NORTH 1 EAST
BRIDLINGTON RUFC 23 – 29 PERCY PARK RFC
Percy Park made the picturesque journey down the east coast of Yorkshire to Bridlington in the first of the 3pm kick offs of 2019. The Dukes Park side had lost their previous 4 games and are in danger of dropping down to Yorkshire 1. Prior to the game Park sat in 10th spot after the gut wrenching defeat at home at the hands of Morley two weeks earlier. In the reverse encounter against Brid at Preston Avenue in November, Park won convincingly 43 – 0. North 1 East is a very competitive league and normally 50 points in the season would ensure safety, but this season clubs from the relegation zone up to 6th place are all within 15 points of each other, so points are at a premium, and Park were looking for only their second win on the road this season.
Three players made their 1st XV debuts with former Brid player Ollie Stephenson starting for the black and whites at full back with Matty Boustead unavailable. With Leo Caulfield out too Mark Barry moved into the back row, and Ruairi McHarg and Adam Hay were named on the bench. Injuries and unavailability affects all sides, and to empasise the fact, the team that travelled to Bridlington contained only 8 player in the squad of 18 who had played Brid back in November.
Park kicked off with wind advantage, and for the first 20 minutes of the game, there was no score with Brid defending well and Park unable to breach their defences. The game was stopped for a serious injury to Park lock Eddie Saint who dislocated his elbow, being replaced by Josh Hedley. It wasn’t until the 26th minute that Park broke the deadlock when Ethan Clarke crossed the line on the right after a typical barn-storming run by Charlie Greswold. Ash Smith kicked the difficult conversion. Three minutes later left wing Kieran Sutherland finished off a good move started by number 8 Clarke, but this time the conversion was wide.
The visitors were in controlled and the lead stretch to 19 points when Park won a line out on the Brid 22. The ball secured, the maul set off towards the try line, and the hosts looked to have repelled the attack until several of the Park backs joined the fray and the maul regained momentum with skipper Jonny Dubois touching down. Ash Smith was on target with the extras. Bridlington held on without conceding a further score and at the break Park were leading 19 – 0. The early signs of storm Freya were beginning to show as the wind freshened in the Park faces. The home side were awarded a penalty early in the second half and fly half Yasser Omar duly accepted the 3 points on offer. Brid kept the score board ticking with a second penalty and then scored the first of their 3 second half try when right wing James Mooney went past several tacklers to score in the corner. The conversion was missed but the East Yorks side had their tails up as they cut the deficit to 8 points at 11 -19.
With 20 minutes of the game to go, Park brought on Ruiari McHarg for Jared Deacon and Adam Hay for Mark Barry, and when Hay was chopped down with a high tackle in the Brid 22, Ash Smith stepped up to kick the penalty. The wind was picking up all the time and when the ball refused to stay on the tee, and with cries of time up by home players and supporters, Smith converted the penalty with a drop kick to take Park to 22 points to 11.
Bridlington replied immediately when wing Mooney scored again in similar fashion to his first try, this time there were cries that he had over stepped the line in the corner but neither the referee or away side touch judge agreed and the try stood. The conversion by Omar took his side ever closer to the Park tally at 18 – 22 and a nail biting 10 minutes was on the cards.
Percy Park regained a bit of composure and set up a series of attacks into the Bridlington half. Jonny Dubois broke through a crowd of players and looked to be in for the try but offloaded to Ali Blair who scored under the posts. Ash Smith’s conversion attempt stalled in the wind but had enough forward momentum to drop just beyond the cross bar and Park were ahead 18 – 29 with only 5 minutes remaining. Brid were determined to get something from the game and with 80 minutes up, hooker Ralph Johnston burst through a couple of tackles and raced to the line to score. The conversion was wide, but the home side secured the losing bonus point. Park were delighted at only their second win on the road, and the bonus point for 4 tries lifts them 4 places in the league to sixth. Eddie Saint was collected from Scarborough General Hospital, where his dislocated elbow was put back, but unfortunately he joins the Park injury list and will be out for the rest of the season.
Percy Park Lions and Pumas were in cup action in the semi-finals of the Northumberland Cup. The Lions put up a spirited display away to Alnwick II losing 38 -12, a vast improvement on their earlier encounter at Greenfields. The Pumas made it 3 wins out of 3 against North Shields Crusaders winning 81 -19 to secure a final which will be against Whitley Bay Rockcliff Vikings on 13th April 2019.
Next week Park 1sts travel to Yorkshire once again to take on Malton & Norton, the Lions play Darlington Mowden Park II and the Pumas play Gosforth Phoenix.