Rockcliff pushed all the way by 14-man Redcar

League leaders Rockcliff made it five from five in Durham and Northumberland division two, but fifth placed Redcar asked all the questions against an off-colour home side.

Redcar are always tough opponents and this match was no exception, although they were not helped by having their player coach sent off for an act of indiscipline which cost his team dear.

Jack Lambert was again forced into changes due to injury and prior engagements.

His front three were Mathew Bradley, Charles Murrey and Thomas Dawson, with Alex Meadows and Leon Smart providing the power in the second row, and Kia Downey-Stevenson, Chris Keen, and Neil Thornton, completing the pack.

Skipper Andrew Webster was at ten behind Lewis Partis at scrum-half, and the backs were made up of try machine and flying winger Steven Scott, Ricki Hasnip returning from injury, Jonathon Earnshaw, Rhys Wiley, and Andrew Telford.

Neil Mather, Jordan Anderson, and new recruit Niall Stokes started on the bench.

Redcar were big and strong, and took the game to Rockcliff, and had their coach Neil Young not kicked Steven Scott’s head, they could have won the game.

The visitors camped in the Rock half, this was a wake up call to the slow starting Rockcliff side, who, if they want to get out of this division will have to take on physical teams like Redcar and not let them dominate as they did at this match.

Redcar were galvanised by the sending off and possessed the best player on the park who dominated the breakdown, beating Rockcliff players to the ball on numerous occasions.

As the game went on, versatile centre Downey-Stevenson began to realise that he can play at blind side flanker and got into the swing of things, out of position but showing that he can play across the park in many positions.

After 20 minutes Niall Stokes was introduced for his league debut at number eight, but unfortunately his first touch of the ball led to an interception try from the Redcar wing after the Red and Gold forwards had taken one against the head.

It was not his fault and there was good play from the Redcar wing who anticipated the pass.

A series of penalties from both sides were spurned and at half-time the Rockcliff crowd were worried at 5-0 down.

Nothing much changed in the second half with most of the game played in the Rockcliff 22 by the powerful Redcar team, who had kept the free flowing Rock backs quiet.

Finally in the last quarter of the match, the Red and Gold backs swept forward, moving from left to right, then swiftly back again. A gap was spotted by lock Leon Smart, who, after a good release from Ricky Hasnip, smashed over to level the scores.

Rockcliff then received a sin-binning when Mathew Bradley was penalised for killing the ball, but Redcar spurned the chance to go ahead.

The home side then edged ahead when Steven Scott was sent over for his customary try following good hands by the backs. The try was well converted by the inspirational Andrew Webster for 12-5.

Rockcliff will be happy that despite playing poorly for the first time this season they ground out a win, and Redcar will be ruing their luck.

There were good performances from skipper Webster, Downey-Stevenson, and Scott.

Next week Rockcliff are away to Barnard Castle and can’t afford any more slow starts or poor performances if they want to maintain their promotion drive, they have been warned by Redcar that there are no pushovers in this league.