Percy Park denied at the death by league leaders Doncaster Phoenix
Doncaster Phoenix snatched the game from Park in the final furlong and denied the visitors an improbable double given the respective league positions of the two sides.
Percy Park are the only team to have beaten the league leaders in almost two years, and for large spells of the game Park were on top.
There were a couple of changes to the squad that won through to the Northumberland Senior Cup the previous weekend’s win over Tynedale Raiders. Johnny Kidd came into the front row for the injured Mark Cook, Lome Fa’atau for the unavailable Toby Davison and Sam Jobson in the centre for Ricki Hasnip.
Park got off to a dream start with a typical scrum-half try by Davy Kay.
The hosts had a scrum on their five-metre line after Park had pressured for the first couple of minutes. The ball was won by Doncaster but quick reactions by Kay saw him pick the pocket of his opposite number and brush aside the full-back for an early try.
Donny replied on eight minutes when influential No.8 Adam Kettle cantered through the Park defence to score and Jamie Lennard converted to take by a 7-5 lead.
Both sides were running the ball at every opportunity, but it was Percy Park who regained the lead when Guy Pike was put in space by fellow centre Sam Jobson to score in the corner and Michael Grove kicked the extras.
Park’s back line looked far more effective than the table toppers and Pike scored his second try to put the visitors further in front. The Grove conversion gave Park a 19-7 lead.
Doncaster came back strongly and scored from a catch and drive lineout on the half hour, and Lennard’s conversion brought them to within five points.
The home side drew level after a quick lineout saw their left wing race down the flank and find Kettle in support to score wide out.
Park hit back within three minutes when Richie Berne went over on the left wing for the first of two tries. Once again Pike cut through the Donny defence and was pulled down inches short of the line. Quick hands saw the ball spun left and Michael Birkett gave the final pass to Berne to score and secure the four-try bonus point.
With the half coming to a close Donny were awarded a penalty in Park’s half and Lennard stepped up to take the kick with the last play. His kick looked to be falling short but caught the crossbar and sneaked over, so at half-time Park led 24-22.
In the second half Phoenix edged back into the lead with a Lennard penalty before Grove scored in the right hand corner. Once again Pike burst through the defensive line and found his full-back in support and he raced to the corner, wrong-footing the full-back for the try which he then converted from an acute angle to go back in front 31-25.
Percy Park went further in front with Berne’s second score. Park were defending but stole the ball from Donny in the maul. Davy Kay passed to Andy Dunn who was not expecting the ball and the referee judged it had hit his chest and called play on, Donny then knocked on and Grove picked up the loose ball and sprinted up field. Everyone stopped expecting the whistle that did not come and Grove passed to Berne who ran the rest of the way to score in the corner to the cries of protest from the home support in the grandstand.
With ten minutes remaining Park led 36-25, but Donny showed why they are leading the league and came back with a try by Ollie Harrison, converted by Lennard.
Park defended resolutely and just had to hold out in the final minute of play. Phoenix battered away at the Park defence and eventually a gap appeared which was all fly-half Lennard needed to cut through to score under the posts. His conversion went over and then the final whistle came to the relief of the home support but disappointment for the Park players.
Donny consolidated their lead at the top of the table and now look to be racing certainties to win promotion to National 3 for next season. Park stay in ninth but are improving game by game as they go to next week’s Northumberland Cup Final to play Morpeth. The game is at Northern’s McCracken Park and kicks off at 1pm.
Northern Wanderers 8
Percy Park Lions 62
Candy Plate Semi-Final
A league and plate double header saw Park’s second XV progress to the final where they will meet Morpeth who defeated Billingham in the other semi-final game.
The final was originally scheduled for April 23, but the Lions have another game that day, so the match will be re-schedule with the venue to be decided.
Percy Park Pumas 25
Rockcliff Vikings 22
River Aln League
Percy Park Pumas completed the league double over Rockcliff Vikings, avenging last month’s cup defeat at the hands of their Whitley Bay neighbours.
Tries in their 25-22 win came from Chris Hawkins, Joey Wilkinson, David Mellstrom, Jeff Burn and Jonny Burn.