Rockcliff on form as they shut out Whitby despite several changes

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FOLLOWING on from last week’s gutsy display at Consett, the Rockcliff Red and Golds recorded their second shut out win of the season with a 26-0 home win over Whitby.

Rockcliff had to make changes to the side with captain Andrew Webster out for a month with a broken thumb.

He was replaced by the versatile Josh Donnelly who stepped in at stand-off.

Karl Briggs replaced the unavailable Dan Simpson at scrum-half and again gave a great performance, while Duncan Jordan, and Thomas Dawson came into the pack at loose and tight heads.

The game started with Rockcliff looking to run the ball at every opportunity, and it was not long before the flying wingers of Steven Scott and Ross Skene were in the action, and with number eight Johnny Birkett rampaging around the park it was only a matter of time before the Red and Gold’s open their account.

The first try was a well worked move involving good hands from Birkett and Donnelly, moving across the back line for Richard Berne to score in the corner, a great try which had the crowd purring in appreciation of flowing rugby.

The conversion from a tight angle was duly slotted by Donnelly, and with 11 minutes gone Rockcliff were 7-0 up.

Whitby were being pulled apart and only desperate defence from them denied Rockcliff adding another try.

The second score eventually came on 22 minutes after pressure from the home forwards led to a tap penalty from which acting captain Paul Ellwood powered over to register his first try of the season.

Rockcliff were playing great rugby and after a good steal from Jack Lambert the ball was quickly transferred out to Steven Scott who went over in the corner, a flowing move involving the whole back line. Donnelly duly converted to make the half-time score 19-0 to the Red and Golds.

What happened in the second half is a mystery.

The team talk was good, the intention was there, but Rockcliff seemed to stop playing, allowing Whitby to grow in confidence and to start to apply pressure of their own, so much so they could have set up camp in the Rockcliff 22.

But resilient defence kept them at bay and after a period of prolonged pressure, Rockcliff eventually broke out of their own half, which resulted in a fine individual try by Bryan Stewart with ten minutes remaining.

This secured the bonus point and Donnelly knocked the conversion over to put the final nail in the Whitby coffin.

NORTHERN RFC 3rds 46 WHITLEY BAY RFC VIKINGS 2nds 46

A DRAMATIC late try and conversion salvaged a draw for Vikings after an end to end game.

Rockcliff were six tries to one up at one point but after being reduced to 13 men through injuries Northern got back into the game and established a seven point lead.

Aiden McKeown and Andrew Telford both score two tries and Chris Keen, Phillip Schofield, Tommy O’Hearn kept Rockcliff in the game with a try apiece, McKeown converting two of them. In the last minute Steve Welton powered over to score and McKeown added the conversion to tie the game.

AHINGTON RFC 3rds 26 WHITLEY BAY RANGERS 27

THE Rangers gave veteran captain Andy Sarin a hard fought birthday present with a rare win over Ashington.

They say that size doesn’t matter but for once Rockcliff out girthed the formidable Ashington pack, and added a few forwards to the back line for good measure.

Ed Poltic served up a man of the match performance at stand off, and the game saw welcome returns to action for Alun James, Paul Finlay, Trevor Straker and Dave Swinburne.

Stephen Mason put in another good shift and Jamie Laiffe was also in the thick of the action. Ian Whitworth notched two tries, and Alun James, Dave Swinburne and Lawrence Fletcher each added a try with Dave Trigger adding one conversion.

ROCKCLIFF MINI RUGBY

ROCKCLIFF under-nines had the honour of playing in front of the 3,000-plus crowd at Kingston Park on Saturday in the final of the Newcastle Falcons Festival Plate competition.

In their first competitive match in the contact version of the game, Rock entered the Plate after losing 3-1 to a strong Morpeth team who showed talent to break a defence featuring the relentless tackling of Max Liddle and passion of Jamie Blackburn but missing the commitment of absent stalwart Danny Milne.

It looked like a repeat might follow against Sunderland whose tenacity in the ruck took Rock by surprise, but Charlie Hepworth steadied the ship with accurate passing but a dubious score for the Wearsiders saw honours even at 2-2.

Next came a lively Novos outfit who played with passion but were unable to wriggle through a Rock defence featuring a confident Joel Delstanche and ultimately succumbed 4-0 punctuated by barnstorming runs from Aran Keenan and incisive darts from Isaac Waters.

With a place in the final beckoning, the match against a Northern team saw a surprisingly relaxed Rockcliff score five with just one in reply, Adam Graham showing fantastic commitment in defending his line against much bigger opponents and Chris Sugden paying scant regard to the coach’s instruction for a fine individual score.

The final against Westoe Wasps took place at half-time of the LV= Cup tie between Newcastle Falcons and Cardiff Blues.

Rockcliff were undaunted by the surroundings but quickly went 2-0 down as Westoe’s disciplined attack told.

Up stepped Sam Thompson to sprint three-quarters of the length of the pitch to cap a fine day’s work with a score in the final.

Thompson, Liddle and Hepple all made fine attacking runs but the final whistle came too soon and the Rockcliff boys had to settle for runners-up medals.