NORTH Shields RFC made the trip to Seaton Carew knowing that a win could push them into the top five in the league table.
Shields were forced into a couple of changes in the pack with fly-half Gavin Duffy captaining the side in the absence of Mark Hall.
The game started at a quick pace, with mistakes being made and tackles missed by both sides.
Carew were eventually penalised for constantly wheeling the scrum after Shields won the ball and Duffy skilfully dispatched the penalty.
Carew responded with some good attacking rugby as Shields were missing tackles, which unfortunately was a pattern that continued throughout the game.
After several minutes of end-to-end running play, the Carew winger managed to squeeze over in the corner for the first try of the game.
This sparked Shields into life and they took the game their opponents.
Carew struggled to contain the Shields pack, and led by the back row of Ben Dalton, Tony Jordon and No.8 Andrew Leitch, the Shields forwards generated good ball from the lineout and scrum.
Two quick tries were ran in from Shields, both from Dalton, but it was at this point that the dynamic of the game changed.
The injury jinx hit Shields again, quickly losing winger Dale Jones and prop Carl Cramman to knee and shoulder injuries respectively.
Shields had to shuffle their pack around, prop Chris Spedding joining Dave Hardy in the second row and Alan Millar making his first team debut in the back row. Paul Wells replaced Jones on the wing.
Carew also made a change of personnel, bringing on a change in the back row.
All of the quick changes unsettled Shields and allowed Seaton Carew to take a firmer hold on the game.
They scored two more tries before the end of the half and now started to play strong, running rugby.
The second half started with Shields by no means out of the game, but an early try for Carew after more missed tackles saw them edge further ahead.
The game from this point became more balanced, both sides carrying the ball well, but making no breakthroughs.
Shields now lost winger Rhys Coltherd after he took a knock to the head with one of his typically fearless tackles. This allowed youngster Cai Payne-Tait to make his first team debut.
From another Carew attack deep inside the Shields half, Paul Wells brilliantly intercepted the ball and ran 80 metres up the pitch for a score that looked like it might spur Shields on.
However, from the resulting kick-off, Carew scored again under the posts.
Shields refused to let their heads go down and attacked from the restart.
A good short kick allowed Dalton to disrupt the ball and scrum-half John Good, who was having another superb game, made a quick break with the ball. With Duffy screaming for quick ball and Good tied up, Hardy picked the ball from the back of the ruck and span a pass out to the fly-half, who then sent a tremendous 20-metre pass out to Payne-Tait on the wing. He took on his man and popped back inside to full-back Pete Finlay, once again joining the line with pace, who crashed over for a bonus point score for Shields.
The remaining five minutes of the match saw Carew score two more late tries, with the re-jigged Shields side struggling to contain their constant attacks.
The final score was 48-25 to Seaton Carew, which perhaps flattered them slightly, but Shields can take positives from the game. Their fitness is as good as it has been and the commitment of the young side is tremendous.
Man of the match was No.8 Leitch, who covered every blade of grass and whose tackling, lineout work and ball carrying was exceptional.
This weekend North Shields welcome Hartlepool to Preston Playing Fields, kick-off 2.15pm.