Rockcliff get back to winning ways at Bishop Auckland

A well contested match, played hard and fair, saw Rockcliff get their mojo back after the previous week’s disappointing performance against Hartlepool.

Rockcliff travelled south to the Durham heartlands expecting a tough match against an experienced and seasoned Bishop Auckland side.

Coach Jack Lambert cobbled together his forwards, injuries and other commitments prevailing, and introduced two new players to the squad - No. 8 George Reid, and full-back Charlie Muzzlewhite.

Reid joined Matthew Bradley, Andrew Moore, returning veteran Drew Hayton, Liam Bowman, Stu Thomson, Naill Stokes and Tom Reid in the pack, with Dan Simpson, Josh Donnelly, Steven Scott, Ricki Hasnip, Sam Sterling, Andrew Telford, and Simon Tindall making up the backs.

Joining Muzzlewhite on the bench were Chris Keen and Dan Atkinson.

The first half was a tight and close affair, Rockcliff losing a number of scrums against the head and going backwards at scrum time, but the defence was well organised and try as they might Bishop Auckland could not break down the Red and Gold wall.

The scene was set in the first minute with Donnelly, showing his versatility by playing at stand-off for the missing Andrew Webster, producing two massive hits on rampaging Auckland forwards, setting the tone for the whole team.

And each and everyone played a part throughout the 84 minutes of the game.

The Reid brothers, Tom and George, proved to be a valuable addition to the squad, and they both played influential roles as roving flankers, stripping the ball often in dangerous positions.

The game plan was to get the ball away from the big Auckland pack and run, so with Donnelly pulling the strings the Rockcliff backs were given freedom to run the ball.

This they did, looking dangerous every time the ball was moved. Hasnip instigated some great moves and it was good to see flying winger Scott back to his best.

There were no scores in the first half, and Rockcliff turned round with the wind in their favour, but it was the home side who scored first when their powerful flanker Ratu Nareki smashed over for Ollie Grey to convert.

Back came Rockcliff and with Donnelly and Hasnip using the wind to Rock’s advantage, a high ball was put up, Tindall followed up and two Bishop Auckland defenders collided in mid air, letting Tindall play the ball to Hasnip who fed Donnelly who in turn shipped the ball back to Tindall for the veteran to run a try in under the posts converted by Donnelly for 7-7.

On 65 minutes the referee blew for a Bishop Auckland infringement and Donnelly slotted over for the three points and 10-7.

Bishop Auckland responded with intent and again the Red and Gold wall repelled all, worked the ball back up the field and following another indiscretion by the home side, Donnelly slotted home his second penalty from 35 yards out and 13-7.

With eight minutes left, Jack Lambert used his substitutes well and Rockcliff withstood all that Bishop Auckland could throw against them.

Every player did his bit so it was a difficult decision for the management team to pick a man of the match, but the Reid brothers George and Tom, got the nod along with Donnelly.

Forwards coach Lauren Nardini deserves credit too for all the work he has done in organising Rockcliffs defence.

Next week Rockcliff face another tough game, at home to Acklam, kick-off 2.15pm.

Rockcliff 3rds 14

Winlaton 2nds 10

The Rangers met Winlaton second team in a friendly match and were in a strong enough position to be able to lend Winlaton five payers to ensure the game went ahead.

Chris Forster opened the scoring for the Rangers, taking a quick tap penalty to score and then convert for 7-0.

Paul Thompson then scored for Winlaton, unconverted, to close the gap to two points.

Wilnlaton then had a try disallowed before Rockcliff broke away and Rob Straker crossed, converted by Forster, for 14-5.

Winlaton countered with their second try of the match, again unconverted, for 14-10.