Westoe v Durham in Thrilling Encounter
See-Saw Battle goes down to the Wire
South Shields Westoe entertained Durham City on a chilly, but sunny, day at Wood Terrace. With Durham unbeaten so far this season and Westoe starting to perform to their best, this was always set to be a close run affair.
Supporters were not to be disappointed with a top notch match seeing the lead changing hands and the final result still uncertain until the very last minutes.
Playing down the slope and with the breeze at their backs, Westoe exploded into action from the first whistle. Receiving the kick-off, City cleared their lines giving Westoe the line-out.
A clean take and drive saw Westoe’s pack trundle 30m down-field, releasing the ball as the maul was collapsed. Luke Moffett evaded the initial defenders to put Joe McKenzie over after only two minutes. 7-0
Minutes later they came close to score number two, when another driving maul gave the platform for Michael Booth to chip ahead, the chasing McKenzie and Gaff just mishandling the ball over the line.
City took advantage of the referee’s offside interpretation and pushed hard and fast, cutting off any space for the home side’s back-line, making any forward progress difficult.
With a big set of backs, City played some direct powerful rugby and coupled with some fragile defending soon equalised when flanker, Metcalfe powered his way over after ten minutes played. 7-7
Westoe dominated at scrum time; however were frequently frustrated by penalties whilst driving City backwards. One such penalty allowed City to kick long for an attacking line-out.
Quick ball was spun wide and the City side played the phases, gaining yardage in tackle and closing on Westoe’s line. Twenty minutes in and City took the lead with Metcalfe’s second of the day with a wide touch-down. 7-12
City’s pick-and-go game, coupled with some determined back-play seemed to be causing Westoe some issues; however big defensive shifts kept them in check with Sean Ramsay and Hayden Richards providing the best of the grunt-work.
Westoe’s set-piece provided the next score, another clean take in the line set up their second thirty metre drive, cleverly collapsed on the line. Recycled ball was fed to Joe McKenzie, finding his way through traffic for his second and the equaliser. 12-12
City found themselves down to fourteen after Armstrong was given a harsh yellow card for stamping; however upped the tempo of the match and gained good ground against the home side. With five minutes left in the half, Westoe’s scrum was again penalised giving City good territory.
City spun the ball wide right sucking in the defence and creating space, they reversed the direction to find Metcalfe again, crossing for his third to retake the lead. 12-19
Regaining possession, Sam Hughes and Joe McKenzie caused disruption with powerful runs through the centre channels with good tackling stopping them short. Some great support work from the Westoe pack allowed John Younghusband to drive over from close quarters to bring the score within two points, ending the half, 17-19
With City now playing with the conditions, Westoe needed to dig deep and maintain possession to prevent City’s powerful runners from taking any advantage. Westoe provided the early pressure, and were met with a determined defence from the visitors.
The half started with not much separating two good sides. Strong running and big hits came from both teams and it took eighteen minutes before the next score.
After a frenetic third quarter, City appeared to be tiring and Westoe bulldozed their way over with a series of drives from Bengston, Elliott and Ramsay, and finally Ryan Lamb crashing over for the bonus score and the lead. 24-19
Westoe increased the lead to ten points with fifteen left to play; another catch and drive from 15m out marched towards the line. With good defence slowing the advance, Joe McKenzie joined his forwards to help drive the last couple of metres, touching down for his hat trick and sealing his man-of-the-match performance. 29-19
City attacked straight from the restart and Westoe found themselves down to fourteen after Chris Judson was yellow carded for offside.
City were not about to go home empty handed and went all out for the late victory. Westoe found themselves again on the wrong end of the referee’s whistle and City piled on the pressure. With only a few minutes remaining their determination paid off, centre Dominick taking route one to the line to give them the chance of a late victory, or at least a couple of bonus points. 29-26
City came close to the victory after pressurising out wide; spotting a half-gap, they cut back infield, only to be swallowed up by a retreating, yet determined defence, and with an overlap in the five-metre channel and the game in their sight, the ensuing pass was too high for the winger to take.
Westoe managed to control the remaining possession and earn a huge victory against formidable opponents.
Westoe will be very pleased with both the result and the way they played. They dominated the scrum and their line-out work provided the perfect platform for their dangerous driving maul. In general they coped well with the powerful City back-line and matched the forwards up front.
Despite a short shaky period early in the match, their defence won the victory against a powerful, direct running side who have averaged over fifty points a match so far. Few sides will be capable of dealing with City’s attacking prowess, who will certainly continue to win big this year.
City go home with a well-earned couple of bonus points, setting up a thrilling rematch later in the year.
Westoe need only to continue to perform at this level, they will certainly be in the mix for the promotion spots at the end of the season.
Westoe remain in fourth spot and Durham remain in second, with now only Northern unbeaten in the league.
Next week sees Westoe travel to Gateshead in a game they need to win to maintain pressure on the sides above them. Gateshead are currently sitting mid-table; however always prove a difficult side to beat at home.