Shields finish positive season with a hard fought defeat

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NORTH Shields lost their final Durham Northumberland division two game 15-10 at home to Barnard Castle on Saturday.

But the first team can still look back on what has been a positive season.

With injuries and unavailability forcing Shields into seven changes and Barnard Castle turning up with a vastly changed, and larger, side than the one Shields defeated in December, it was always going to be a tough game.

The fact that Castle were second bottom and fighting to avoid relegation added further spice to the afternoon.

It proved to be a tight match with the visitors opening the scoring midway through the first half with a penalty.

Castle forwards were a large, mobile pack and constantly ran the ball at Shields, whose defence remained resolute throughout the first half to hold the score to 3-0 at the break.

From the start of the second half, Shields attacked with renewed purpose, looking to end their season on a high.

From a penalty, fly-half Gav Duffy kicked for the corner and Shields executed a training ground lineout move which saw Duffy crash over for the try, which he duly converted for a 7-3 lead.

Castle came straight back and after constant crash ball from their forwards, their loose-head prop smashed over the line for a try. Again the conversion was added.

Shields continued to battle up front and take the game back to Castle and found themselves level when Duffy scored a penalty.

The momentum was switching back and forth between the two evenly matched sides, but eventually Barnard secured the try that won them the match.

As their flanker was stopped short of the line by Shields back row forwards Andrew Leitch and Dave Hardy, his support drove him over the line.

Man of the match was 18-year-old Tony Jordon, who covered every blade of grass and put in some huge tackles.

Although disappointed in defeat, there were many positives to take from this season.

While other teams still have a fixture or two to play, Shields will finish in the top six in what has been a much improved season, with some fantastic wins over Ashington, Redcar and the double over local rivals Rockcliff.

The Blues have a young first XV squad with many talented players who will only improve again next season.

The club thanked coach Ian Chandler and chairman of rugby Ian Hook, who has been there throughout the season doing the behind the scenes work that often goes unnoticed.

Saturday’s game also saw the end of a 23-year playing career at North Shields as Barry Elliot played his last game for the club.

After more than 300 first XV games, and yet another broken nose in his last match for good measure, the long-serving second row forward is off to sunnier shores with wife Tina and young son Hayden.

The club wished him and his family all the best for their move to Australia and thanked him for his many years of service to the club.