Castle Prevail Over Westoe
Exiting Encounter in Season Finale
Lookers sponsored South Shields Westoe went into the Durham Cup Final against close rivals Barnard Castle, knowing they had been victorious in both league matches this year.
As expected, the whistle brought some high-paced explosive rugby from the two teams who finished in third and fourth spots, one win away from promotion.
The two huge packs smashed into each other, with some determined defences stopping players in their tracks. Early runs from Ryan Lamb, Andrew Kirton, Sam Gaff and Joe McKenzie looked promising; however the Castle defence held firm and good tactical kicking from Errington at fly-half gave Castle the territorial advantage.
Westoe were penalised at the breakdown allowing Castle to mount an attack from the line-out 5m out. Westoe defended well; however were again penalised; this time Castle opted for the scrum. Holding back the first drive, the scrum was reset and Castle powered their way towards the line. A Westoe hand interfered with the ball and referee, Foreman, awarded a penalty try on ten minutes. 0-7
The match continued at a high pace, both sides fully committed to the challenge ahead. With 22 minutes on the clock a poorly thrown line-out was cleverly secured by Castle’s McConnell who sped 22m to score close to the posts. 0-14
Fielding a long clearance kick, Jake Arnold sprinted 50+ metres before being brought down after a series of high tackles and recycling the ball. A further high tackle was picked up and Westoe kicked for the corner.
A clean catch by Kirton at the front of the line saw Castle standing off. Kirton, totally unopposed, turned and waltzed over the line to bring Westoe back into the match. 5-14
With Westoe on the ascendancy, Castle needed to defend well to hold onto their lead and managed to keep Westoe out, holding them to a single penalty on the half-time whistle. 8-14
The second half started with Westoe in control. A combination of forward drives and some slick handling in the back-line kept the Westoe support alive. A quick tap from a free kick was spun wide to Paul Evans, almost making it across for the score in the corner. The ensuing scrum was driven towards Castle’s line, with Sam Gaff picking from the base to cross and with less than 30 minutes to play there was only a single point separating the sides. 13-14
Despite gaining control, Westoe’s Achilles Heel struck immediately. A poor restart, (an area they have struggled with all season), gave Castle the ball and after a couple of minutes pressure, McConnell crossed again to further increase the lead. 13-21
Minutes later, Westoe were penalised again, this time leading to a yellow card and a Castle penalty. 13-24
Still pressing, Westoe were still in contention and looking the fitter of the sides; however some clever tactical kicking and stern defence kept seeing Westoe pushed back into their own half with Castle happy to defend the long attack.
The killer blow came with less than ten to play, a series of kick-tennis broke down defensive patterns and Castle attacked from deep, fielding a poor clearance from 60m out allowing strong support play from flanker, Larder, to score their fourth of the day and go three scores clear.
Westoe never gave up hope and continued to press, scoring the last try through coach, Graeme Smith, playing his last game and finally hanging up his boots. Final score 20-29
A thrilling Cup Final that, as previous matches, could have gone either way. Westoe struggled with the ref’s whistle in the second half and this, coupled with the poor restart, was the difference on the day. Westoe and Castle have seen some close, exhilarating matches this year and they should both be in the promotion fight again next season. Congratulations to Barnard Castle on their win today.
Congratulations to the (predominately) young bench, showing that next season competition for places will increase. Final mention to Louis Kellet who came on for his first team debut. One of many to come.