Newton Aycliffe 17, Bishop Auckland 14
By Ben Carpenter Merritt
Newton Aycliffe’s first XV hosted Bishop Auckland, a strong rival well established in Durham Northumberland 2 and a team who had already beaten Aycliffe earlier in the season. Despite missing several key players through unavailability and injury, Aycliffe were able to field a strong XV.
It looked like it might not be the home side’s day when their kick off travelled straight out, giving the visitors a scrum on halfway.
However Aycliffe managed to hold the scrum and defended well around midfield, forcing the turnover and going to the boot to gain territory, but the kick rolled just too far, allowing the visitors to dab down for a twenty-two.
The following phases of play saw the two teams locking horns in the midfield as both vied for the ascendency, Aycliffe showed the most promise, and made good ground with ball in hand. The visitors forced a turnover, however a big hit on the twenty two caused a knock on which skipper Andy Littlefair hacked downfield, scooping up to cross, only to be held up over the line.
In the following phases, Bishop knocked on, giving Aycliffe a scrum advantage, which was won and kicked downfield for the lineout. Aycliffe knocked on ceding possession to the visitors, who surged upfield, stopped only by James Thacker who effected a rip in the tackle, Aycliffe again kicked the corner, but lost the lineout, a situation only saved by Neil Morgan’s charge down which gave Aycliffe the lineout fifteen metres out. An attack from the set piece saw Adam Gascoigne link up nicely with Chris Richards, who stepped the last man and crossed, bringing the home side back into the game.
The restart was brilliantly stolen by Neil Morgan, who set the phase, with Linden Dixon crashing down field on the carry. A loose ball at a ruck was lept upon by Andy Littlefair who again hacked through, this time making sure and diving over under the sticks on thirty minutes. A Bishop chase on the restart knocked on into touch which gave Aycliffe the impetus once more, pressing down field with Thacker and Gascoigne finding themselves with a two-on-one a try seemed certain, however the Bishop defender knocked the ball down.
Aycliffe started the second half well, applying pressure from the kick off and kicking smartly for territory. The visitors were not done however, and turned the lineout over, launching another attack which was only stopped by a sharp turnover by Luke Harty. Bishop regained possession and again forged down field, working hard around the corner and making metres each time. Eventually the pressure told and they crossed on 50 minutes, which was converted, taking them two points to the good.
A brief break in play saw both sides’ medics take to the field and try to patch up numerous players who were scattered across the pitch after what had been an extremely physical set of phases. Play resumed, and Aycliffe won a penalty on half way which replacement scrum half Richie Brown elected to tap and go, feeding rampaging tight head prop Linden Dixon, who crashed into the Bishop defence, taking three tacklers to be brought down.
Bishop showed real mettle to regroup and regain possession before launching another attack downfield, once more doing what they do best, working the corner with big runners. Aycliffe regained possession and kicked up field only to give the penalty for not letting the man regain his feet, however, in the following phases, James Thacker read the play from 10 to 12, rushing out and taking the ball with two hands to dive over and take the home side ahead, but only by three points.
The visitors regained possession following a scrum, but a great chop tackle out wide allowed Luke Tinkler to lock onto the ball and turned it over, which was hacked up field by Andy Littlefair, following the chase, a Bishop player punched Littlefair and was sent from the field, however the clock was red, and Richards turned and put the ball in to touch.