Boxing Day try fest


Both clubs decided to rest 1st XV players for the annual Boxing Day clash, which this year was staged at Preston Avenue. Rockcliff had more 1st teamers watching the game in the bar than they had on the pitch, as coach Jack Lambert made it plain that his priority was winning Durham & Northumberland 2, rather than maintaining tradition, much to the chagrin of many of the supporters.

Park fielded a mainly Lions XV with some 1st XV players in the starting pack and a couple on the bench. Rockcliff did not reveal their team selection until and hour before kick off and in the end fielded a mixed bag of Ist XV, Vikings, Rangers, guests. Some of the travelling supporters felt that a full Rock 1st XV would have benefitted by testing themselves against a strong side, but that was not to be as Park ran in 11 unanswered tries.

 The result was never in doubt after Park opened the scoring after 4 minutes as Stevie Irving sniped through a gap in the Whitley Bay defence and Paul Spowart kicked the conversion for a 7 – 0 lead. When Park kept the ball tight, the visitors were able defend the fringes, but had no answer to the wide ball which saw wings Harry Thorpe and Stu Finlay score consecutive tries.

 With a half hour gone, Park led 19 – 0 before a brace of tries by Josh Hedley and a second individual effort from Findlay put Park into a commanding half time 38 – 0 lead.

 In the second half Rockcliff kept Park out for 15 minutes before quick hands gave Harry Thorpe his second try out on the left wing. 7 minutes later number 8 Sean Williamson, who had moved into the second row to accommodate young Leo Caulfield at the back of the scrum, barged his way over the line, and from the very next play Rich Berne showed his strength driving over the line with several defenders in attendance to take Park 53 – 0 ahead.

 The Park supporters were delighted to see the return of Ali Blair in a Park shirt as the centre was back from several weeks off due to injury and overseas travel. It was he who scored next again showing determination to cross the line.

 Percy Park’s final try came from Andy Dunn, off the bench for the last 10 minutes. He scored a well worked try converted by Phil Morse to take the score to 67 – 0. With the conditions worsening and the ground beginning to freeze the game was called to and end 7 minutes short.

 This fixture is the longest standing in both club’s fixture list, but whether the tradition will continue is open for discussion. If the Boxing Day derby were to disappear, there would be more unhappy souls trudging around the seasonal sales and that can’t be a good thing!

 On a positive note, the sum of £600 was raised for the Accident and Emergency Unit of North Tyneside General Hospital.

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