North One East
Scarborough RUFC 34 v Percy Park RFC 32
‘Park, almost, put the wheels back on the bus!’
Northumberland County Senior Cup
Percy RFC 17 v Alnwick 29
‘Alnwick exhibit Level 5 acumen’
Exploding bus tyres, delayed kick offs, a blown calf (stay with me on that one!), gnomes at Preston Avenue, a ‘Hi-de-Hi’ weekend following the team in Scar, a visit from the ‘Flying Squad’, avoiding sectarian madness and learning that the only one word spoken in East Yorkshire is ‘Offside’ meant the Percy Park faithful had more than an interesting week……then you can add in a Lions victory in the Candy Cup over Consett, the return of ‘The Dunn’, our Colts winning the Saturday Colts league (with an impressive win over Alnwick) and Percy Park U16’s winning the Northumberland County Cup. So let’s draw breath and see how all the above came to be.
On Tuesday night Percy Park entertained Alnwick RFC, Northumberland County grandees and a delightful ‘Tilley’ gnome that appeared, without his fishing rod, for his (well) overdue visit to the green pastures of Preston Avenue. The stadium of dreams was full of eager supporters of both the blue, the black and the green. The atmosphere was galvanic and the teams did not disappoint. Providing a full blooded encounter that was separated by Alnwick’s accurate and Level 5 execution. Park were good. They played well, and at our level, would have beaten any side within the North One East family. ‘On the day’ Alnwick demonstrated the difference between our league and North Premier rugby. ‘Blue and gold’ showed Park the way ahead and in the doing, made the faithful realise where we need to go. Yet the game gave hope. Park exhibited skills which evidenced our ability to challenge for promotion to that league.
Percy Park started the game with a kick deep into the Alnwick 22 which provoked a furious and aggressive reaction from both sides. This was a contest that was not for the ‘faint of heart’. Slowly but surely Alnwick started to play through the phases, aided by Park’s inability to hold onto the ball in that all final crucial execution. With penalty opportunity given, Alnwick notched 3, then from the restart broke up field to score a try. From a tap Ethan Clarke broke through the defensive blue line putting Seb Reece into space. A shimmy, a shrug and a step put Reece over. With Michael Grove converting 10-7 Alnwick.
Alnwick responded well, taking advantage of a spilled restart and poor defending by Park. High and ‘no hand’ tackles handed the advantage to the visitors. With former Park player ‘Birdy’ running hard lines, it was all Alnwick. Park needed a response and a Michael Grove slotted penalty brought the scores level. Defensively Park were struggling against a direct running Alnwick side. Hit, quick offload and pace found gaps and as a consequence a score followed. 15- 10 at half time. Park were behind.
Quick rucking and pace on the ball saw Alnwick score in the corner and on this occasion convert. Park upped the pace with Ethan Clarke making inroads into Alnwick territory. Park were quicker into the ruck. The game began to boil. A fine break from Rory Meharg had Ali Blair scampering after him before ‘ducking and diving’ over the line. With Grove converting. Game on. Alnwick continued to hit the line hard. Tackles were fierce but the ‘Lion rampant’ had the edge going over in the right hand corner with try converted. It was fast and great to watch. The pace brought errors and Park threw away some opportunities. A poor penalty kick to the line by Michael Grove gave the ball back to Alnwick however It was not long before referee Graham Crozier gave Grove a chance to redeem himself by placing Park securely ‘on the 5’. Unfortunately Park knocked on and there was the difference. Alnwick were accurate and took advantage; Park created but were unable to finish. Fine margins. The game ebbed and flowed but Park couldn’t make the next score and force a climatic finish. The game ended with Alnwick the victors by 29 points to 17.
Next stop Scarborough with several of the ‘alikados’ descending on the quiet and tranquil Victorian Spa town like a pack of marauding Vikings aka Jack and Woody from the Sweeney. Only to ‘beat a hasty retreat’ as a large contingent of close cropped and tattooed Loyalist Orange men got to the ‘striped rock’ first, before marching through the town with flutes, drums and banners. And in the doing created an unpleasant undertow of ‘harry hard stares’ that put off the casual observer.
Not to be disheartened and in resplendent dress, ‘the team’ left the ‘blue and pink rinse brigade’ at their fine entertainment led digs to make the short journey from ‘The Bay’ to Scalby Road. The impressive home of Scarborough RUFC; who when told of our teams late arrival, were less than impressed. Especially when we gave them duff details as to the location of the breakdown. Apparantly there is only one Sutton Bank and our bus did not break down on it. Got to get it absolutely right in Yorkshire. Never mind…. our saviours led by Captain Dubois arrived an hour later having survived a shredded wheel. New strips adorned.The game could go on…panic over!
The pre match banter was all about our 6ft7 giant and how they were going to minimise that threat. In well honoured tradition we ‘bigged’ Josh up in the hope that fear is contagious, only for ‘that news to filter’ from the changing room. Big Josh was out!!....The rumour mill had him ducking underneath a door and as he did so he popped a calf (much to the dismay of ‘our Caroline’). The Scarborough support breathed easy…the news brought beers and knowing smiles from our Yorkshire friends, they felt it was going to their day and the gods were with them.
