Sun 08
Stockton v Durham City U14's by Phil Spooner

Stockton v Durham City U14's by Phil Spooner

By David Garrity
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Durham’s successful start to the season continued on Sunday with an emphatic victory at Stockton.


Durham’s successful start to the season continued on Sunday with an emphatic victory at Stockton. However, unlike last week’s great win against Percy Park, an impressive score line disguised a much less accomplished performance by Durham and threw up a number of action points for next Wednesday’s training session! Had Durham’s performance matched that against Percy Park - and had a number of significant decisions gone Durham’s way – they could easily have approached a three figure score line against a Stockton side that fought to the end, but lacked Durham’s strength in-depth and tactical options.

Durham returned to Stockton’s Grangefield Academy ground where they secured a substantial victory last season with a strong second half performance after a scoreless first half. The match that day was played in unpleasant, rainy conditions. Not so on Sunday. Playing conditions were almost perfect with glorious sunshine and a negligible breeze.

Durham kicked-off in bright sunshine in the first of three 20 minute sessions and maintained steady early pressure with strong driving in the centre of the field. This eventually released a break away on the right which resulted in a touch down and Durham’s first score of the match. Some strong forward pressure from Stockton and a lot of untidy midfield play followed until Durham chased down an attempted clearance by Stockton on their own 22 yard line, gathered the loose ball and drove for the line for their second try which was converted smoothly for a 12-0 lead after 12 minutes.

However, despite their early lead Durham were still not looking sufficiently sharp and alert and untidy play in their own half let Stockton in for a try which they scarcely deserved. Durham were finding it very difficult to settle and frustrations increased as they continued to give away penalties (they conceded between 12 and 15 during the game) and lose possession at critical moments. To make matters worse, what looked to be a legitimate try on 15 minutes was ruled out apparently because the ball had not been grounded – not the only time that this happened during the match! A third try – the result of strong forward pressure - duly converted gave Durham a 19-5 lead which they maintained until the end of the first session.

While the score did not particularly flatter Durham, their performance was clearly below par and the squad received full and frank feedback on this during the break!

The second period saw much of the same from Durham. A fourth try was run in after 9 minutes as strong central pressure once again released a quick break on the right wing. Although Durham pressure ebbed and flowed, they created a series of good opportunities before being denied, in the main, by their own poor handling or indiscipline. Durham pressure eventually told, however, when a handling error by Stockton deep in their own 22 yard area allowed Durham to run in their fifth try. Conversions were proving to be problematic and the score moved on to 29-5 in Durham’s favour. There was still little fluency in Durham’s game and basic errors continued with the second period seeing another ‘try’ disallowed for failing to ground the ball before a sustained drive from forwards in the centre of the pitch gave Durham their sixth try to end the second period 34-5 up.

The first five minutes of the third period continued to be scrappy before Durham stretched Stockton wide (they should have done more of this all morning) to create an overlap on the right wing and score their seventh try, this one being converted for a 41-5 lead. Just two minutes later – and as if to sum up Durham’s day – Stockton benefitted from poor defending by Durham on the blind side of a scrum only 5 metres out to run in a try unopposed. Play switched to the other end with Durham on the attack and threatening a pressure try only for an unusual interpretation of the rules around Knock-Ons serving to give Stockton possession and to make this reporter even more confused than normal! Despite this, Durham responded with two more tries in the closing stages and a conversion before the referee drew the match to a close with the final score reading Stockton 10, Durham 53.

Despite what was on the face of it a good victory margin, there weren’t too many happy faces in the Durham squad and staff at the final whistle. This is a good thing. It shows that we have high standards and it demonstrates that we are sufficiently self-aware and critical to know that, on this occasion, we didn’t quite reach them. It’s a good position to be in when we are no longer just happy with a victory….we are looking for the greatly improved, all-round team consistency and tenacious performances of recent weeks to continue!

So well done for winning well even when we didn’t play so well….but we must guard against complacency which was, perhaps, at the root of our issues on Sunday. Good luck to the squad for next week, stick in at training on Wednesday and let’s get back to our best against WB Rockliffe this coming Sunday!

Phil Spooner

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Match date

Sun 08, Oct 2017