Regional 2 North
Percy Park RFC 33 v Stockton RFC 7
Feisty encounter on the Tyne.
Remembrance Day brought a feisty encounter to Preston Avenue as Stockton arrived with real intent. A winning streak had installed a mentality into the visitors that they were a team on the up and were there to be taken seriously. The first ten minutes (or more) Percy Park were camped deep inside their own 22 and to be fair showed fantastic discipline with a defensive set that went on and on. Park eventually broke free with a transition try that brough the crowd to their feet but was rewarded by the coaching team with a hearty ‘Great D Park’. The game was set. No quarter to be given as the two sides dug in and battled across 80 minutes.
A respectful minute’s silence was held before kick off with all attending reflect on conflicts past and the loss of family members and loved ones. As we watched the game today a few facts that might cause you to reflect, pause and consider the sacrifices made by others to ensure our country remains free and we live our lives in relative peace. One man was killed every 4.4 seconds of the first day of the Battle of the Somme. In the time we watched today’s game 1091 soldiers would have lost their lives. And the average age was 22 years and two months. About the same as both set of players. Sobering thought.
As Percy Park absorbed the opening salvos Michael Langlands and Paul Spowart went nose to nose with their opposite numbers. Stockton probed and probed again but they could not find a way through. The home side had the advantage in the set piece and looked sharp with the ball. Kicking away possession dictated their inability to get, meaningfully, out of their half. The faithful weren’t panicking just yet they knew that one sharp pass in middle field would bring broken field rugby and, in that regard, we are devastating. A very dominant scrum from the Park ‘eight’ brought clean fast ball. Quick hands put Howard Stock into space out wide. Good interlink play with Jamie Wrigley moving with real pace. The tackling player dropped off giving Wrigley the try.
Stockton were aggressive at the breakdown and our scrum half was having some difficulty getting the ball away. The game was aggressive and very combative. Our front five were putting a shift in winning and securing ball. James Black was all energy as he marshalled the Park pack across the field. One period of good possession was kicked away behind the Stockton posts and coach Keith Lauchlin vented his frustration as the resulting drop out was allowed to hit the floor with our player knocking on. Hard won territory lost in the blink of an eye.
Percy Park were dominant in the set piece but became perplexed as they were penalised again and again. High tackles weren’t being punished. Frustrations were simmering and the referee looked as if they might lose control. One or two of our players became too vocal along with our (normally very placid) physio who expressed her disquiet quietly.
The home side began to win the personal contests. Territory was being won and as Percy Park mauled to the line Stockton ‘pulled down’ bringing the train to the ground. We kept possession and worked our forwards in the middle before moving left. Constantly probing we came back to the middle. Matty Atkinson was subject to a huge hit. The ball was retained. We were working hard stretching their defence and received ‘just reward’ as Jamie Wrigley crossed for the brace, touching down under the posts. The conversion taken. 12 nil to the home side.
Josh Hedley was having a ‘stormer’. Working hard Percy Park put the gangling second row into Stocktons back line. The faithful saw and encouraged. Head down Hedley bulldozed through into space. Michael Langlands with the push. Huge legs ate the ground putting the second row ‘one on one’ with the defender. For some inexplicable reason the defender went high and was brushed off. Two further attempts were made to no avail allowing Josh to score a fine individual try. The try converted.
Percy Park had weathered the storm. Stockton began to run changes as they lost their outside centre to injury. Mikey Fisher went off with a ‘blood injury’ to be replaced by Jake Smith. We might have weathered the Stockton storm but we hadn’t won over the referee. Decision after decision went against. There was too much chat from our side and eventually it cost. Two Stockton players collided (or so it appeared) as they contested a high ball. The ball bounced forward. The referee awarded Stockton the put in. Michael Langlands adjudged to have given a push in the build-up. There was some chat and (I think) Leo Caulfield’s response brought a lecture. Stockton couldn’t hold their scrum as Percy Park drove them backwards. The Stockton ‘8’managing to get the ball out before he was over run.
