Rockcliff earn narrow victory against battling Barney

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Rockcliff RFC had a longer journey to Barnard Castle this week and faced a tough side and a steep slope.

With the warm-up hampered due to sat-nav chaos, the Rockcliff side found themselves put to the sword early on by a ruthless Barnard Castle.

In a half the visiting red and gold players will soon want to forget, their defence was constantly threatened as Barnard moved the ball well and attacked the wide channels.

Barneys pressure told and before long they were seven points up after a well worked try.

Whitley seemed to bounce back from this disappointment and soon found themselves in the Barney 22 after Drew Taylor chopped tackled and Niall Stokes got hands on the ball to generate a turnover from the kick-off.

Five phases later the pressure told as Steven Scott made his usual drop over the try line in the corner.

Despite Barney protests both the referee and the linesman agreed the player had stayed in field.

However, the 7-5 scoreline was not to last long as Barnard Castle again pressed the Rockcliff defence and took another try after stretching the defence to make it 14-5.

The rest of the half continued in Barney’s favour as they played well and took another two penalties before the end of the half.

Rockcliff made poor decisions as well as losing the breakdown and the mainline battles.

Hints of what the team were capable of did show through as Jonny Earnshaw and Simon Ayre regularly threatened to do something magical, and Stu Thomson made his usual 50-metre break before seeing a yellow in the last five minutes of the half for lying on the wrong side of the ruck.

Overall not a half the Rockcliff players will want to remember as they looked down and out.

After a stern half-time team talk, things began to change for the Hillheads men.

With Stu Thomson still off the pitch the 14 players on it pressured Barnard Castle in their own 22 and Webster duly convert two tries in quick concession.

After the second flew between the sticks, Thomson returned to the pitch and coach Jack Lambert began to make changes to build on the momentum.

Tomma Dawson entered the fray and made an impact on the scrum and Chris Keen turned the tide at the breakdown.

Ricki Hasnip also stepped onto the pitch and began to win the gainline as he marauded through the centre of the pitch like a man possessed.

The Rockcliff players began to control the tempo of the game and before long Ryan McLeod was superbly put into a gap by Andrew Webster and duly placed the ball down after some sparkling footwork. Webster converted and suddenly only two points separated the sides.

Rockcliff’s scrum had been dominant all game and was making the side 20 metres per handling error and ensuring Rockcliff kept possession of the ball.

Barnard Castle props and second rows alike were breaking from the scrum, going backwards and having to rejoin as if it was a maul.

Webster and Dan Simpson were giving Rockcliff field position with the boot and Jonny Earnshaw led the defensive line in the kick chase. With the ball in the right area of the pitch Simon Ayre gained half a gap and danced through to give Rockcliff the lead. Webster again converted giving Rock a five-point lead with ten minutes to go.

Like the strong side they are, Barnard stepped up to going behind and pressed the Rockcliff try line until the last seconds of the game, however, it was four points going back to Whitley Bay.

Next week Rockcliff welcome South Tyneside College to Hillheads for a 3pm kick-off.