Rockcliff finally get to grips with newcomers Houghton

Rockcliff welcomed Northumberland RFU president Ken Fraser and his entourage to their first home game of the season to commemorate the official opening of the refurbished clubhouse.

With coach Jack Lambert away on business for the RFU, his able assistant Loren Nardini pulled the Rockcliff strings on a blustery day with heavy showers which made flowing rugby difficult.

The league new boys adapted quicker than their hosts in a rain splattered first half.

Rockcliff welcomed back Niall Stokes to the forwards, the backs remained the same as last week at Ashington, and Dan Timney, Alex Meadows, and Tom Reid were on the bench.

Student Dan Leach started at scrum-half in place of Lewis Partis.

Houghton were the first to show as the game kicked off, controlling and handling the ball better than their red and gold counterparts.

Rock were trying to play an expansive game with the ball like a bar of soap, and the visitors registered the first score with a penalty at the end of the first quarter, followed by an unconverted try five minutes later.

At this stage the visitors looked good, adapting to the elements and the Durham side took the game to their hosts and notched a further penalty.

It took Rockcliff a full 30 minutes to exert any real pressure on the Houghton line. From a good scrummage, Leach passed the ball out to Kieran Lydall who put on the afterburners to cross the whitewash and continued post-wards, making it straightforward for Andrew Webster to convert.

At half-time the score 11-7 to the visitors.

One thing that Rock have found this season is a strong scrum, and again it created problems for the opposition, and along with a fully functioning lineout the Red and Gold forwards started to take control.

Coach Nardini made good use of his substitutes and shuffled the team around, and without playing an expansive game Rockcliff began to work out how to beat the players in front of them.

Stokes moved from the pack into the centre and Reid from second row onto the flank.

The changes worked and Conor Ball went over for a try after good all round teamwork, again converted by Webster.

Finally Webster himself went over for one of his a trademark poacher tries, converted by his own boot.

It was game over by three tries to one to Rockcliff, but many in the crowd were impressed with the visitors who are predicted to do well this season. They have a good spirit and work well together.

Stokes was voted man of the match.

Next week it is Rockcliff’s turn to cross the Tyne when they go to Sunderland.