This fixture threw up one of Durham City’s hardest fought and most satisfying results last year. The match had been played in the face of very strong winds and in chilling temperatures and against a fast-improved Guisborough side. Not so this year. Durham arrived at the foot of the Cleveland Hills looking to extend their unbeaten and impressive start to the 2017/18 season under a warm early Autumn sun and in near perfect playing conditions.
Winning the toss, Guisborough elected to play with the sun behind and to their left. The honours were even during early play in the middle of the field until Guisborough seized upon a loose ball to break away down their left wing, evading a string of less than fully committed tackles, and score the first try of the game after only three minutes. Durham’s response was to pile on pressure in Guisborough’s final 10 yards and, despite initial resistance, they broke through to score. Feelings of mild relief turned to concern as another series of missed tackles by Durham allowed Guisborough through to touch down again after only 12 minutes. A difficult kick fell short of the posts to give the home team a 12-7 advantage with almost half of the first period gone.
Despite the score, Durham was the team with most possession, exerting most pressure and playing with more width and drive. Following Guisborough’s second try they intensified their forward pressure, using well organised attacks and the width of the pitch to stretch Guisborough’s defence. This tactic paid off almost immediately with a good team try and score on the left wing with actual touch achieved right between Guisborough’s posts. A successful conversion (in-off the post for good measure!) gave Durham the lead for the first time in the match, a lead which from then onwards, quite frankly, they never looked like surrendering.
Squad rotation was used to great effect immediately after this score to strengthen Durham’s grip on midfield and to tighten their defence. This provided the platform for absolute Durham dominance for the remainder of the first half and, indeed, for all of the second. Durham ran in two more tries before half time but both presented kickers with very difficult angles and distance and the half closed with Durham 24-12 ahead. After loose tackling in the first quarter of the game Durham had switched up a gear or two and had established clear dominance which would have been reflected in a more emphatic score line had a number of important decisions not gone against Durham when they were more or less camped on (or perhaps on one occasion actually over) the Guisborough try line.
The second half saw Durham take up where they had left off in the first half and the vast majority of the half was played out in Guisborough territory with much better tackling in midfield providing the foundation for this. Two further tries followed soon after the re-start. Each followed sustained pressure especially inside the Guisborough 22 and featured quick break-outs on the wings to maximise overlap opportunities which, credit to the players, were always available. A further try and conversion and a near miss after an exciting 30-40 yard chase towards the posts were features of the latter stages of the game which were interrupted by a number of stoppages for treatment of injuries, happily none appearing to be serious. The match ended with Durham victors fairly and squarely by 41 points to 12.
Durham had responded well to early setbacks in this game brought about by tackling which lacked conviction and had shown great calm, determination and discipline to stabilise and then dominate the game over a spirited Guisborough side who never gave up the chase. This was another useful test of Durham’s strength in depth and character and they passed it!
Well done and keep it going!