Final Quarter Keeps Promotion Hopes Alive
Ponteland Press Westoe for 60 minutes
Lookers sponsored South Shields Westoe travelled to Ponteland for a re-arranged fixture, previously postponed due to the weather. Westoe battled with the traffic and availability issues to make the 6.30 kick-off with a solid side looking for the five-point victory.
Changes saw Wayne Foster in at hooker for Raymie Elliott, who couldn’t make the start time, and Jamie Hughes starting at blind-side for Captain Andrew Kirton, in the pack. Chris Judson moved to fly-half for unavailable Luke Moffett, with Connor Pascoe starting at scrum-half.
Playing against a stiff breeze, Westoe looked to be in control with early attacks against their opponents. Spinning the ball wide and quick recycling of the ball put Ponteland under early pressure; however the home side held firm and managed to clear their lines well.
Resisting the early onslaught, it was Ponteland who struck first with some clever tactical kicking and a strong scrum, they edged their way towards Westoe’s line and after a series of forward drives they spun the ball wide for their winger to score after 13 minutes. 5-0
Straight from the restart, Richard Burrows took the ball and sped 60m, being tackled just short of the line. Connor Pascoe spun the ball wide to Jake Arnold coming into the line who sucked in the defence to offload to Joe McKenzie to finish the score. 5-5
With Westoe struggling to shift into the higher gears and unable to adapt to the referee’s liberal attitude to offside at the ruck, Ponteland took advantage to retake the lead after a penalty on 18 minutes. 8-5
With ten left in the half, Jake Arnold stunned the defence with a sprint down the wing, making 60m before being tackled short of the line. Quick support allowed Joe McKenzie to cross for Westoe’s second of the day. 8-12
The half finished with a Westoe line-out. A clean take and drive was halted by a solid defence. A drive by Anthony Rumis set up the ruck for Sam Gaff to pick and drive over the line. Half-time score, 8-19
Playing with the breeze and with a slender lead, Westoe needed to start strong and consolidate their advantage; however it was Ponteland who struck first. A Westoe clearance kick was charged down, with eager hands scooping the ball to score under the posts bringing the difference back to one score. 13-19
With Ponteland fighting to secure their place within the league, they were matching Westoe in intensity and determination around the park. A poor kick by Westoe was fielded by the Ponteland Fly-half who combined well with his scrum-half to take the lead for the second time and put Westoe’s promotional hopes under pressure. 20-19
With just over a quarter of the game left to play, Westoe upped their intensity and turned on the pressure. Gaining domination in the earlier faltering scrum, they were able to produce clean quick ball for the back-line. Simple hands along the line gave Jamie Preston the run in from 20m out to retake the lead and gain the valuable try bonus point. 20-24
Gaining another penalty, Westoe played the line. Another clean catch and drive was halted short by the plucky Ponteland pack, before a Graeme Smith drive set up Sean Ramsay, who powered his way over the line for the score. 20-29
A series of drives from Smith, Gaff and Worthington narrowed the Ponteland defence and Westoe spotted the space out wide, simple quick hands finding Wayne Foster who drew the last defenders before passing to Richard Burrows who finished the job in the corner. 20-34
Ponteland fought bravely for the last ten minutes, looking dangerous at times, but being denied by a strong Westoe defence. With the whistle about to blow, Westoe finished the day with a long line-out, Michael Booth chipping the ball into space for Jamie Preston to recover and take Westoe’s seventh of the day and the win. 20-39
The win keeps Westoe in the mix for the promotion play-off spot, currently in second position with equal points with Barnard Castle. They will need to secure two more five point wins against Novos on Saturday and (hopefully) Gosforth next Wednesday.
The final play-off place may not be known until the last match of the season with all four contenders needing to finish strong.
Westoe travel to Novocastrians on Saturday where nothing but the five-point victory will suffice. Westoe have won the last three meetings of the two sides; however must not take their opponents lightly, who beat Horden away last Saturday and have shown they can produce some outstanding performances.