Rangers edge out Crusaders to tight local derby

Rockcliff Rangers went top of the Northumberland RU River Derwent League with a 17-15 win at North Shields after yet another closely fought match saw the saw the visitors steal the victory in a game that went down to the wire.

Rangers started strong, forcing an early penalty which was unfortunately missed on Chris Forster’s first kicking attempt.

The visitors continued to pressurise but it was North Shields that opened the scoring following poor defending by the home side.

A second try came in quick succession making it 10-0 to Crusaders.

Changes in the Rockcliff back line saw Connor Ball move to the wing, Matthew Dunbar stepping into the No. 9 role and Rhys Johnstone moving centres to tighten up the defence.

Rangers also welcomed on to the park Leon Smart and Andy Partis, who added size and strength to the pack.

The early changes had a real impact.

Matty Dunbar got Rangers back into the game following a pick-up and go from a scrum with a dummy pass and he broke through their back row and full-back for 10-5.

After the break he notched his second, again from a pick-up and go from a ruck as he beat a few players and then launched a dramatic dive for the try line to equalise.

Gary Miller then put Rangers ahead when he scored from a ruck on the try line following a multi-phase move. Chris Forster converted for 17-10 to Rockcliff.

But Shields rallied and with a final flourish touched down, but it was unconverted and it finished 17-15 to Rockcliff Rangers.

Man of the match was Rob Straker.

On February 21 Rangers face North Shields Artisans at Preston Playing Fields in the quarter-final of the County Cup.