Rockcliff edge closer to promotion

Rockcliff rallied from last week’s defeat by league winners Ryton to take four valuable points on the road at Hartlepool and maintain second place in Durham and Northumberland Division 2.

There were late changes for Rockcliff coach Jack Lambert as Alex Meadows was out as a result of a training accident, flying try scorer Steven Scott was missing due to a thigh strain, and Chris Keen was unavaillable.

So in came Leon Smart, and there was a welcome return for young centre Jonny Earnshaw in the backs.

Matthew Bradley, Neil Mather, Thomas Dawson, Stu Thomson, Neil Thornton, Kai Downey-Stevenson and Liam Bowman made up the forwards, Lewis Partis, Andrew Webster, Tom Pike, Josh Donnelly, Simon Tindall, Ryan Yellop, and the returning Andrew Telford were the starting XV with Douglas Hall, Andrew Moore, joining Earnshaw on the bench.

Hartlepool are in the bottom three and started the match like a team struggling, with Rockcliff running in two tries, the first following good work by Donnelly giving a pop pass for Smart to smash over.

The second from Downey-Stevenson, playing out of his preferred hooker position as a flanker, both converted by skipper Andrew Webster.

Hartlepool had not been in the Rockcliff half, but a combination of nerves and an improving battling Pools performance began to swing the game.

Rockcliff looked from the lines that they were trying too hard, missing passes, dropping balls, getting isolated, and thinking that they needed to score a bagful of tries when all was required was a win.

This resulted in an unusually disjointed performance and a penalty was the only other score, with the half-time score 17-0 to Rockcliff.

In the second half, kicking down the hill with the wind, Hartlepool were a different team.

The pressure was put on Rockcliff and they competed for everything, scoring two tries and converting one, so at 17-12 things looked very dodgy for a nervous Rockcliff team.

But Rockcliff showed their character, and with Donnelly making some crunching tackles, they battled back.

Tom Pike was released on the wing and off he went to score the winning points, converted by Webster.

The Hartlepool number eight was voted their best player while Downey-Stevenson took the Rockcliff award.

Next week sees Rockcliff face third placed Sunderland at Hillheads in a game which if they win will ensure promotion.