On a cold and windy winter’s day local rivalries where renewed with vigour in a well contested and tough match between North Shields and Rockcliff.
Once again injuries and other commitments meant that Rockcliff coach Jack Lambert was forced into a number of changes for the game, which recently has been a close encounter with only a point separating the teams on the last meeting.
Returning to the team, captain Andrew Webster started at stand-off, meaning that the versatile Josh Donnelly was moved to inside centre alongside Dan O’sullivan, Simon Tindall, youngster Keiran Lydall and Simon Ayre at full-back.
The pack was Dan Atkinson, Andrew Moore and Dan Timney in the front row, powered by Stu Thomson, Liam Bowman, with Kai Downey-Stevenson, Sam Stirling, and the returning Jonny Birkett in the back row.
Starting from the bench were Dan Simpson, Andrew Telford and Gary Lewis.
Kicking up the slope into the teeth of the wind, Rockcliff started well and good hands from Webster saw Donnelly break the Shields line only to pass behind Dan O’Sullivan who was in for a try.
From the following move the ball was hacked through by Birkett who followed up to drop on the ball for the score. Ayres converted for 7-0.
The Rock backs were on fire and looked like scoring with every move, and they did in the next move when the Shields defence was pulled left and right for Webster to jink over for try number two and a 12-0 lead with seven minutes played.
With the wind at their backs Shields, themselves much improved from last season, came back at Rock and the next quarter was played in the Rockcliff half, with the Shields No. 10 kicking into the corners and keeping the pressure on the Red and Golds defence.
As might be expected in a local derby, the tackling was ferocious, with both teams hitting hard, in particular Stirling for Rockcliff and Ben Dalton for Shields bringing appaulse from the crowd.
Shields’ workrate was rewarded with two tries scored by the pack after pressure on the Rockcliff line, both from Scott Rendles, son of Shields and Rockcliff legend Tommy Rendles.
Rendles converted his first effort for 12-12 after 29 minutes.
Battling against the elements Rock went upfield, again the backs causing problems, and from another flowing move, veteran lock Stu Thomson burst through to finish off a fine piece of play. Ayres converted for 19-12 to the home team.
But back came Shields with another forward try, this time from Jeff Burke, which was converted by Rendles and at half-time the score was 19-19 with all to play for.
With the wind now at their backs Rockcliff camped in the Shields half, only letting the visitors pass the halfway line late in the match.
A number of dropped passes and silly infringements cost the Red and Golds at least three tries, leaving the crowd wondering if they would ever score.
Great defending by the blue and whites held Rockcliff at Bay until the 75th minute when O’Sullivan finished off the home pressure to go over in the corner for 24-19.
A number of penalties followed as Rockcliff fought back a Shields revival, but Ayre put the final nail in the coffin when he smashed over a penalty from just inside the Shields half. Game over, a win bonus for Rock 27-19.
Shields gave a good performance and have a young, improving team. Rockcliff voted Dalton their player of the match, Shields went for Downey-Stevenson as Rockcliff’s, with a special mention to Webster, returning after a five-months lay-off.
Next week Rockcliff travel down the A19 to face Hartlepool. Following thatthey have a cup match with West Leeds at Hillheads.