Hartlepool Rovers 8 – 44 Percy Park
With pre-season complete, Park travelled to the New Friarage to take on Hartlepool Rovers in the first league game of the 2010/11 North One East campaign. Conditions were good for a running game which suited the visitors, but the wind was tricky which made kicking difficult. Rovers kicked off with the wind at their backs, and in bright sunshine.
Early exchanges were scrappy with several knock ons from both sides, but Park were always more adventurous, and player coach James Ponton scored first for Park after 9 minutes after skipper John Scott had taken a quick tap penalty, he was stopped short of the line but from the resulting ruck Craig Fidler took the ball on and offloaded to Ponton for the try. With regular kicker Marcus Rutter absent, kicking duties fell to Ashley Smith, who had to take his first conversion attempt without a kicking tee, a salutary lesson to be prepared before kick off. The conversion hit the post and stayed out.
Rovers had a chance to hit back with a penalty kick, but full back Sainty missed the attempt at goal. Hartlepool Rovers had lost the talismanic Foreman brothers during the close season, as they decided to move across town to rivals West Hartlepool, and they looked a little rusty at half back, with Park scrum half giving his opposite number Thomas King a torrid time. With a scrum to Rovers the ball shot out and Scott snaffled the ball and charged up field, and offloaded to Martin Shaw to score, Ash Smith converted and Park led 12 – 0 after 20 minutes.
From the restart, lock Michael Langlands took the ball and charged into the Rovers line before passing to Martin Shaw just inside the Park half. The powerful fly half brushed aside several would be tacklers and sped up the right hand wing, with the last defending closing him down, Shaw looked inside for support and shaped to pass one handed overhead basket ball style to the support runner inside, then chose to hold on to the ball and dived in for the try in the corner. With a gusting wind the conversion attempt fell short.
The visitors looked fitter than their Hartlepool counterparts, and with the new league scoring system now incorporating bonus points, Park were playing an expansive game but nearly came unstuck as a Martin Shaw pass found it’s way to a loitering Stewart Grazier, who took the gift and charged off up field with no defenders in front of him. The burly back rower didn’t have the pace to go all the way and was stopped in the Park 22, with the attack being snuffed out, as his off load didn’t find the hands of the supporting player.
The referee had spoken to both sides for going off their feet at the ruck, and as Park were awarded a penalty in the Rovers 22, decided to take the scrum as they were dominating the set piece. Park were then penalised in front of the posts and surprisingly Ponton was sent to the sin bin for bridging on the half hour.
With a man down Percy Park continued to dominate and from another penalty kicked to the corner and drove Greg Dixon over the line from the resulting line out which was caught and driven. The conversion was again short of the target. Park had secured their first bonus point of the season for scoring four tries and the first half was not yet over.
Rovers then committed the cardinal sin of being in front of the kicker at the restart giving Park the chance to regain possession from the scrum on half way. As the visitors went through several phases of play the home side were penalised, then hooker Jonny Cushlow was sent to the bin for dissent. With half time approaching, John Scott saw a half gap in the Rovers defence and their back row couldn’t get to him as he went over for a try which was unconverted. The half time score Rovers 0 – 27 Percy Park.
In the second half Park were restored to 15 men and had the wind advantage. Continuing where they left off in the first half, Percy Park used their back line to good effect and the ball was spun wide right with full back Alan Barlow coming into the line, and seemingly over the try line passed back to Thomas Turnbull on the wing, who then passed back inside to Shaw for his hat trick.
Rovers then had their best spell of the game with a sustained period of possession. Michael Langlands was then yellow carded for not rolling away in the tackle and from the penalty, the home side kicked to the corner. The line out was won and the maul set, and eventually player coach Alan Brown went over for a try on 48 minutes. Sainty missed the conversion attempt.
Percy Park then hit back wit another try by skipper John Scott. Play was driven into the Rovers 22, and a well timed run by George Purdy crashed the ball up close to the line, the ball was recycled and centre David Griffiths crashed into the defence which still held firm, but the Park scrum half saw a slight gap and nipped over from the back of a ruck to score. The score board was ticking over and Park were now 37 – 5 in the lead.
Scott then completed his hat-trick with a third try of the day again from a ruck close to the line, with Ash Smith finding his kicking form and converting to take the score to 5 – 44. With the clock running down, Rovers were awarded a penalty in front of the Park posts and the home side opted for the kick at goal which was slotted by Chris Sainty to finish 8 – 44.
This was a bright start for Park’s season with an away win and bonus point. Next Saturday they face fellow Northumberland side Morpeth at Preston Avenue.
Percy Park Lions played their first Candy league game at home to Hartlepool Rovers Heugers, and won comprehensively 88 – 3, with 14 tries and 9 conversions. Tries came from Potts (2), Pollock (3), Wafer, Spowart (2), Baker,(2) Gould, Gilmore, Morse, Dubois, and conversions from Greatham (3) and Spowart (6). Next week the Lions are away to Morpeth Edwardians.