Whitley Bay Rockcliff overcome Wallsend in a tight and tough derby game.
With a much changed side from their last fixture against Sunderland, Wallsend pushed Rock in every aspect of the game, using a game of forward power to test the Rockcliff scrum.
Rockcliff coach Jack Lambert instructed his players to play the expansive game that has served them well this season, hoping not to get involved in the more forward oriented Wallsend, but it didn’t work, and credit went to the home side for stamping their style on the game.
Recalling Leon Smart from injury, Lambert started with the fit again Stu Thomson at four behind Thomas Dawson, Kai Downey-Stevenson, and Matthew Bradley. Chris Keen, Neil Thornton and Liam Bowman completed the pack.
Lewis Partis at scrum-half supplied the passes to Bryan Stewart at ten, alongside Ricki Hasnip, Josh Donnelly, Steven Scott and Jonny Earnshaw, with Andrew Telford at fullback.
Neil Mather, Jordan Anderson, and Niall Stokes started on the bench.
A Rockcliff team bristling with pace took to the field expecting and getting a tough test from Wallsend, who have in the opinion of many the best scrum half in the league.
The Rockcliff forwards stood up to the test and in Thomson found the player of the match.
Thomson was superb; his lineout work disrupting the Wallsend throws, his catching from the excellent throws of Downey-Stephenson was spot on, and his partnership with the returning Smart was the foundation of a great forward performance.
The tackling from both sides was ferocious and with Rockcliff possessing the speedy backs Wallsend kept the game tight.
In Rockcliff’s first attack using width the ball went across the line to Earnshaw who crashed over for a try. The versatile Donnelly popped over the conversion for 7-0 to the visitors.
Wallsend responded and after pressure in the Rockcliff 22 went over to reduce the score, missing the conversion for 7-5.
Donelly added a penalty and Wallsend added another uncoverted try to level the score at ten each a half-time.
Going down the hill in the second half, Wallsend started strongly, but again the Rockcliff forwards met the test, refusing to be pushed back.
After good work the Red and Gold forwards gained territory deep in the Wallsend half, and from the following powerful scrum and drive, Chris Keen smashed over to score, converted for 17-10.
The game ebbed and flowed with both teams asking questions of the other’s defence, and then Donnelly broke through, using his strength and power to go under the posts to score and convert his own try for 24-10.
For the next ten minutes Wallsend camped in the Rockcliff 22 but solid defence kept them at bay.
The game finished with Wallsend pushing for a bonus point and Rockcliff down to 14 men.
Coach Lambert voted JDonnelly and Thomson as man of the match.
Rockcliff face Whitby at home next weekend, another must win game for this impressive outfit.
Whitley Bay Rockcliff 2nd XV 15
Blyth 2nd XV 13
Gary Lewis’s Vikings just edged out Blyth in their Northumberland County Senior Shield quarter-final.
But the game could have gone either way as both sides served up one of the best games of rugby seen at Rockcliff for some time.
The game ebbed and flowed both ways for the full 80 minutes, both packs competed fiercely for the ball, and both sets of backs tries to run it at every opportunity and defended well when under attack.
Harry Donaghan opened the scoring for Blyth with a well struck penalty, but the irrepressible Karl Briggs drove through the middle of a ruck to score the opening try of the game for the Vikings.
The score remained 5-3 at half-time, but early in the second half Donaghan score and converted a try to put Blyth 10-5 up.
Rockcliff responded in style, with Nick Dalton finishing off a good move to level the score at 10-10.
Both sides battled away to get the upper hand, and eventually they were awarded a penalty 30 metres out which Donaghan just got over the bar for 13-10.
With the clock running down the Vikings were chasing the game and eventually they were rewarded when after forward pressure down the right of the pitch Ross Bailey combined with Rhys Wiley to put Ryan Yallop in down the left wing and into the corner to score with five minutes left on the clock.
Blyth launched ferocious assault on the Rockcliff line but somehow the home side held out and Rockcliff now face either Berwick or Novocastrians in the semi-final.