Wake-up call for Westoe
South Shields Westoe slip to Durham City
Lookers-sponsored Westoe travelled to Durham City on a high after last week’s demolition of Novos, looking to stamp there authority on the league.
Both sides had a nervy start, kicking away good possession and attacking opportunities.
It was fifteen minutes before Westoe showed their power, taking a scrum against the head, driving City across their line and Sam Gaff, touching down for the opener. 0-5
A second scrum against the head saw Chris Judson spin the ball wide for Richard Burrows to speed 30m downfield, offloading to Paul Evans, who finished the job, taking the score to 0-12 with only 20 minutes played.
With the pack dominating set-piece play and sharing parity at the breakdown, Westoe were rocked when City upped the tempo and pressure, with City’s Chris Metcalfe waltzing through the narrowest of holes in Westoe’s defence. 7-12
An area that is usually rock solid, was at best, shaky and Westoe will need to work to regain their iron defence from last season. Defensive lines looked crooked and some poor first up tackling allowed City to keep a foothold in the match.
Despite this set-back, the Westoe pack looked totally in control, winning a total of five scrums against the head and in control of their own put-ins.
With ten minutes of the half to play, they piled on the pressure. The first attack was, inevitably from the scrum; Westoe steam-rolled City’s pack backwards and with multiple offences, including players standing up and others collapsing the scrum just short of the line, Westoe were surprised to only receive a penalty.
Even more surprising was when an ensuing maul was dragged down, inches from the line and again, only deemed to be worthy of a penalty.
The third attack, another scrum, was marching methodically towards the line when City’s Metcalfe risked the obvious yellow card and penalty try, when yet again the scrum was intentionally collapsed.
This time, it was certain that the ref would go under the posts – Certain to everyone but the man in charge, who for a third time in ten minutes decided not to penalise the infringements with what would normally have been the penalty try.
Westoe decided to go for another scrum; however one of City’s players launched at Paul Evans and unfortunately retaliation from Sam Gaff, led to both players being sin-binned, the penalty reversed and City were able to clear their lines to end the half.
The second half saw a City resurgence as they showed desire and passion for the match, with Westoe seemingly unable to give any answers.
With a second half penalty count of 14-2, Westoe were unable to put together any meaningful attacks or passages of play and spent the entire half defending against a buoyant City side.
The highlight of the half was a magnificent try-saving tackle from Richard Burrows who forced a flying City winger into touch.
Westoe looked ragged in their midfield defence and need to improve in this area quickly. Last season’s one-on-one tackling was impeccable and this fierce attacking defence was one of the primary reasons for their success.
Despite this, City had little to give in attack other than their determination, desire and importantly a solid kicker, who slotted three penalties for not releasing, offside and crossing. The last coming on 80 minutes to win the game 16-12.
Some consolation for Westoe is the losing bonus point, a trait carrying on from last year where they achieved at least one point from every single game and another dominant set-piece performance for the pack.
This should be the wake-up call needed to kick-start the side back to winning ways when they take on Hartlepool Rovers at Wood Terrace next Saturday.