North 1 East
Percy Park 39 - 12 West Hartlepool
A brace of tries each by joint men of the match Howard Stock and Adam Hay helped Percy Park secure another bonus point win at Preston Avenue. Park had made several changes to the team that lost narrowly away to Moortown the previous week, with player coach Ash Smith coming back into the team at fly half, Olly Stephenson at centre and Jack Peter at fullback, a strong bench also saw the return from injury of former skipper Michael Langlands, Ethan Wilson and Austin Phillips. West were without their player coach Stu Waite who was unavailable due to the modern day curse of rugby - "a friend’s wedding".
The weather looked good but rain followed the Scottish exchange referee down from the border, and the home side kicked off with a steady stream of precipitation keeping the supporters in the stand or hunkered down under the shelter of the balcony.
The visitors were first on the score sheet as Owen Westhorp went over in the corner on 15 minutes after a sustained period of pressure. A scrum on Park’s 22 saw the ball shipped wide to the young West wing, but from the wide angle the conversion was missed.
Park responded with a penalty kick from Michael Grove, after a couple of barnstorming runs from Michael Birkett caused the visitors to infringe in a kickable position. 3-5.
Conditions were anything but ideal with the ball resembling a bar of lifebuoy, but eventually on the half hour Howard Stock was awarded a try in the right hand corner which was much disputed by West. There was no doubt about Stock’s second try however as Ash Smith ran back a clearance kick from West Hartlepool that failed to find touch. The Park right wing weaved and jinked his way through the defence to score under the posts and Grove added the extra to take Park in front 15-5.
Just before the break the hosts stretched the lead with the first of Adam Hay’s tries from a caught and driven line out in the West 22. Park headed into the warmth of the changing rooms for oranges 20 - 5 to the good.
Park used all three of their replacements from the start of the second half, but Ethan Wilson lasted only 3 minutes before he was given a 10 minute rest by the referee for a no arms tackle. The penalty was kickable but went wide of the uprights. West Hartlepool did make amends however and with the next play as fly half Oliver Connolly, son of kiwi Jamie Connolly from West’s Premiership days stepped off his left foot and through a huge gap in the Park defence to score under the sticks. The conversion brought West back to 20-12.
The game was a fiesty affair and eventually the Scottish referee decided to give his ears a rest and sent West skipper and scrum half Ryan Painter to the bin.
Percy Park capitalised on the numerical advantage and went further ahead with Adam Hay’s second try. Park kicked to the corner from a line out and drove to the line with the young Park hooker breaking off the maul and driving over for the try. Michael Grove slotted the conversion as Park now had a try bonus point in the bag.
With 20 minutes of the game remaining and handling conditions getting no easier Ash Smith made a break and kicked ahead, with Groves sneaking over for the try just ahead of the Park fly half. The conversion virtually sealed the game and Park were 34-12.
Another kick chase gave Park another scoring opportunity but the ball was knocked on just short of the whitewash.
Percy Park spent 5 minutes camped on the West line and “a bit of argy bargy” ensued as Park pushed back the West scrum with the referee awarding a penalty to the home side after order was restored. Once again the line out was secured and the driving maul was effective with Jake Smith touching down. The conversion hit the post and stayed out but Park now led 39-12.
With time running out West went on the attack looking for a consolation try to finish the game, but the Park defence remained firm. Park appeared to have turned over ball and ran out of defence only for play to be stopped as another fracas developed with West vociferously claiming foul play. Video evidence would show that a clash of heads between 2 West players had caused one of the players to be knocked to the ground. The referee called over both captains for a chat and then with time up blew the whistle as the players raced off for a hot shower and supporters the sanctuary of the bar.
Percy Park Lions won their Northumberland Cup quarter-final at Sutherland Park against a useful looking Novos team. Novos led 10 -0 before Park came back to lead 20 - 10. Novos came right back but Park held out for the 20 - 17 win.
Next week the 1st XV are away to York looking for their first win on the road, the Lions entertain Blaydon II and the Pumas take on North Shields Crusaders in their re-arranged cup and league double header.