An injury depleted Hartlepool Boys Brigade Old Boys travelled north to meet Rockcliff at Hillheads and returned south empty handed after a tough tussle in the autumnal sun.
With full-back Simon Ayre out for a number of weeks following his collar bone injury at Ponteland the previous weekend, coach Jack Lambert selected a strong side for a fixture that last season was a close, entertaining affair.
Mathew Bradley, Kai Downey-Stevenson, Tomma Dawson, Tom Reid, Stu Thomson, Sam Sterling, Josh Donnelly, and a recalled Jonny Birkett, started in the pack, Dan Simpson, Andrew Webster, Steven Scott, Dan O’sullivan, Jonny Earnshaw, Simon Tindall, and Ryan McLeod lined up in the backs.
Liam Bowman, Chris Keen, and Andrew Telford, warmed the bench this week, but as always got plenty of game time due to the coach’s rotation policy.
Last season the spectators who travelled to BBOB and those at Hillheads witnessed two excellent matches with lots of tries and plenty of commitment from both sides, resulting in two close Rockcliff wins, so the onlookers looked forward to this fixture with anticipation.
The Hartlepool forwards were man for man bigger than their Red and Gold counterparts, yet in the scrum Rock held their own before completely dominating and pushing the larger Pools pack back for 90 per cent of the match.
With this forward control, scrum-half Simpson was able to give quick ball to his skipper Webster at stand-off, and in turn he was able to release his backs.
After 13 minutes a scrum against the head allowed the ball to travel to the returning winger Scott who burst through the BBOB defence to go over in the corner.
McLeod, the receiver of a switch dummy by veteran full-back Tindall, made great yards before slipping the ball to Scott to go over for his second try, and after 29 minutes of the game gone, number eight Birkett dropped over after a great drive by the pack took the ball ten metres to the line.
BBOB rallied and excerted pressure of their own on Rockcliff and on 32 minutes Paul Craggs went over for a try to reduce the arrears and make the half-time score 17-5.
After the restart the BBOB outfit looked like they would be the first to score as Rockcliff were taking some time to settle, but normal service was resumed when Downey-Stevenson broke through to race away and score a converted try under the posts, guaranteeing the bonus point.
The Rockcliff forwards were dominating, tackling from Bradley, Stirling, Donnelly, and Simpson knocking back the BBOB pack, and disrupting their attempts at forward play.
Minutes later, Webster cut through to score and convert his own try, followed by a try by new second row acquisition Reid,
Yellow cards followed for Rockcliff as the BBOB team, down but not out, came back, Bowman for a hopeless attempt at an intercept, and Bradley for killing play when BBOB were looking dangerous.
After a scrum in the corner with the Rockcliff pack breaking its binding, the referee awarded the BBOB team a penalty try.
It was so close to the end of the match that the spectators expected that to be the last play, but there was still time for the versatile back row Donnelly to use the skills of a centre to cut through for try number eight. Webster converted to make the final score 52-12.
Next weekend Rockcliff travel for a local derby at North Shields.