WHITLEY Bay Rockcliff and Barnard Castle are two teams that so far have failed to live up to their favourites for promotion tags flollowing their good form at the end of last season.
On Saturday they met at Hillheads in an entertaining match with lots of free flowing and positive rugby.
It has been a turbulent week for Rockcliff, with coach Tommy Rendles leaving the club, and his replacement, Jack Lambert, starting his head coach career at Lovaine Avenue.
It was imperative therefore that this Rockcliff side started well for their young coach.
Lambert made changes in bringing Drew Hayton back into the front row, Simon Cormack at four, Mick Knott at seven, Jonny Birkett at six, Liam Bowman at eight, skipper Andrew Webster returned to the side at scrum-half, his best position, with Ricki Hasnip, and the experience of Bryan Stewart returning in the centres, and veteran Yorkshireman Simon Tindall on the wing.
So in all a team getting back together, but still missing a great deal of regular first XV players.
With Rockcliff kicking up the hill and into the sun, a scintillating move saw the ball moved from the forward to the backs for a superb try by Steven Scott.
And playing expansive quick rugby the red and golds looked capable of scoring every time they got the ball.
And this they did after conceding a penalty when Birkett bulldozed his way through the Barnard Castle defence, handing off anyone who dared cross him to score under the posts for a great individual try.
Barnard Castle kept the scoreboard ticking over by converting the penalty chances that Rockcliff seemed keen to give them.
Their kicker was slotting everything home from all areas of the pitch.
However, Stewart put Rockcliff further in front again with a well worked try which enabled the Ulsterman to force his way over to make the score 17-9, with a conversion by young Rhys Johnstone adding the two points.
The visitors finally began to show some of their own form and started to put together a series of plays that saw them putting pressure on the red and gold’s defence.
This resulted in a try for Barnard Castle.
Then Bowman infringed and was sent to the sin bin for a ten-minute spell.
This was followed by another try for the visitors to take the half-time score to 24-19 to Barnard Castle, remarkable when it seemed that all the possession was with Rockcliff.
With the slope behind them and a flea in their ears after a talking too from coach Lambert about conceding penalties, Rockcliff came out for the second half firing on all cylnders.
Scott ran in his second try of the match when he was released by Hasnip after Johnstone had added another three points from a penalty.
Another Johnstone penalty, and then a typical Webster try followed, with the number nine sniping from the base of the scrum and then using explosive pace to beat the Barnard Castle defence.
A late flurry from Castle, who kept battling to the end, was dampened by a final Johnstone penalty to make the score 45-29 in favour of Rockcliff.
Steve Common was voted man of the match for an excellent all round display.
This weekend Rockcliff have a local derby match away to North Shields.