First defeat of the season for Rockcliff

Rockcliff suffered their first defeat of the season at Ponteland.

But they did pick up a bonus point against their rivals for promotion from Durham and Northumberland Division 2.

The Red and Golds opened brightly and following up from the kick-off penned the hosts back into their 22.

After five minutes, prop Liam Bowman set skipper Andrew Webster up to dance through the Ponteland rearguard and he sent flanker Josh Donnelly in to score to the right of the posts. Webster duly converted for 7-0.

Ponteland responded and from the kick-off they forced Rockcliff back and were awarded a penalty on the on the left hand side of the five- metre line. Rockcliff switched off, expecting a kick at goal, and Ponteland took advantage with a quick tap and Michael Searle crashed through to score for 7-5 with nine minutes gone.

The game opened up and Rockcliff pressed to increase their advantage with some probing kicks from Webster gaining territory, whilst Ponteland full-back Will Newbegin looked to link up with play every time Ponteland ran the ball back.

Ponteland, however, found that their pack rather than their backs was the key to winning the game, as Rockcliff struggled to contain them on the set scrum, and the visitors had no answer to their catch and drive from the lineout.

With the game finely balanced Rockcliff suffered a set back on 30 minutes when scrum-half Dan Simpson was yellow carded and Ponteland turned up the heat, to be met with solid Rocklciff defence and the reliable boot of Webster to clear the lines.

The home side kept the pressure up, though, and following a lineout on the left of Rockcliffs 22 their pack drove the ball over and Craig Robinson touched down for 10-7 on 38 minutes.

Back to full strength with Simpson back on the pitch, Rockcliff attacked from the re-start and were awarded a penalty which they opted to kick to touch rather than for goal, and the Ponteland defence held out until half-time.

Ponteland opened strongly from their kick-off and six minutes into the half blindside Sam Stirling was sin binned, so Rockcliff faced another ten minutes of being a man down and having to defend under pressure.

Four minutes later full-back Simon Ayre left the pitch with a dislocated shoulder so coach Jack Lambert had to reshuffle his back line.

As Rockcliff readjusted Ponteland took adavantage and their backs combined well to put second row Chris Freer in to score for 15-7 with 15 minutes of the half up.

From the re-start they kept the pressure on but Rockcliff stole the ball at a lineout and lock Stu Thompson charged up field supported by winger Jonny Earnshaw to break into the Ponteland half.

Rockcliff kept up the momentum and forced their way onto Ponteland’s 22, eventually being awarded a penalty ten metres out. Simpson took a quick tap and sniped through to score, converted by Webster for 15-14 with 20 minutes gone.

The home side responded immediately, and from catch and drive their pack bulldozed Rockcliff back for 20-14, and with the conversion opened an eight-point lead and gained the four-try bonus point.

They followed this up six minutes later with another catch and drive, unconverted, for 27-14 and from their closed the game out.

Rockcliff have a chance to pick themselves up next week when they face Hartlepool BBOB at home, kick-off 3pm.