That bonhomie continued until half time as we gave Scarborough a 29-10 lead at the half. Many a knowing smile was given. As the sympathetic back rubs started (and were to continue late into the evening) the derision from the partisan support washed over player and supporter alike. Park regrouped in the huddle and commenced the second half in robust style.
Direct running and ‘keep ball’ saw the Scarborough team fall foul of the referee as they were penalised for ‘off ball’ incidents and ‘no hand’ tackles. Park pressed and threw the ball wide before cutting back inside. Scarborough teetered and an Ash Smith deft off load gave Seb Rees ball in hand to score a fine try. Smith converted the effort and at 29-17 the game started to look that little bit different. As ‘Boro’ offended in the ruck the crowd began to turn. Although the penalty was missed, momentum had switched. With Ash Smith ‘pulling the strings’, Park ran the ball and when Ethan Wilson went over for the score the ‘cat was well amongst the pigeons’. Unfortunately the conversion hit the post.29-22 and the noise at Scalby Road went up a notch.
Michael Langlands and Austin Phillips were at their best and causing havoc in the ruck. With Ethan Wilson, Caulfield and Clarke in the back row, contributing at every break down, Park got good ball to play with. Meharg, at 9, has a quick pass and was feeding his back line. Charlie Greswold battered the Scarborough defence allowing Ash Smith to play off him and one such move put Michael Grove in the clear. Michael broke away from the cover with blistering pace. He was in for the score…….only…….for a late call as a hesitant linesman’s flag began to flutter and although the referee was following the play he blew the whistle to return all back to the half way for ‘a foot on the line’ and a throw to the home side.
Noting Grove’s pace he was taken high and late. Yellow Scarborough and Smith kicked to the home sides 5. Captain Dubois went long and the ball was lost. Scarborough cleared and the away support talked about margins.
Scintillating Grove went through again. Scarborough could not cope with his pace. Greswold followed and as he did so his efforts were rewarded when ball came to hand and he was over for an excellent try. With Smith converting we were level and some of the home crowd went vitriolic. It was heady stuff. The ground was a cauldron and Park were on top.
The game became rough. Langlands went down and for a moment stayed there. Concern on the Park bench. They shouldn’t have worried…he didn’t quite bounce but he was back up and returned to the fray. For the first time Coach Patton’s dam almost burst as this quiet scholar of the game became more than agitated. Scarborough went offside and the shout from the bench…’Kick at goal’….with calm head Smith kicked long….and over….. 32-29 Park with 8 to go.
A high tackle on Dubois, with the player unceremoniously dumped on his head, drew the yellow and attracted a senseless comment about taking Park ‘over the vertical’. Maybe the delay to kick off had over lubricated one or two. With the numerical advantage Park gave away penalties allowing Scarborough breathing space. Margins again and the difference between 5th and being at the top there for all to see. Scarborough didn’t need a second chance and with a promotion chance slipping away, they were at Park’s line. The ruck area was savage and untamed. Austin Phillips disrupted the lot as he came through the middle like an angry bull, only for the referee to adjudicate that he had come ‘around the side’. It was marginal yet the yellow was up and Phillips dispatched to the bench. 3 and a half to go could Park hold out? Scarborough went to the scrum and Ollie Stephenson joined at 8. With Phillips out we looked vulnerable and so it proved as Scarborough scored an unconverted try. 34-32 to the home side and the noise went up another notch. It really was heady, anxious stuff and the home side’s anxiety didn’t end there.
From the restart Scarborough collected and ran the ball back. The ‘first up’ tackle was good. The player was stopped. Scarborough went for the ‘pass and kick’ Percy Park went to ‘Fire’ and flooded the area, winning the ball back. Scarborough were tied in and on the floor. Meharg had his hands on the ball… out to the left the field of play was empty of any defence. The Park support were up on their feet….a momentary shock of hush descended only for the referee to blow ,adjudicating that Park had gone off their feet. With penalty dispatched high into the crowd Scarborough breathed a massive sigh of relief. Their promotion push continues.
At the end we were 34 to 32 and so very close to turning the game around. Disappointed yet undiminished. Surely now we can begin to realise (believe) how good we are and how good we can be…… if we don’t give the opposition too much of a head start!!
As the after game hospitality flowed, the post-match speech was all about our giant and the influence he could have had, if he played. Taking all the acclaim in his stride Josh Hedley strode up to the front to receive his liquid reward, only to bang his head off the door frame…. We laughed …no it was more than that and all wished ‘our Caroline’ had been there to see it...
Good news came thick and fast with ‘The Lions’ defeating Consett 38-5 in the Candy Cup final. A game in which (I am told) past captain Andy Dunn played a blinder. And coming back from ‘that injury’ that really is good news. Our Colts won their league and our U16’s are county champions. Not to get too carried away….. but let me indulge just a little!
Park are at home versus Cleckheaton this Saturday with a 3pm kick off….big game for them as they strive to avoid relegation.