NORTH Shields RFC travelled to Hartlepool BBOB for their first away trip of 2011.
The team had an unfamiliar look to it with James Bland and Barry Elliott both returning to duty in the second row. In the back row Oliver Randall returned from injury and veteran Bob Johnstone started at blindside.
Despite these changes Shields got off to a superb start.
From the kick-off, Hartlepool failed to secure the ball, allowing Shields to go through the phases.
Elliot burst through the line, breaking several tackles before offloading to flanker Ricky Handa who was stopped just short of the line.
However, the ball was then sent wide and prop Harry Watson bundled over for the first try.
Shields extended their lead moments later by kicking a straightforward penalty.
And the visitors added a further converted score in the opening 15 minutes and looked set for another comfortable win.
However, the match changed when Hartlepool managed to secure some possession of their own.
The Shields defence was poorly organised on many occasions during the first half and failed to drift on a frequent basis, allowing the home side to utilise a wide pitch and pace on their flanks.
Consequently, for the first time this season Shields conceded two tries in the first half.
In the second half the game was a similar story. Shields were impressive in attack but were run ragged in defence.
Hartlepool claimed a third try, however strong ball carrying from Oliver Randall and Gav Irving in particular kept Shields going forward.
Fortunately Shields’ fitness and organisation saw them run out eventual winners.
Bob Johnstone, Harry Watson and Dale Jones all got onto the score sheet. Gary Crombie slotted the only successful conversion.
This weekend Shields face Newton Aycliffe at home.