Rockcliff triumph over 12-man Novos
Whitley Bay Rockcliff 28Novocastrians 20Rockcliff got the new year off to a good start with a hard fought win over Novocastrians in Durham and Northumberland Division One.
The Red and Golds dominated and might have expected to run in a few scores in the first half, but a combination of determined Novos defence and lack of composure at key moments meant that the sides changed ends with Rockcliff defending a narrow 9-0 lead, courtesy of three Rhys Johnstone penalties.
With a player sin binned Rockcliff started the second half with 14 men and Novos took full advantage when, James Bass broke down the right to touch down in the corner, unconverted, for 9-5.
Then came the killer moment when Novo's forwards counter rucked at a break down, and they won a penalty 25m out which Shaun Stewart slotted home for 9-8.
With the game in the balance and full time approaching there was a lengthy break while an injured Novos player received treatment and was then stretchered off. This left Novos short handed as they had used all their substitutes. When play resumed, Rockcliff were out of the blocks first, and Jude Noble finished off an attack, converted by Johnstone for 16-8. Rockcliff kept up the momentum, and following a succession of breaks, Henry Cotton drove over to increase the lead and again Johnstone added the extras, taking the score to 23-8.
Despite being down to 13 men, Novos refused to give up, and had Rockcliff back peddling as they drove into the home twenty two. From the second of two quick tapped penalties they worked the ball wide and Lewis Chater finished, converted by Stewart, to pull the score back to 23 15.
Rockcliff re-started and Simon Ayre regained possession when Novos kicked the ball downfield, launching a counter attack which ended with Henry Cotton crossing, unconverted, for 28-15. As full time approached, and with Novos now down to 12 men following a yellow card, a brilliant line kick took play from their own half to Rockcliff's 5m line.
A catch and drive from the line out gave Benedict Merret the chance to touch down for the final score of the game.