So they think it is all over – well it is now with another season put to bed with a loss at West Hartlepool 33 – 17 and 5 tries to 2. All West’s tries emanated from impressive line-out drives – controlled and extremely difficult to defend.
Again Northern began brightly and in fact we were denied two tries in the opening 10 minutes – one when we were harshly penalised for a “cross over” right on the line to deny Jon Coffey a try.
The physically dominant West pack began to assert itself and led by an aggressive marauding no-7 scored four first half tries, 3 of which were converted. Northern scored when Alex Clark broke clear and sprinted for the line. Throughout the game Alex caused the West defence problems, especially when he was half-tackled and was able to keep the momentum going. Donal Collins made the conversion and kicked a penalty to reduce the arrears for a half time score of 26 – 10.
The Northern front row, which was under pressure during the first half was changed with Olly Holtam moving to tight head and Sam Wilson drafted in at loose head and although playing into a strong wind Northern forced West to defend desperately. However, yet again, the Northern Achilles heel reared its ugly “foot!!” and we could not make that final metre. West broke the shackles and swiftly moved the ball up the park to score under the posts, completely against the run of play. Northern’s persistence was eventually rewarded when Jon Coffey scored for Donal to convert and then kick a final penalty.
We have retained our place in the league only by 2 points making the final 10 minutes of defending in the game against Alnwick even more important (Alnwick, although losing their final 3 league games, managed a losing bonus point in each game to scramble clear of relegation). Our nearest rivals, Morpeth, however are relegated with Middlesbrough and Malton and Norton.
Next season will be crucially important because if the RFU’s reorganised league structure comes into being we will have to ensure we finish in the top half of the table
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