Westoe Prevail Against Castle
Strong Performance from Westoe Squad
South Shields Westoe entertained rivals Barnard Castle at Wood Terrace on Saturday. With recent results always being close, this was possibly their biggest challenge so far this season.
A strong, blustery and swirling wind, cut diagonally across the pitch, favouring Westoe in the first half, who played up the famous Wood Terrace slope.
The season’s availability and injury woes continued, seeing Westoe making changes, with a total of four season debuts in the side.
Joe McKenzie returned after recovering from a pre-season hand injury, Rob Scorer was available for the first time this year, David Stephenson made his first Union match in several years, after concentrating on Rugby League for Jarrow Vikings and coach Graeme Smith was forced out of his retirement to cover the front row.
Westoe started well with a series of line-outs and drives which edged them up the slope within the visitors’ 22m; however early defensive work held them back, Castle clearing their lines and making several breaks of their own, threatening Westoe’s line.
Conditions were always going to cause both sides some problems; however Castle took an early lead after some safe, quick hands took the ball wide for full-back Hills to score in the corner after eleven minutes. 0-5
Castle’s scrum were in control from the start, driving Westoe back, and it took some prodigious clearance work at the base by Sam Gaff to ensure Westoe maintained any possession. Westoe’s back-row of Gaff, McKenzie and Jamie Hughes kept them in the hunt, dominating the breakdown and providing quick ball for their back-line.
With a penalty on the 22m line in front of the posts, Chris Judson cleverly elected to refuse the advantage and with Castle assuming the kick for goal was to come, took a quick tap, cut through the defence and offloaded to Martin Bengston, whose supporting run took him over to take the lead. 7-5
Further infringements at the breakdown earned Castle a Yellow card on twenty minutes and Westoe pushed the advantage when another penalty allowed Paul Evans to take the quick tap and cut through the defence to score. 14-5
Despite the blustery conditions, Westoe showed superb skills with interpassing play, Luke Moffett shrugging off the high tackle and offloading to Joe McKenzie to touch down. 21-5
Castle fought back and worked their way into the home side’s 22m. Two successive penalties were awarded and Castle opted for the scrummage where they held the advantage. Scrum-half, Hill, first passed right, then recycled left at the ruck for winger, Summers, to score their second with ten left in the half. 21-10
Westoe finished strong, with the pack winning the loose-play collisions and driving upfield, Sam Gaff eventually touching down for the bonus point try. 26-10
Castle started the second half with some solid attacking play; however the Westoe defence again came to the fore, snuffing out some well-worked opportunities.
Conditions led to spilt passes on both sides and it took fifteen minutes of the half before the next score. A period of Westoe pressure culminated in Martin Bengston smashing through four or five tacklers, feeding Jamie Preston and on to Matt Rannigan who touched down right of the posts. 33-10
Twenty-three minutes in and Castle were defending their line. A long clearance kick was fielded by Paul Evans who took the direct route towards the line and spinning the ball wide, found Jake Arnold who sped to the corner to extend the lead. 40-10
In general, the game became scrappy as the sides tired and concentration levels lapsed. Although in total control of the match, Westoe squandered a few relatively easy run-ins due to poor decisions out wide, either missing the extra men or forcing passes that weren’t on.
Against the run of play, Castle bounced back with a score in the last five minutes, winger Summers sprinting the entire length of the field for their third try of the day. 40-15
The final play of the day saw Westoe scoring their seventh try after Gaff threw an overhead pass to Sean Ramsay, linking with Luke Moffett, who forced his way over to seal a resounding win. 47-15
Westoe performed admirably in all areas of the field and despite being under pressure at the scrum, managed to produce good ball and create scoring opportunities throughout. All achieved with yet another changed side and potential disruption to tactics. Previous encounters have always resulted in extremely close results; however Westoe showed massive improvement in the loose and created good scoring opportunities.
Westoe continue to shine with their defensive shifts and they will frustrate many more sides used to scoring almost at will.
They are now showing a strength in depth throughout the club and can start to build towards moving up the table from the fourth spot.
The Holborn Rose and Crown Man of the Match was awarded to Chris Judson.
Next week Westoe travel to Acklam, currently in ninth position after a hard start to the season. With only one win to date they will be targeting next week to kick-start their year and look to home advantage to cause an upset.