Blair flair helps Percy Park secure 31-26 win and bonus point

Ali Blair in action for Percy Park Rugby Club against Dinnington.
Ali Blair in action for Percy Park Rugby Club against Dinnington.

An Ali Blair hat-trick was enough to give Percy Park a bonus-point win over Dinnington, who, going into the game, were favourites for the victory and sitting in fourth place in North 1 East.

The pack was shuffled from last week’s game against Pocklington, with the return of Marc Cook and Karl Thompson, and the home side welcomed back John Scott, not in his accustomed scrum-half berth but at stand-off.

The visitors’ scuffed kick-off gave Park an early chance to test out the Dinnington scrum on Saturday, but both sides held their own, as they did in the line-out, with only one or two throws going astray for both hookers.

It was Matt Starr who opened his side’s account with a try on seven minutes as the Park ran out of defenders on the right hand side of the pitch. Fly-half Johnny West kicked the conversion as his side went ahead 7-0.

Park struck back almost immediately when a solid scrum saw Michael Langlands pick up and break out right to set away scrum-half Jimmy Baldwin, who found his wing man, Kieran Sutherland, on his shoulder.

An inside pass back to Baldwin saw him over the line, and Michael Groves levelled the scores with his kick at goal.

Michael Groves stepped in as goal-kicker to great effect with a 100 per cent record on the day, and on 18 minutes, he kicked Park ahead with a penalty. The hosts then went further ahead as Ali Blair notched up his first, after another break from former skipper Michael Langlands set Ricki Hasnip away, who then found his fellow centre. The conversion took Park ahead 17 -7.

With the first half drawing to a close, Park were reduced to 14 men as Ethan Wilson was shown a yellow card for a late tackle.

The visitors made the most of the numerical advantage and scored two tries in five minutes as their man of the match, Will Marshall, steered the catch and drive from the line-out over the whitewash.

The second try came five minutes into time added on.

Only one of the conversions was on target, but Dinnington went into the break 21-17 up.

The second half started with Park still a man down, and another driving maul close to the home try-line looked ominous, but the maul broke up, and a wild pass led to the ball going looseand John Scot got a boot to it to send it upfield, with Ali Blair and several defenders in hot pursuit.

Some great footballing skills by the Park centre kept him just ahead of the defence with the final dribble over the line to dive over for a try against the run of play. Groves’ conversion took Park back in front 24-21.

Park’s defence was solid, with lock Austin Phillips leading the tackle count, earning him his side’s man of the match award.

The lead changed hands once again when another catch and drive from the line out was finished off by prop Gary Woodstock, although his try went unconverted.

Percy Park regained the lead with 10 minutes remaining through Ali Blair, after a sustained attack saw the ball go across several pairs of hands and multiple phases of play.

Replacement prop Harry Watson had a good run at the line and found Blair in support. Groves was again on target, and Park nosed in front 31-26.

There then followed a nervous few minutes as Dinnington looked to snatch a late winner. Park had the measure of their back-line, though, and their only real threat was through their forwards.

Another driving maul close to the Park line looked to have paid off as the referee blew his whistle and raised his hand, but not for the try. Park were awarded a penalty for obstruction and cleared their lines.

Park were rewarded with a bonus-point win and move up the league by one place.

Next week will see Park at South Shields Westoe.