NORTH Shields made the long trip to Redcar fresh from a week’s break.
The visitors started the first half with a strong wind against their backs. The home side gave Shields excellent field possession by conceding a penalty for offside from the kick off.
However, Shields were unable to convert territory into points and Redcar utilised the wide pitch to open the scoring.
Following this Shields dominated territory and possession. A determined run from Ricky Handa went close to opening the Shields account after a neat pop from Leitch, but Handa was held up over the line.
It took a lengthy period of time before Gav Duffy jinked his way through to score an unconverted try.
Unfortunately Shields were not able to build on this and Redcar used their pace in the backs to break away again with some decent offloading and support play to extend their lead.
As the first half drew to a close, a brawl broke out between the two teams. Both teams suffered a sin bin each. Crucially a Shields player was also awarded a red card for his contribution in the fracas.
At half-time the odds looked stacked against Shields, having been reduced to 13 men, nine points down and a Redcar team with their backs now to the wind.
What followed was a performance of character and passion from a dogged Shields team. Leitch was immense in the lineout.
Debutant centre Adam Bear kept Shields going forward all day and he got two tries for his efforts.
Chris Allot made a tremendous cover tackle and this was followed up by the Shields defence scrambling back and several men throwing themselves at a surging Redcar runner to hold him up over the line.
The initial Shields assault in the second half led to a 17-14 lead.
However, Redcar responded to the challenge and fought back with two unconverted tries to retake the lead at 24-17 with just four minutes to go.
From the kick-off the ball was secured into Shields hands.
Shields kept the ball in tight, and the forwards pounded hard at the Redcar line. Persistent backchat from Redcar allowed a Shields penalty to advance ten metres to the visitors within striking distance.
The forwards hammered away and when the ball was fed to the backs, Duffy spotted the gap and slid under the posts. The try was converted leaving the score at full time 24-24.
On a negative note, Josh Roe will face a lengthy spell on the sidelines having suffered a serious collarbone injury.
On Saturday Shields face Hartlepool at home and will look now to advance into the top half.