Westoe Wear down Castle Walls
Westoe back to top form after brutal fixture
Lookers sponsored South Shields Westoe entertained League leaders, Barnard Castle, in a tight, exiting and uncompromising fixture.
Recent results had been shared by the two sides, with games being restricted to one score by the winners. Castle came into the game with only one loss this season and looking to consolidate their lead. Westoe, on the other hand, sat in fifth position after a couple of lack-lustre performances and needed to return to top form to be in with any chance.
The crowd settled in, hoping for a repeat of the second-place play-off last year when Westoe snatched the win in added time.
The game exploded from the start, with Castle out to prove why they are at the top of the pile. Playing at high-tempo the Castle side launched a sustained attack down the slope and Westoe found themselves having to put in a defensive shift from the off.
Four minutes in, Castle won a line-out, set up the maul and drove towards the Westoe line. As the maul was halted, Castle broke off open, to cross the line and take an early and ominous lead. 0-5
Any thoughts of a one-sided victory soon disappeared as Westoe took control after the restart. Making their way into Castle’s 22m, Westoe launched a siege against an organised and solid defensive wall.
Westoe remained composed and focussed throughout, with a mixture of deft back-play and forward drives. Bullocking runs from Derek Worthington and Raymie Elliott almost breached the determined visitors; however they held firm and Westoe settled for the kick at goal after 12 minutes. 3-5
In a match that could have gone either way, this was a day for defensive lines. With barely any time played in the centre of the park, both sides were relentless in attack and valiant in defence. Castle were continuously frustrated by an oppressive Westoe defence, that showed great line speed, shutting the visitors out with one-up tackling and forcing Castle into errors and mistakes.
On several occasions Castle thought they were through, only for Westoe to pull off some great try-saving tackles, with Louis Hagan and Sean Ramsay providing the most spectacular.
Throughout the half, play switched from one try-line to the other and it took until almost half time before either side scored again. Sean Ramsay broke the first line and handed the ball to Zach Clarke, who forced his way towards the line with several Castle players trying to haul him down. Strength and determination prevailed and he crossed the line after a 30m run to take the half-time score to 8-5.
Now playing down the hill, Westoe looked to force the game, increasing the tempo and launching their own offensive. Strong running from the side was again met by a sturdy Castle defence and despite huge yardage from Worthington, Andrew Kirton and Raymie Elliott, the defence held them to another penalty. 11-5
With the game still in the balance, both sides knew they would need something special to break their opponents’ defence. It came on 25 minutes with Westoe on the attack. Gone were the recent wild passes, Westoe’s back-line interacting well with their forwards using short snappy passes and offloads.
Moving down the slope, the slick movement of the ball disrupted Castle’s solid defensive line allowing for the creation of gaps. Exploiting this, Westoe moved towards the visitors’ line and with Castle holding firm, recycled ball was flung wide, Robbie Scorer showed the deftest of hands in picking the ball from his bootstrings and delivering the daintiest pass to Zach Clark who finished the movement in an acrobatic dive to the corner. Converting his own try. 18-5
By no means over, Castle immediately replied with attacks of their own and Westoe found themselves back on defensive duty. Westoe defended well, with huge shifts from Andrew Kirton and Joe McKenzie, turning over ball and disrupting a well drilled Castle side.
With eleven minutes to play, Westoe suffered a double blow, losing Sam Gaff to a yellow card and Capt. Kirton to injury. Castle responded straight away from the penalty spinning the ball along the line to put their winger in for the score. 18-10
Down to fourteen and under some pressure, Westoe shifted up a gear and threw everything they had against a determined and strong Castle side.
Westoe managed to hold firm and with Castle gunning for at least a losing bonus point saw a last gasp penalty kick veer left of the posts for an emphatic and well-earned victory.
By far the best performance of the season, Westoe showed their array of skills against a well-organised, determined Castle side and now know exactly what is needed to force their way back to the top of the league.
The front five showed sustained power and the back-row were a constant defensive thorn in Castle’s attacks. The backs showed control and vision at half-back, with some powerful direct running from the centre partnership and pacey attacks from the back three.
Westoe now need to push on from this match and continue in the same vein. The back-line looked dangerous and direct throughout and the simple passing play will create huge gaps against lower sides within the league. The forwards put in a huge shift, playing with the grunt and aggression needed to dominate their opponents.
This was a great game for the neutral, where either side could have come away with the win. Westoe shaded the match with dominance at scrum-time and in a defence that not only held out the visitors, but frustrated them by forcing errors close to the line.
Next week they travel to Gosforth, who will provide a different challenge to the side. Westoe need to produce a similar performance as today and they should easily come away with a victory. That said, they need to ensure they do not regress back to previous weeks and remain composed and patient throughout the match.
Great result, well earned.