Rockcliff notched their third league win in a row and secured the Malcolm Flockton Cup in a great performance of discipline, power, and pace, running in nine tries against local rivals North Shields at a sunny Hillheads.
Coach Jack Lambert was forced into changes due to injuries, but the advantage of having a good pre-season and a regular training attendance meant that the players picked dropped into the game plan with minimal disruption.
Shields on the other hand did not have that luxury, so the crowd at Hillheads to witness the match, were surprised, nay shocked, to see former Rockcliff coach Tommy Rendles starting at ten for the visitors.
Rock welcomed back Karl Briggs at flanker, Leon Smart and Alex Meadows in the engine room, the front row was Martin Bradley, Charlie Murrey and Neil Mather, the evergreen veteran Simon Tindall slotted in at full-back, and Tom Dawson was on the bench, returning from a dislocated shoulder which he suffered in the cup match against North Shields earlier in the season.
Dawson was to play a big role as starting prop Bradley was injured in the first contact of the match and was forced to retire after ten minutes.
Lewis Partis was at scrum-half, skipper Andrew Webster at outside-half, Steven Scott, Bryan Stewart, Jonathan Earnshaw and Andrew Telford lined up in the backs. Chris Keen, and Neil Thornton completed the back row.
Shields started well, their forwards pushing back the smaller Rockcliff pack for a period of pressure that the home side did well to contain, and then the home side set up an attack of their own which resulted in the first try when Steven Scott crashed over for a well worked team try.
Captain Webster, who was the most influential player on the pitch, slotted home the conversion.
Before the half had ended, Andrew Telford had added try two and Webster had added a trademark individual try when he slipped and side-stepped his way through the large Shields pack to add try three.
Shields, who never let their heads down, came back with a response scoring a good try leaving the half time score at 19-7 to the home side.
With the North Shields forwards visibly wilting the teams took the field with Rockcliff intent on playing a brand of attacking rugby that soon had the visitors on the back foot.
Changes were made, Wiley for Tindall, Thomson for Meadows, and the red machine kept on moving forward.
Wiley ran in two tries making a great impression as substitute, Steven Scott finished a brilliant move after great work by man of the match Leon Smart, and Neil Thornton, after a great push by the forwards, claimed his first try of the season, all in all nine tries.
Shields to their credit kept on going and did score the final try of the match, and young Liam Lonsdale was voted their man of the match by Rockcliff’s sponsor Arco.
This Rock side are beginning to look like the team coach Lambert wants, a number of new players, and returning injured players are making the competition for positions very competitive, which is just what is needed to keep the team on its toes.
Next week Rockcliff face Prudhoe and Stocksfield away, a strong team will travel with the intent on keeping Rockcliff firmly in pole position in Durham and Northumberland division two.