Blyth back to winning ways against Winlaton. Match Report by Roger Phillips
Although played on the ‘second’ pitch Winlaton’s picturesque Axwell View, despite a few patches of lingering frost, was perfectly fit for play. Blyth kicked up the slope and dominated the opening 15 minutes and two glorious chances were missed with right wing Andy Barker unmarked but failing to receive the crucial pass. Tight defensive play allied to spirited tackling kept Blyth at bay for the first quarter and then the tide began to turn. Home fly-half Kevin Allison, a thorn in Blyth’s side for many seasons, kicked a penalty and then hit the post with a second. Blyth continued to live dangerously and two further long distance penalties from Allison stretched the Vulcans lead to 9-0. A 70 yard run from centre Adrian McKeown ended just short of the try line and then to rub salt into Blyth’s wounds Allison kicked a fourth penalty to give Winlaton a 12-0 lead at the break.
Blyth brought on James Bostock for left-wing Chris Grey & scored an early try by prop Stu Brown, converted by fly-half Andy Sutherland to reduce the lead to 12-7. The visitors were now on top and a tremendous 30 yard drive by the pack saw hooker Martin Stephenson touch down with Andy Sutherland converting to give Blyth a 14-12 lead. Further changes for the visitors saw Barry Harnett replacing Steve Long at wing forward and Dean Reay taking over at prop from Michael Barber. Although well in command territorially Blyth were finding it difficult to pierce a resolute home defence but eventually a flowing passing move saw left-wing James Bostock accelerate away from his pursuers to put Blyth 19-12 ahead. Despite playing most of the half in Vulcan’s territory Blyth found it difficult to penetrate the home defence and despite several promising moves, were hampered by petty infringements. A shock to the visitors system came when totally against the run of play Winlaton scored a breakaway try through full-back Connor Sheridan. This was a wake up call for Blyth who camped in the Vulcans half for the remaining 10 minutes but could not add to their 19-17 lead.
Winlaton gained a bonus point by losing by 7 points or less. Blyth now have a three week break and team manager Roger Phillips summed up the season so far: “With 12 wins out of 14 games we are second with a 9 point lead over the third placed club but are far from home and dry. We have been blessed with few serious injuries, touch wood, and coaches Dave Massie and Richard Calvert have had to make few changes to the line-up which has shown in the team spirit indicated by skipper Tony Smithson. However the job, i.e. promotion, is far from done with 6 of the remaining 10 games away from home and the second half of the season gets under way on Jan 7th at home to Bishop Auckland, KO 2.15”