A GOOD crown watched a pulsating encounter as North Shields RFC looked to continue their cup run.
Having disposed of Chester-Le Street and Leeds Corinthians, Shields faced West Park from St Helen’s in the quarter final of the National Junior Vase – victory putting them just one game from a final at Twickenham.
The game kicked off in glorious sunshine and the opening exchanges were indicative of a cup encounter with neither side imposing themselves on the other.
However, a West Park lineout on their own five metre line was not taken cleanly and an almighty scrap for the ball ensued on the try line.
The up-front contest resulted in the ball finally squirming free, Mark Hall emerged and showed immense strength to shove his way over to put Shields ahead. Gary Crombie converted.
Daniel Pearson then converted a penalty to extend the lead to 10-0.
West Park fought back well and attacked down the Shields blindside, feeding their winger who crossed the line.
In the second half West Park kicked an early penalty to reduce the deficit to just two points.
From the restart West Park decided to run the ball rather than kick and clear their lines.
Gavin Duffy, who has impressed with his performances at stand-off this season, spotted an opportunity and sprinted with great speed and determination to superbly intercept a West Park pass and ran home to score.
However West Park did not wilt and through their forwards claimed a hard-fought penalty to take the score to 17-8.
This spurred on the visitors and after working their way into Shields territory another move down the blindside saw the West Park centre break through the last defender to score.
Shields went a converted try ahead after Pearson kicked another penalty.
West Park hit back again and scored another converted try to set up a tense climax.
However, with ten minutes left the Shields scrum that had dominated proceedings all day drove powerfully from a five metre scrum only for West Park to intentionally collapse the scrum.
A penalty try, to the dismay of the home support, was not awarded.
Shields elected to scrum down again. Props Carl Cramman and Harry Watson both held strong and Crombie picked from the base and dived over for the crucial score.
Pearson added to his points tally with another penalty.
Shields are now within touching distance of Twickenham and are due to play the winners of the Midlands Final on April 24.
The club website will shortly provide details of venue and opposition.
Next week Shields play Seghill at home in the league.