A LAST minute try by the home side meant an inexperienced Rockcliff side came away from Barnard Castle with only a single bonus point as reward for all their hard work.
At 12.30pm coach Tommy Rendles and team manager Gavin Donnelly were frantically looking for a team; call-offs due to other commitments of work, holidays, and injury, meant that Rockcliff left for the trip south with 17 players, with Rendles himself on the bench, and a very inexperienced pack on the pitch.
Playing down the hill in the first half, the pack, which included a debut for Billy Ellwood at hooker, and a start for the versatile Mark Wickett at lock, held their own against a big strong set of Castle forwards.
Skippered by Karl Briggs in place of the injured Andrew Webster, and with vice-captain Paul Ellwood recovering from a bout of concussion, a much changed team finally started to get possession and instead of the cricket score that many in the crowd expected, Rockcliff clawed their way back into the game with an outstanding individual try from man of the match and vice captain for the day, Bryan Stewart.
Getting the score back to ten each, Josh Donnelly converted the try and slotted home a penalty, the Red and Gold’s then committed the cardinal sign of switching off for a minute and allowed the big Castle number six to set up a try almost from the kick off.
Injuries again had a big effect on the game with centre Ricky Hasnip going off with a recurrence of his wrist injury, which looks like might keep him out for a number of weeks, and young Billy Ellwood twisting his ankle meant a complete restructure of the front row.
DJ Dan Timney went to loose head prop, Thomas Dawson at hooker, and Duncan Jordan moved to tight head.
They performed brilliantly considering they were all in unfamiliar positions, with loose head looking to be a position that Dan Timney is a natural at, and surely will continue to play and train as a front row specialist.
Again Rockcliff fought back into the game and after good work by the forwards, going through the phases, retaining the ball, pressure in the opponents 22, doing the things that they do in training week in, week out.
Skipper Karl Briggs scampered over for a try to tie the score at 15 each with only minutes left on the clock.
Due to the injuries and replacements etc, the referee played on for a further seven minutes, and with the last play of the match, missed tackles let in another Barnard Castle forward for a messy try that Rockcliff stood and watched, partly due to a call from the referee that was misunderstood.
WHITLEY BAY ROCKCLIFF RFC 2nds 32 NOVOS 2nds 10
THE Vikings recent run of good form continued with an excellent result against Novos.
Steve Welton scored for the second game in a row when he crashed over, converted by Chris Foster.
Captain Sam Heppell then touched down from a push over scrum and Louis Partis followed up with a snipe through from a ruck.
Flying Yorkshireman Craig Tomlinson scored from a good back row move with the scrum half and number eight combining to send him through. Andrew Telford then finished off some good phases of play by forwards and backs to dart through and cross the line.
Ferenc Hguy then marked his debut after good work by the pack sucked in the Novos defence and opened a gap in the centres for him to score through.