Westoe fight back in Tyne-Tees shootout.
Ten-try feast for Spectators
Lookers sponsored South Shields Westoe entertained Stockton in a match they needed to win in order to stay in touch with the top of the league.
Further late changes saw Michael Booth coming into the starting line-up for Richard Burrows with the much awaited return of Luke Moffet on the bench. HIA protocols ruled out live-wire Paul Evans; however a timely return of Joe McKenzie provided a perfect replacement.
Playing down the slope, it was the visitors who had the best start. Close interplay between a fired pack allowed Stockton to progress down-field, only sound solid tackling preventing any line-breach. However, with Westoe defending tight, it took less than five minutes for Stockton’s Fly-half, Stephen Jones, to see the gaping spaces out wide and a basic transfer of the ball along the back-line led to a three-on–one in acres of space, with Joe Hargreaves eventually crossing for the early lead. 0-7
Within minutes and defending their own line, Jones’ again spotted the huge space out wide and a cleverly placed kick unleashed full-back Phinn for an easy run-in from this own 22m. 0-14
With Stockton still playing at a frantic pace, Westoe looked to their pack to take control of the game and slow down the relentless attack from the visitors. Solid in set-piece play and maul, Westoe were soon in control of the game; Stockton unable to maintain the intense start they showed.
Fly-half Michael Potts kept the ball tight, bringing the big Westoe pack into the game, with captain Andrew Kirton leading with a solid performance, turning over the opposition ball and winning several maul decisions to halt any Stockton progress.
Playing the line and working off an increasingly dominant pack, Westoe worked their way into the visitors half. Stockton found themselves offside and the resulting penalty was kicked within five. A clean line-out take was driven towards the line, John Younghusband, seeing the gap, broke clear to cross for Westoe’s first. 5-14
Controlling the pace, Westoe worked their way up the slope, with strong running from Elliott, McKenzie and Zach Clark, constantly pressurising Stockton’s line.
However, it was not until five minutes to the half until a quick tap penalty was spun to Elliott who forced his way over the defence, offloading a delicate pass to centre Jamie Preston who barged and stepped his way through the remaining visitors for the score, converted by Clark. 12-14
From the restart it was Eliott again causing the visitors trouble with a blistering run mid-field, this time the offload was to John Younghusband, who strode the last twenty minutes evading the last gasp tackle attempts from Stockton. Converted by Clark, Westoe took the lead for the first time. 19-14
In a frantic final five minutes, both sides threw everything into attack, defences scrambling and loose, possession and territory changing by the second.
Stockton, either by design or accident, ended the half as they began, in a fast passionate display. As the clock turned red, the visitors took a quick penalty and flung the ball along the line; only to find prop Di Iorio taking a strong line against the direction of play to cut through the home side’s defence and retake the lead. 19-21
Now playing down the slope, someone remembered to turn the pack on. Where the first half had seen them controlling the set-piece, the second saw them destroying it. Taking ball at both scrum and line-out Westoe edged their way to the line. Opting for the scrum, they drove Stockton backwards. As the scrum was collapsed, the ball was picked and driven by Gaff. Quick recycling found Ryan Lamb crashing through the defence and offloading to Sam Gaff on an inside line for the lead and bonus point try. 24-21
Stockton fired the restart long, only to find debut winger Zach Clark, who showed both pace and vision to take the ball a full 70m upfield into the visitors’ twenty-two.
With Stockton entering from the side, Westoe kicked to the corner, collected the throw and attacked the line with a series of pick-and-goes from Michael Potts, sean ramsay and Joe McKenzie; eventually finding Ryan Lamb who bull-dozed his way over. 29-21
With the clock running down Westoe increased the lead with a Joe McKenzie score, again coming from cleanly taken line-out ball. 36-21
With under five minutes to go, Westoe decided that the game was won and a poorly executed restart allowed the visitors one last attack for a bonus point of their own. Up to this point, Westoe had only conceded three penalties; however the last five minutes saw a total of seven penalties and two yellow cards.
Despite some thunderous tackles from Elliott, Scorer and late replacement Luke Moffett; Stockton finished their day with a well-earned bonus point, with flanker Dixon crossing in the last play of the game. Final score 36-26