Well that’s what happens when you listen to the coach, work hard in training and turn it into action on the field!
This emphatic score line doesn’t lie - Durham absolutely dominated this second round County Cup match with a great all-round display, ten tries, a staunchly ‘none shall pass’ attitude and excellent self-discipline in the later stages of the game when Houghton’s frustration at being overawed and shut-out threatened to boil over .
Brilliant Autumn sunshine and a minimal breeze meant that playing conditions were almost ideal as Durham looked to continue their progress in this year’s County Cup. A squad of 22 (the maximum allowed in this year’s competition) travelled to Houghton on the back of generally impressive form this season. Training earlier in the week had focused particularly upon addressing Durham’s apparent vulnerability to breakaway tries through the middle and on the flanks which have accounted for almost all the tries scored against them this season. The squad proved that they had understood what was needed to close down these attacks and that they were quite capable of doing what was necessary on the field.
Durham kicked off the first of two 25 minute halves and put good early pressure on Houghton’s defence with strong driving and forward play taking them into a menacing position on Houghton’s 5 yard line. Houghton’s attempts to clear were met with tough tackling and effective ball recovery by Durham and all play was taking place in Houghton’s half and mainly behind their 22 yard line. Something had to give and Durham deservedly broke the deadlock after 8 minutes with great tackling in Houghton’s final 10 yards, first recovering possession and then releasing a fine individual diagonal run for a try just by the left hand side of Houghton’s post. A straightforward conversion put Durham 7-0 up and they added to their lead three minutes later with another recovery and drive right in front of the posts to carry the ball over for another try, again easily converted for a 14-0 lead.
Three minutes later Durham’s remorseless pressure began to turn what was already a difficult task for Houghton into an impossible one as strong central forward play sucked in Houghton players only to release a Durham break on the overlap on their right wing. There was no stopping this attack as Houghton defenders were shown a clean pair of heels for a 19-0 lead which became 24-0 straight afterwards as Durham charged down another attempted clearance to score their fourth try. Only 15 minutes had passed and Durham had scored four tries in a murderous eight minute spell! Successful conversion moved the score on to 26-0 and Houghton heads started to drop.
Durham were in no mood to let up and after a five minute spell of tough midfield play, they pushed down the left wing and placed a good kick into touch five yards out from Houghton’s back line. A scrum soon followed and Durham piled the pressure on to drive over the line. A well taken conversion took Durham’s lead up to 33-0 – but there was more to come before half time. The pattern was becoming familiar…..Durham forwards locking horns in the centre of the pitch, drawing defenders in and then using both wings (in this case the right wing) to exploit the overlap and plant the ball over Houghton’s try line. A great conversion from a difficult angle meant that Durham went into the break with an unassailable 40-0 lead. The match was over to all intents and purposes. The main question was how Durham would approach the second half……would they keep going as before?......and could Houghton pierce Durham’s rock-like defence?
Durham made a number of changes at half time and looked determined to continue their good work as strong forward play set up a break on their left wing which saw an exciting kick and chase result in Durham’s first try of the second half. Another successful conversion upped the score to 47-0 and this increased to 52-0 five minutes later with a typically great end to end try. Defending doggedly as a team on their own 5 yard line, Durham recovered possession and, quick as a flash, kicked and chased upfield to recover the ball and outpace the defence for their eighth try of the morning. Three minutes later it was nine as Houghton lost possession 20 yards into the Durham half and could only watch as Durham fed the ball out and away for another try right under the posts to further extend their lead to 59 points.
Houghton’s frustrations were clearly boiling over as a series of minor skirmishes took place across the pitch. However Durham held their discipline in the face of these and continued to play rugby – scoring a tenth and final try and conversion with eight minutes of the match left - despite increasingly provocative behaviour from the home side! Durham were concentrating on their game and were refusing to give an inch either defensively or in confrontations on the pitch and this appeared to increase Houghton’s frustrations further. When it came, the final whistle, closing the match with Durham winning by 66 points to nil was therefore timely.
Durham should feel very satisfied with this tremendous and disciplined performance. It was, of course, their most comprehensive victory of the season not just because of the score, but because of the way they played. Durham played the game their way and brought added tenacity to their tackling and general defence. Preventing Houghton from registering even a single score was therefore as much of an achievement as scoring ten tries. They should feel very satisfied at the fact that they recognised an issue (vulnerability to strong drives through their defence), looked at their approach, devised a plan and then executed it ruthlessly!
Another well done to the squad…..bask in the glory, but not too much…..we have a very tough test against Novos this Sunday!