1st XV won 33 – 13 at home to Stockton. Match report thanks to Alan Belford:
Northern took the field with a strong side hoping for an expansive game on a bright afternoon but alas, the conditions underfoot, after an overnight downpour, made it difficult for the home side to utilise their pacey backs. The Northern pack pressed Stockton from the off and forced a 5 metre attacking line out where a smart run around move ended with the outstanding Robbie Harnby scoring the first try on 7 minutes converted by Donal Collins. The Stockton pack, who were competitive throughout the whole match, replied by forcing Northern to concede a penalty on 10 minutes which the Stockton half back kicked to open their account. Northern continued to press and pinned Stockton back in their own half then from a poor clearance, superb handling including a great inside line by another man of the match contender, Phil Kay, put right wing Jack Tait away and he touched down in the corner for an excellent unconverted try on 20 minutes. A great kick and chase by Northern with a slick turnover gave what seemed to be another fine try for Harrison Clark only for the referee (who had a good game overall) to rule it out for a very dubious forward pass. Stockton were able to exert pressure with their big pack when Northern found it hard to get out of their 22 and conceded a 5 metre scrum. Eventually, the Stockton forwards were able to drive over the line after great defence by Northern from the initial pick and go, for an unconverted try on 30 minutes. Northern responded on 35 minutes when Alex Clark cut back on the angle and powered over for a try under the posts converted by Donal Collins to leave the half time score: Northern 19; Stockton 10.
Conditions underfoot deteriorated in the second half and Northern were forced to make a replacement when fly half Donal Collins was injured on 55 minutes. Back row Sam Taylor replaced Collins and the Northern back line reshuffled with Harrison Clark moving to 10, Joe Young to Centre, Dan Matthews to full back and Sam Taylor to the wing. This seemed to spur Northern and a lovely break from Harrison Clark set Dan Matthews away to outpace the defence and score a neat try, converted by Ali Gray on 58 minutes to clinch the bonus point. Stockton showed resilience to come back and managed a second unconverted try thought their forward pack on 62 minutes. Northern then turned the screw and created several scoring opportunities until eventually Stockton cracked. Man of the match Tom Harrison crossed after sustained forward pressure for the final try on 72 minutes, improved by Ali Gray with a sweet strike. Final score: Northern 33; Stockton 13.
Next week we are on the bus for the top of the table clash away to Barnard Castle.
Our regular correspondent Walter Ritchie is away this week.
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