Hartlepool BBOB 10, Newton Aycliffe 40
Newton Aycliffe RUFC visited the Headland in Hartlepool to play Boys Brigade Old Boys at their Friarage Ground.
The weather conditions were dull and foggy, however the pitch looked in good condition. The Aycliffe boys were looking forward to another good performance against tough opposition.
Captain Andrew Littlefair impressed upon the players that a solid performance was required against newly relegated BBOB.
Aycliffe fielded a completely new front row, with Liam Kelly and Mark Affleck unavailable. Jeff Hodgson and Jamie Whelan both made their first starts of the season after returning from shoulder injuries. Ryan Milford started at loose-head.
The game kicked off and Aycliffe made an unbelievably fast start, with the backline playing their now usual brand of exciting rugby. James Thacker went under the posts within the first 2 minutes, slicing through the defence after some quick thinking from veteran club captain Warren Parsonage who took a quick tap penalty, putting the Hartlepool defence on the back foot.
There was more decisive black play to come, with all the backs sharing in a magnificent try for Luke Crossen, after he took a fantastic inside pass from stand off James Cocks.
The dominance of the backs was so evident that the Hartlepool defence was left in tatters. From a solid set piece by the Aycliffe pack came a bullet pass from Warren Parsonage to James Cocks.
Hartlepool’s defence who had been under the cosh for so long did not know how to react as they parted for Cocks to slip into the gap, before he sensationally stepped the fullback to score under the posts.
After 15 minutes Aycliffe were 21-0 up.
The old heads in the Hartlepool forwards realised that to prevent a landslide they had to change the way that they were playing.
To their credit they rucked, mauled and scrummaged exceptionally well, starving Aycliffe backs of the ball. Aycliffe forwards put in one hell of a shift to compete against a strong, experienced and street smart BBOB pack.
At half-time the score was 21-0 after James Cocks had kicked all three conversations. Peter Ryans half time team talk reminded all the players that every game has to be worked for and no team in this league, especially BBOB, will lie down and let us win. Hard work and mental fortitude would see us through the game.
The backline started where they left off with the ball moving quickly along the line to the openside wing. A sun tanned Luke Crossen, looking like a young Dale Winton in his supermarket sweep prime, raced from his blindside wing to loop round and receive a lovely pass from Jonny Griffiths to score in the corner.
For the next 20 minutes BBOB pressurised the Aycliffe line. Aycliffe forwards manned up massively and defended heroically. Paul O’Donnell, Niall Kelly, Neil Morgan and Andrew Littlefair tackled like men possessed, thwarting wave after wave off Hartlepool’s marauding forwards, who used the rolling maul to great effect.
Aycliffe’s scrummage was under massive pressure from a well drilled BBOB pack. Bob Malvern came on and settled the ship.
However, it was the sublime hooking skills of Jamie Whelan that moved the ball quickly away from the danger area, blunting BBOB’s attacking edge at the set piece. BBOB’s purple patch eventually wore down the Aycliffe defence and enabled them to score two drive over tries, which were well deserved after the tireless effort of their pack, making the score 28-10.
After absorbing so much pressure, Aycliffe began to turn it back onto BBOB. The pack became more confident, believing in the ability that had made them so dominant in earlier games.
Ben Walton making his debut for the club and Dan Montgomery entered the fray. Walton made an immediate impact making a fifty metre charge from a pick and run from Andrew Littlefair who offloaded the ball as he got tackled. Ben Walton almost made it all the way, however he was caught two metres from the line. Only for the sylphlike Andrew Littlefair, who had flogged his mutton to get off the ground and support him and receive a pass to fall over the line unopposed. James Cocks kicked 5 out of his 6 conversions.
The food and hospitality offered after the game by BBOB was absolutely fantastic, with certain members of the Aycliffe team (naming no names) going back for three helpings.
Relieved to still be in the team, with so much competition around him, club spokesperson Adam Gascoigne said: “Even though I didn’t score today, which is a rarity, it was wonderful to be a part of this hard worked and well deserved victory.
“My contribution was only bettered by young Luke Tinkler who plays the game with childlike abandon. His performance made me smile, like a father watching his son cycle without stabilizers for the first time.”
NARUFC 2nd XV entertained Darlington 2nd XV at Moore Lane Sports Ground.
This was a real step up in quality opposition, several players making their Newton Aycliffe debuts including Adam Bately (ex Darlington) who scored a try against his former club and Mark Wilson. The final score was 15-64.
Seconds skipper Darryl Pettit said: “This was a great learning curve for the players and a great day for the club. It was a real test for the lads and everyone stepped up to the plate. The result does not reflect the performance we put in and the chances we had.”