Regional Two North
Durham City RFC 22 v Percy Park RFC 29
Despite an early score Percy Park have to ‘dig deep’ at the Drift
This week’s missive returns to the safe hands of Hackinson as Flying Squad has decided to ride a motorcycle side saddle with his beau Terry in Hanoi before flying off to visit seedy night clubs in Bangkok. Riding side saddle with long legs is going to be a ‘tad’ tricky. And talking of tricky, Percy Park came through a difficult game to defeat a very game, young and blossoming Durham side. Coach Ash Smith was ‘fairly happy’ with the win however it has to be said that we did make rather hard work of it, especially when you consider the electric start we made.
In the aftermath of Storm Ciaran Durham City kicked off on what can only be described as a pleasant autumn afternoon. The kick was high and collected before the chasing pack could challenge. The ball was whipped to our left and given to full back Jamie Wrigley. Wrigley outpaced the stretched home defence, galloping like a thoroughbred bay colt, before releasing Ross Young to score under the posts. First score in under 45 seconds. Impressive start missed by Jamies mother as she was head down in a carton of chips! Conversion taken.
Durham responded well. Percy Park strayed offside. A little too eager to get off the line. Still, it was a distance kick that was well taken. And it was another kick that outdid the visiting side. Durham scrum half Paul Armstrong lofted an ‘up and under’. Collected, the ball went left to an advancing forward who bounced our centre Ollie Bartles-Smith. The ball was moved to former Durham school player Scott Rochester to round Howard Stock and slide into the corner. From start to finish it was a good score. Fortunately for us the conversion didn’t match the try. Durham ahead by one.
From the stand you could see that Durham wanted to keep the ball in the tight and reduce our running game. We were crying out for quicker ball to break the line to create ‘broken field rugby’. Durham had done their homework and we were being dragged into game we didn’t really want to play. In attempting to keep Park tied in at the ruck an errant hand on the floor was seen by the referee as the ball magically found its way to the team in blue. Ignoring the points on offer Percy Park kicked to the corner, relying on the set piece to bring the points. A well taken lineout, on a short ball, resulted in Leo Caulfield notching the score. Has to be said, Josh Hedley’s line out work is getting better with each game he plays. Paul Spowart struck the conversion attempt well and was unfortunate to see the ball strike the post, returning to pitch side rather than across the upright. 8 points to 12. Park ahead.
Durham kept to the forwards and a super tackle from Chris Reekie briefly stopped their momentum. They kept coming, attracting a penalty for a high tackle. With points on offer the home side went to a penalty move. Chris Metcalfe at ‘8’ trundling over for the score. Effective. Easy conversion under the posts.
Penalty attempts kept coming with Percy Park offered 3. Again, they went to the corner only to see Paul Spowart spoon his kick backwards. Hey ho law of averages states you cannot get them all. Both teams were looking good going forward although Durham looked weaker in the centre. If we had quicker ball, we could have made a bee-line for the middle, lofted passes made that difficult with Parks strike runners unable to get on the ball. Durham took advantage and kept our team contained. The effort was tiring the home side. A thought not lost on the Durham coach who kept rotating his team. Frustration crept into Parks play and as a consequence we had a little rumble on the floor. As soon as the players were parted the referee signalled the half. The half allowing frayed tempers to cool.Durham ahead 15 to 12.
Almost from the kick off Durham gave the away side a gift of 3 points. A lazy runner gave the penalty and, on this occasion, Paul Spowart found the sweet-spot and sent the ball sailing across and in between the posts.
The game became entrenched. Durham were expending a lot of effort. Their coach giving breathers through clever rotation. The travelling faithful encouraged quicker play. If Park could find a rhythm this game was ‘there for the taking’. Durham’s 15 was having a great game and Park centre Ollie Bartles-Smith was impressing with his defence. Eventually the vocal travelling support got their wish. Quick ball saw Jamie Wrigley break the line and we were behind enemy lines. Ross Young once more in support to give the finish. Ollie converted. 15 points to 22. And on the score Seb Reece made a very welcome return to the side following a long period away with a frustrating hamstring injury.
Durham responded with keep ball. Tempers flared when the two scrum halves had a bite at each other. Thankfully for both sides the referee remained and took a lenient view of the incident. Chris Reekie was putting in some great hits. His midfield work is superb. We would be a poorer side without him.
A wheeled scrum game Ollie Bartles-Smith an attempt at ‘posts’ from approximately 45 metres. The crowd wondered if Ollie had the distance. We waited in hopeful anticipation only to see the ball flop in front of the posts. As many a male can attest it’s an unfortunate occurrence that can blight any man. Hope Hanoi Ken is relaxed and on form.
From a mid- field position Andrew Walker was marched back ten for kicking the ball away. From the resulting mark Percy Park were under pressure and needed a big moment from their front five. Durham set and the ball went in. Park grunted and we took the ball against the head. Best scrum of the day. Even better we flipped the ball wide and, yes, got into broken play with Ollie Bartles-Smith making the line break before delivering to Seb Reece to finish with aplomb. Great score and converted. 15 to 29 with ten minutes to go.
Durham came back and pressured through impressive forward play. Some hard yards were won only to see scoring opportunities butchered. Frustrating watch for the home side. For the neutral an interesting period. Percy Park ran the bench injecting the fresher legs of a youthful Michael Langlands into the fray.
Andrew Walker was penalised for not releasing at the back. Bit harsh that one. Instead of a shot at goal Durham went for a scrum. What do I know? Percy Park lost the scrum and had to defend well. Durham became too eager and lost the ball. The Durham coach kept rotating his players which left many wondering how many changes can you have? And if anyone was keeping count?
City kept coming and camped in our 22. Park received a referee warning and on the next infringement Jamie Wrigley was shown a yellow. Park’s defensive set is one of legend unfortunately numbers counted and Durham crossed for the try. With the score at 20 points to 29 a successful conversion would give Durham a bonus point. To pile the pressure on the referee indicated ‘last kick’ Undeterred Durhams young full back ‘made good his effort’ to bring his side a well-earned and deserved point. Final score 22 points to 29.
As Ash Smith observed ‘‘Overall, fairly happy with the game. The build-up was around the weather but our lads had the mindset of playing on any pitch in any conditions. The weeks training focused around our transitions from attack into defence and vice-verse. The game was very stop-starty which meant we weren't able to put this into much practice as we then had relied heavily on our set piece and we scoring tries from set plays. I think what summed up our afternoon, was our last defence set, the boys showed real grit to stop Durham from scoring even after going a man down. The work that Keith has done with the lads about our connections and how we build pressure rally showed with the boys, although they scored with the last play, the lad’s effort to charge the last kick down showed our mentality.'
Representing Percy Park RFC:
From 15: Jamie Wrigley, Howard Stock, Paul Spowart, Ollie Bartles-Smith, Ross Young, Fergus Simpson
From 8: James Black, Leo Caulfield, Mickey Fisher, Josh Hedley, Chris Reekie, Sam Digman, Dan Shuttleworth and Tristan Grant
Finishers Aaron Smith, Michael Langlands and Seb Reece.