but it was to no avail and the game was over.
The red and gold’s came away with a hard earned victory, a great result and a real boost to the pack who had worked their socks off.
Coach Tom Rendles was full of praise for his young team after the game, and rightly applauded Seaton Carew for their contribution to an exciting contest.