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Sat 17
Ponteland II XV
2nd XV
A Greive , T McColl, G Logan (2), C Martin, S McAleese, D Dryden
G Flint (3), D Dryden
Bears win Cup tie

Bears win Cup tie

By Andy Martin
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The Bears mop up after Hurricane Sandy hits Ponteland

The Bears travelled to Ponteland aware that they could be in for a difficult day with Ponteland 2nd Xv being a Candy league team and on paper the favourites for the match. However the Bears were buoyed by ever improving league form and three narrow defeats in their last three outings. Infact the rugby they were playing did not justify their league position (bottom) of the River Aln league.

On arrival at what was supposed to be a busy Ponteland, they were due to be hosting three home Cup matches on the day, the Bears were met with a seriously waterlogged pitch and one that looked like it had been turned into a sand box. Thankfully Ponteland thirds had called off their game earlier in the day due to lack of numbers and after some negotiation the game was moved to the recently re drained nearby sand box.

The new pitch was wide and suited running rugby, this looked to favour Ponteland from the start who were keen to move the ball at every opportunity, and scored their first try through slick inter passing and poor defence by the Bears, the conversion was missed however (5-0) after only 2 min.

This woke the Bears, especially the forwards who continued to drive into the heart of the Ponteland defence for the next 20 minutes, but without the final killer pass the only reward was territory. The line breaks from the Bears we impressive with Gareth Black, Darren Goodfellow and Ali Greive all making decisive breaks, but without close support they all came to nothing and the Ponteland defence held out until the 31st minute, where there was a knock on by the Bears and Ponteland broke out to run the length of the beach (sorry pitch) to score very much against the run of play. Again the conversion was missed (10-0) after 31 minutes.

The Bears then managed to win the ball back from a knock on from the restart and the resulting Scrum; unusually the Bears had dominance in this area all day long. Mark Loveday picked at the base of the scrum and from the resulting ruck Cameron Martin made a break up the left wing breaking a couple of tackles before being dragged down just short of the line. From the following well secured ball the Bears went through the phases for Ali Greive to break the Ponteland defence out wide on the right his try converted by Gary Flint (10-7) after 33 minutes.

This should have been the catalyst for the Bears to take control of this game, through position and the set piece, but a gutsy Ponteland team had other Ideas and through ill-discipline the bears lost 60 meters and from the resulting penalty conceded a third try just before the break, this time converted to leave the score 17-7 at half time.

Credit has to go to Ponteland for taking their chances but the Bears should have been up at half time if they could only have converted their pressure and field position into points. This was obviously highlighted to his players at half time by the Bears Coach as they started the second half in a different frame of mind.

Ponteland tried to take control of the game at the start of the second half but the Bears were better organised in defence, with more structure and much improved line speed. During Ponteland’s second or third phase of attack the Bears defence came up quickly allowing centre Tommy McColl to intercept a flat pass and run the length of the field to score under the posts. The try converted by Garry Flint to bring the score to (17-14) after 42mins.

This gave the Bears the confidence they needed, the Bears forwards started to build an excellent attacking platform that allowed the centre pairing of McColl and Greive to open up gaps to allow Lee Douglas to make telling line breaks from fullback. The Bears dominance in the Scrum would eventually tell on the 53 minute where after a number 8 pick up and go brought a third try for the Bears from Geoff Logan a half time replacement. The conversion was missed however the score now (17-19).

The bears should have taken full control at this point, with the full pack working well with Goodfellow, Martin, Logan and Black making real nuisance of themselves in the loose. However one sloppy ruck allowed Ponteland to show they were not going to give up. When from the turnover they moved the ball wide to through their outside centre and finished off well by their pacey winger. The conversion being too far out for their kicker the score after 54 minutes was (22-19).

This was the wakeup call the Bears needed, from the kick off the Bears were keen to drive forward with big carries from the forwards and good line breaks from the backs with both wingers Alex Hume and Phil Nash making real effort to make infield runs to finish off moves. On the 60th minute Douglas was trapped at the bottom of a ruck and the referee gave the Bears another penalty for Ponteland coming over the top and killing the ball. Following this and at the insistence of Douglas and the Bears coach the Bears began to exert dominance at the ruck , with some of the best clearing at the ruck all season , with Craig Hamond playing at lock for the day and David Eagleton leading the way. Couple this with quick service from Anthony Hume at scrum half it wasn’t long before Geoff Logan forced his way over for his second try for the day, converted in front of the posts by Flint (22-26) after 62 minutes.

The next 10 minutes were bad tempered and a few scuffles broke out with Ponteland taking exception to prop Gareth Clarks hard running and big hand offs .Many of the break downs were now messy but still aggressive however the Bears were now in control of this match. From a break down in front of the posts Cammy Martin picked up at the base and drove over the line taking two defenders and trying to take out the post as well to score the Bears 5th try of the afternoon. The conversion missed by Flint (22-31) after 71 minutes.

From the resulting kick off Ponteland tried to kick in behind the Bears defensive line trying to turn Douglas at full back and replacement wing Glen Loveday, but they were more than up for the task. The Bears quickly regained possession thanks to Pontelands desire to kick away ball and mounted pressure again through big runners setting up good clean ball and good distribution and running from David Dryden our tight head prop filling in at stand-off.

The pressure again paid off with the Bears camped on the Ponteland line and from a deliberate knock on the Bears were awarded a penalty but they took the advantage being played by the referee and played on recycling quick ball for Steven McAleese a late replacement coming back from injury to go over in the corner. The kicking duties handed over to Greive who missed from the touchline. (22-36) with 2minutes to go.

The Bears with their tails up were awarded a free kick from a scrum, mid field just inside the Ponteland 22, they chose to scrum again from quick ball from the base Dryden took the ball at a canter and charged for the line, sitting down the first two defenders and dragging another two over the line.Adding insult to injury he about turned walked out ten meters turned and dropped the conversion. The game ending (22-43) in the Bears favour.

To their credit Ponteland never gave up and fought tooth and nail till the end. However Ponteland made it clearafter the game that they were unhappy at not being able to play on their preferred water logged and very muddy pitch.Surely this would have only played in to the Bears hands on the day, with the balance being well in the Bears packs hands with their dominance both in the tight and loose.

The Bears can now look forward to a much tougher tie at home on the 16th of February 2013 against Percy Park Lions and to a local derby away to Duns this weekend.

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Match details

Match date

Sat 17, Nov 2012