ONCE again injuries and availability caused problems for the Rockcliff pack for Saturday’s game at home to Winlaton Vulcans.
With fit again Stu Thomson injuring himself in the warm-up and Drew Hayton, Alex Meadows and Paul Ellwood all unavailable Neil Thornton played his first match in six weeks and Billy Ellwood, still injured from the previous week’s game, was on the bench.
It was always going to be a tough game as the Winlaton pack are a large unit and they probably outweighed the smaller Rockcliff pack by a stone a man,.
But with Skipper Andy Webster back at stand-off, the Red and Golds’ game plan was to get the ball out to the speedy wingers Steven Scott and Simon Tindall, which of course was easier said than done.
The first scrum gave a portent of things to come with the Winlaton forwards pushing back the Rockcliff pack and turning over the ball.
In this instance they were unable to capitalise on their possession and the Rockcliff pack were able to get into the Winlaton half.
Although the game was only minutes old, the home forwards realised that what they lacked in weight they gained in speed and the ball was transferred up field at pace, and, following a number of phases, Scott made a lighting break, passing to Tindall, who put on the after burners and scorched over for a good try.
Webster was unlucky not to convert, and with five minutes gone the score stood at 5-0.
Winlaton’s forwards conceded a kickable penalty shortly after and gave Webster the opportunity to slot home under the posts to make it 8-0.
The visiting pack came back into the match and dominated the rest of the half, and it came as no surprise to the crowd when they powered over for a converted try to make the score 8-7.
Again Rockcliff fought their way into the Winlaton half, and again a visiting forward infringed and Webster slotted home his second penalty of the game for 11-7.
Back came Winlaton, and with Rockcliff’s Jack Lambert binned for hands in the ruck, a minor misdemeanour, it seemed to the large crowd that it would only be a matter of time before the visitors scored, but heroic Rockcliff defence held them at bay, helped again by Winlaton who had their hooker sin binned for a punch right in front of the referee.
The second half started as the first finished, with Winlaton dominating and camped in the Red and Golds’ 22-metre zone, but they were unable to convert their domination into points.
Eventually they won a penalty for a minor infringement which resulted in three points and made the score 11-10 as the sides changed ends.
Coach Thomas Rendles moved Dan Timney into the front row and brought on Frenchman Ronan Pressard, normally a centre, into the second row.
In the next scrum Rockcliff’s forwards shoved Winlaton back, a game changing scrum, and all the frustration that the visitors felt prior to this began to surface and they began to give away penalties, eventually resulting in another yellow card for the final ten minutes of the match.
With the final play, a scrum deep into the Winlaton half was awarded, this became uncontested as Winlaton had run out of props due to sin binnings and injuries, and the ball was shot out by Daniel Simpson to skipper Webster who saw the gap and went over to score.
He then converted convert his own try for 18-10 to Rockcliff.
ALNWICK RFC 3rds 30
WB ROCKCLIFF RFC 2nds 10
IN the Northumberland RU River Blyth league, fourth placed Vikings’ recent run of good form came to an end at fifth placed Alnwick.
But they gave a spirited performance, and Aiden McKeown and Andrew Telford kept up their recent scoring runs with a try apiece.
WINLATON RFC 3rds 52
WB ROCKCLIFF RFC 3nds 10
THIRD played fourth as the Rangers travelled with only 13 men to fulfil this Northumberland RU River Derwent league fixture.
And Rockcliff made a good fist of it, with man of the match Mickey Blake in rampant form.
Steven Scott made a welcome return to the Rangers and marked his return with two well taken tries, one of them converted by Rob Burns.