Play continued. Andrew Walker was caught at the back of the ruck. A Stockton player failing to roll away? In the melee after the referee received some chat reversed their decision and from the resulting play Stockton attacked our line and scored. Not clever. An easy conversion took the game into the half at 19 points to 7.
The half time break brought an unlikely peacekeeper as our lineman Paul Jobson sought to dampen touchline incredulity. His calm demeanour owing much to an improved diet and a good night’s sleep. What we could all agree in was that there was ‘too much chat’ from our side.
The opposition were keen on catching Andrew Walker with the ball. A hand or shove anything to tie him in. The Stockton 13 was so intent on his intent he came around the side, actually walked around, and contested the ball. Bizarre. Penalty against. Still, Stockton contested and the physicality went up a notch. A Stockton penalty in front of the posts was ignored. The resulting line out lost. The ball returned to the Stockton half with aplomb. From a line out Percy Park ‘caught and drove’ toward the visitor’s line. Real muscle from the forwards. No stopping them as hooker Dan Shuttleworth dived over the line to score. Good try. Conversion taken 26 to 7.
Some indifferent interpretation of scrummage penalties perplexed player and supporter. Shouts and appeals became louder. Percy Park were not getting the reward their dominance deserved. As a consequence, the game see sawed. We kept creeping off side and were punished. The decisions arguably keeping Stockton in the game and in territory. All that to one side it was absorbing.
Paddy Browne made an entrance into a centre field and what an introduction. A big hit and superb lines demonstrated our coaching teams hope and hype. Ross Young was brought to ground with a try saving tackle that was top drawer. Talking of ‘top drawer’ Josh Hedley had another moment. Carrying the ball, he attacked the bungalow corner and whilst fending off the attacker passed out the back to the waiting James Black to score the try. Brought a cheer that one! 33 to 7
Andrew Walker was receiving some unwanted attention. His box kick was collected by himself and an over the head pass kept play going forward. The ball went to the ruck and we were penalised. Our player was ragged about a bit. He saw red and slapped his opponent in front of the referee. Fortunately, the referee didn’t see red. Yellow card given. Down to 14
Percy Park continued to press well. Some big defensive moments in field. Browne and Seb Reece to the fore. (Its great to see our former Captain Seb Reece coming into some form.). Tensions remained high. There was a lot going on off the ball. Ross Young had words. The Stand crowd weren’t happy. The referee was being constantly questioned. One almighty clearance kick from Paul Spowart released some pressure. Breathless stuff for the spectator. Park saw out the ten and with almost a minute left saw out the game. 33 to 7 the final score.
Coach Ash Smith was happy with the performance of his team ‘Thought the lads really put in a shift today. Stockton are always feisty, and I was impressed by how our lads matched their physicality. Highlights for me: James Black at number 8 continues to impress; his work rate is fantastic. Seb Reece returned to the starting side, and I thought he had some really good touches. However, my man of the match was Josh Hedley. Without his partner in crime, Tanky, by his side, he bulldozed his way through their defensive line and made some excellent decisions to get his head down and get us over the line.’
And for those who expressed concern that Hanoi Ken was being misled toward Bangkok. He is okay, fit and well by last report. He is accompnied by Terry his partner, who is not a he/she person that he met in a seedy redlight room above a shop. Be assured she will look after him and has promised to keep him on a short leash!
Representing Percy Park RFC:
From 15: Jamie Wrigley, Howard Stock, Seb Reece, Paul Spowart, Ross Young, Fergus Simpson, Andrew Walker
From 8: James Black, Leo Caulfield, Mikey Fisher, Michael Langlands, Hosh Hedley, Matty Atkinson, Dan Shuttleworth and Aaron Smith.
Finishers: Tristan Grant, Paddy Browne and Jake Smith,