Park back on track

Percy Park caption John Smith scores against Northern.
Percy Park caption John Smith scores against Northern.

THE Percy Park RFC coaches kept faith with the team that narrowly lost away last week by a single point, with one enforced change in the second row as Sean Williamson came in at lock for the injured Michael Langlands.

The game – re-scheduled from December 2010, due to the snow – was played in ideal conditions for running rugby with a firm dry pitch.

Park had won the earlier encounter between the two sides at McCracken Park and were looking to exercise a few ghosts from last week’s topsy-turvy performance.

The visitors were looking for some well needed points to keep them out of the drop zone back to Durham and Northumberland One.

Park got off to a bright start with an early try after only three minutes when Howard Stock crossed the line after a good break by skipper John Scott.

Northern came straight back and a try under the posts from full-back Jon Job, after a patient build up, saw the visitors lead 7-5.

For the next ten minutes, the visitors took the game to Park, who were penned in their own half, for a sustained period, but Northern could not add to their slim lead.

Park did eventually break out and Scott came close to scoring after a weaving run, ducking under several tackles, took the scrum-half up to the Northern try line.

Park were awarded a penalty but surprisingly Ash Smith missed from almost in front of the posts.

Smith soon made amends for his missed penalty and scored a brace of tries on 27 and then 37 minutes.

The first try came from a good scrum in the visitors half and the ball was passed left with Smith coming into the line at pace. With Phil James, the Northern winger staying out on his wing, Smith carved through the gap to score.

The next try was well set up by Craig Firth who broke several tackles with a strong run in midfield after Park picked up on a loose Northern ball.

The attack was stopped on the five-metre line, but quick recycling saw Smith cross the line, but again the extras went begging.

With the minutes ticking away towards the end of the first half, true to recent form, Park conceded a kickable penalty and Andy Sutherland made them pay with three points and the gap narrowed to 15-10.

Although Park’s back line looked dangerous with ball in hand, the team as a whole was not playing with cohesion, and a lack lustre ten-minute spell after the break allowed Northern back in the game with an unconverted try by Northern skipper Paul Brady.

Park did break the deadlock on the hour mark, when a penalty was kicked to the corner.

The ball was won and a drive set up, which Northern repelled, but the ball was recycled, and eventually Andy Dunn crashed over for a try, which Smith converted for a 22-15 lead, and a bonus point.

Scott then stretched the lead after Ali Blair had been stopped close to the line. Quick possession allowed the Park scrum half to dart over the line, and with the conversion a gap was beginning to emerge as Park led 29-15.

Three minutes later with Northern chasing the game, an interception was pounced on by Ali Blair on the left wing, and he raced the 60 metres to the line to score under the posts.

The formality of the conversion made it 36-15.

This weekend it is another home game as the 1st XV play Carlisle at Preston Avenue.