Westoe Wrestle Whitby for Win
South Shields Westoe made the journey across the moors to face Whitby, currently sitting at the foot of the table. Anyone thinking this was going to be an easy pushover were mistaken.
With a rock-hard pitch and strong wind the two sides would find the conditions for free-flowing rugby difficult; however they managed to put on a fine show for the spectators in a big-hitting encounter.
Whitby came off the blocks first with some lively carries and forward drives, but were met with the solid defence that Westoe fans are becoming accustomed to. A Whitby knock-on after five minutes, gave Westoe the first scrum of the day, which they comfortably won and spinning the ball wide, Jordan Damms cut a line back inside to cross for the score. 0-7
A worryingly common poor restart allowed the home side to get straight back in the game with a penalty for offside. 3-7
Westoe were dealt a massive blow when they lost both power-house prop, Ryan Lamb and strong runner, Sam Hughes, to injuries resulting in a huge reshuffle in the back-line. The upside was a good day for replacement Nathan Peel who deputised well and an early debut for winger Matt Rannigan on the wing.
Playing down the slope with the wind at their backs, Whitby won the majority of possession and were only curtailed by Westoe’s defensive organisation and big hits.
With twenty-five minutes on the clock, Whitby had their best period of the match and after a series of pick-and-goes from a pack full of big units, won a scrum five metres out, which they drove over the line for the score and the lead. 10-7
Westoe were happy to cede ball at the rucks and trusting in their defence gradually gained ground despite not having the ball. With five to go in the half, Sam Gaff and Paul Evans combined well to eat up the yards, moving 80m up-field and close to the home side’s line.
Whitby cleared well, but the ensuing line-out was taken cleanly and the after burners turned on as Westoe drove the maul over the line, Martin Bengston touching down to regain the lead. 10-12
Minutes later and the last play of the half saw another line-out won and again driven over. This time touched down by Raymie Elliott. 10-17
Now playing down the slope with the wind, Westoe started the half in control with their forwards winning the collisions and moving them downhill. Powerful drives from Anthony Rumis, Nathan Peel and ultimately John Younghusband led to the bonus point score after seven minutes of the half. Stopped just short of the line, Younghusband chose to offload to Luke Moffett, rather than fall over the line, with Moffett finishing the job well to touch down in the corner. 10-22
Soon after, Westoe stretched the lead again with try number five, when Dom Howe chased down his own grubber kick after a loose pass from the home side, to score in the corner. 10-29
With thirty minutes still to play, Westoe were easily on top and looking like running away with the game; however this was not the case as play became scrappy and attacking opportunities didn’t materialise.
The two big packs spent the remainder of the day battling out for small gains, with the two back-lines struggling to find the shape of the previous forty minutes.
Westoe remained in control for the lion’s share of the match, but it was Whitby who finished the scoring with two minutes left to play, their dangerous fly-half crossing to make the final score 15-29
Both sides will take away good points from this match, with Westoe again showing huge defensive prowess and Whitby controlling possession. Despite currently at the foot of the table, Whitby will cause some upsets this year, especially at home, and if they can add to their attacking armoury may find themselves moving up the league as they adapt to DN1.
Westoe move up to fourth spot in the league and will face Barnard Castle at home in two weeks’ time in what should be another close run affair. The last five meetings have all been competitive, with Castle taking the honours in their last meeting, but Westoe up 3-2.
The Development team slipped to Percy Park, losing by 55-10 in their first season of CANDY League Division 1. With a new-look squad they are currently looking to build on last season’s success and should continue to improve throughout the year.
Availability and injury issues have made the start challenging; however the quality of players available are capable of competing against most sides within the league.