Sun 19
Penrith v Durham City U14's by Phil Spooner

Penrith v Durham City U14's by Phil Spooner

By David Garrity
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Durham City U-14’s delivered another tremendous performance on Sunday as they overcame very stiff resistance from Penrith to register another memorable victory on their travels.


Durham City U-14’s delivered another tremendous performance on Sunday as they overcame very stiff resistance from Penrith to register another memorable victory on their travels. This was a gritty, determined and brave performance from Durham which made the longest trip of the season so far well worth the effort. You could feel the satisfaction of players and supporters alike after the game and this was fully justified and deserved.

The match was played at Penrith’s French Fields ground in near freezing conditions. The trip across that morning had started with temperatures of -0.5C in Durham falling to -4C on arrival at Penrith at 9:15am. The match actually kicked-off at freezing point and was only playable because of the warming effect of glorious Autumn sunshine which meant that the surface could take a stud. There was minimal breeze and the player’s main concern – apart from facing a strong Penrith side - was to keep their hands and themselves warm enough to function. They succeeded in doing this!

Durham brought another strong squad, this time of twenty players. Once again, they were all to play a full part in what was a very physical and hard fought encounter.

Durham kicked-off the first of three 20 minute periods with the sun to their left and playing up a very slight slope. Initial exchanges saw Durham apply steady pressure in Penrith’s last third until Penrith countered. Seeing an opportunity to break free in the middle of the pitch, they charged forward to place the ball right between Durham’s posts for the first try of the day after six minutes. A straightforward conversion saw Penrith 7-0 ahead. Only four minutes later matters worsened as far as Durham were concerned as sustained Penrith pressure and Durham’s inability to clear gave possession to Penrith fifteen yards inside Durham’s half. A strong run through the centre was too much for Durham’s defence and Penrith’s second try was scored right between the posts once again. Successfully converted, this gave Penrith a 14-0 lead after ten minutes.

Durham can occasionally be slow starters - usually then going on to win - but with Penrith looking very dangerous, it felt like the next try was going to be very important – a 21 point deficit would surely stretch even Durham’s celebrated powers of recovery! Unflappable and determined, Durham began to show what they’re really made of! Pressing in the middle of the pitch and with strong forward play, they spotted a gap on the wing, fed the ball out and broke for Penrith’s try line, scoring in the fourteenth minute. Even though a tricky conversion was not successful, Durham had stopped the rot at a critical point in proceedings.

The momentum was now passing to the visitors and Penrith began to feel the pressure of Durham’s strong driving and tenacious tackling in their last third. Durham pressure drew in more and more defenders until space opened up for a diagonal burst through Penrith’s stretched defences which carried Durham over the line ten yards to the right of Penrith’s posts. A more straightforward conversion was successful and all of a sudden Durham were only behind by two points at 14-12 with seventeen minutes played. This situation improved further soon afterwards as strong Durham tackling and recovery set up another break down the left for their third try. Successfully converted, this enabled Durham to go into the first break leading 19-14.

Durham were on the up and used the break to rotate the squad. These fresh legs made an immediate impact and helped Durham to make the best possible start to the second period by scoring another try almost straight from the kick-off. The try came from a fast break down the right wing and was converted very well from the tightest of angles for a 14-26 lead. Penrith weren’t finished though and after an extended period of tough midfield play they hit back. Playing with the advantage after a Durham knock-forward, they charged to the posts for their third try. Another straightforward conversion brought Penrith to within a score of Durham at 21-26 after six minutes.

Though generally on top, Durham were making life hard for themselves. They fought hard to get themselves into a series of promising positions but a sequence of five handling errors interrupted their flow. Falling temperatures undoubtedly made for colder hands! