Newton Aycliffe 15, Richmond 17
Newton Aycliffe lost only their second league game of the season against Richmond, but maintained their top-of-the-table status in the Durham & Northumberland third division.
This week’s game was played on a Tuesday evening at Durham City under floodlights verses Richmond – a home fixture which had been cancelled due to inclement weather prior to Christmas.
Perfect conditions greeted NARUFC at hallow drift and despite up to ten players being unavailable the Aycliffe boys were ready for a hard game against up and coming Richmond.
Both teams were pleased to see that the Durham Referee Society had provided three top quality Referees to preside over the fixture a Referee and two Touch Judges a rarity indeed.
The game kicked off under floodlights and a fantastic atmosphere ensured generated by the large crowd which had turned up for the game.
Both Aycliffe and Richmond showed clear intention right from the whistle both sets of forwards tore into each other with controlled aggression. Aycliffe scored the first try through Jonny Griffiths.
The forwards produced great ball inside their own half for scrum half Ben Walton to feed Gareth Parsonage at stand off the backs and in particular James Thacker smashed through Richmond’s defensive line and made his way into the away teams 22metre area before being tackled the ball was beautifully recycled and the direction of play was quickly changed for Jonny to glide over the line for the try. Richmond hit back immediately and scored against the run of play. Both tries were unconverted 5-5.
Aycliffe continued to battle hard the forwards playing some of their best rugby in weeks fighting for every inch of the field. Richmond forwards were matching them at every opportunity.
Veteran John Whitehouse was the constant thorn in Richmond’s side he was the first at every break down tacking every player who moved in a Richmond shirt.
James Thacker scored the important second try his power and pace smashing his way through the determined Richmond backs. Adam Gascoigne kicked the conversion 12-5
Half time score 12-5
Niall Kelly, who has been carrying an ankle injury all year, limped off at the break to be replaced by Jeff Hodgson.
Richmond came out of the traps like men possessed and for a good ten minutes played some really good aggressive rugby resulting in them scoring a try which was converted 12 -12.
Aycliffe then took full charge of the game and for the next 30 minutes played all the rugby in and around Richmond’s 22 metre area. Aycliffe did everything but score a try.
Jamie Whelan back after a knee injury at hooker was everywhere his ball carrying was excellent, in fact he was convinced he had scored a try, the Referee and Touch Judge, being unsighted were unable to give it.
A combination of stout defence by Richmond and some poor decision making by Aycliffe it appeared that Richmond had been let off the hook.
The Referee gave a penalty to Aycliffe with a few minutes left in the game 35metres out from the Richmond posts Adam Gascoigne stepped up and slotted it over. (The ball actually bounced on top of the cross bar before hitting the upright and trickled over).
Aycliffe had taken full advantage and were now 15-12 in the lead. A couple of minutes left to play all they had to do was regain possession of the ball and run the clock down.
But Richmond were made of sterner stuff. They came back at Aycliffe all guns blazing at first it appeared that the boys had weathered the storm but after clearing the line Richmond won good line out ball throw the ball wide and attacked the Aycliffe line. With seconds left they crashed over the line to beat Aycliffe 15-17.
Final Score 15-17
It was heart breaking for the gallant Aycliffe boys and something that could take a while to accept. Credit must be given to Richmond who played their part in a fantastic game of rugby.
The three Referees were excellent and helped create a fantastic atmosphere for the players to play in.
The return fixture at Richmond is in a couple of weeks time and it should be a cracking game.