IN a repeat of last season’s opening game, Rockcliff were just edged out by local rivals Wallsend.
Rockcliff travelled with wholesale changes and absentees while Wallsend produced a gritty performance.
Missing skipper Webster, Bryan Stewart was given the arm band, and Rockcliff recalled veteran centre Simon Tindall to partner him
Tony Birkett stepped up to first team action, Steve Common returned to the pack following injury, and there was a league debut for Leon Smart.
Mark Wickett played his first game for the club since last year, and 18-year-old Rhys Johnstone played stand-off.
Wallsend started strongly, putting Rockcliff on the back foot, and they took an early lead when the visitors were penalised in the loose, but Rhys Johnstone levelled minutes later.
There then followed a succession of penalties awarded to Wallsend as the Rockcliff forwards were deemed to be transgressing at every ruck or maul, this resulted in Wallsend taking a six-point lead, but their pack were starting to tire and the lighter cardinal and gold forwards began to take advantage.
With half an hour gone, captain Stewart led by example to score Rockcliff’s opening try, converted by Johnstone. Coach Tom Rendles was extolling his team to keep possession.
In the second half there would seem to be only one team that could win, kicking down hill and with the wind behind them Rockcliff ran in two more tries, both by Steven Scott, and converted by Johnstone, with Wallsend responding with one of their own.
Johnstone kept the score ticking over with a penalty, and all that was needed was for Rockcliff to keep playing the game in Wallsend’s half, but they managed to give Wallsend enough ball to stay in the game and skipper Stewart was incandescent with rage when Wallsend scored the winning try in the last minute.
Man of the match for Rockcliff was Mark Wickett who was outstanding, and the next game is at home against Seaton Carew on Saturday where Rockcliff hope to have some regulars back, including the versatile Josh Donnelly and Johnny Gould who has re-signed.
Whitley Bay Rockcliff RFC 2nd XV 54 Ponteland 2nd XV 14
THE Vikings got their season underway with a good performance at home to Ponteland. Johnny Gould celebrated his return to Rockcliff after several season with Percy Park with a man of the match performance and five tries, and Simon Cormack, Dan Leach, John Dixon, and Jonny Earnshaw ran in a try apiece. Matthew Dunbar was unlucky to have two tries disallowed. Chris Foster slotted home five conversions and Lewis Partis added the final score with the sixth conversion of the match.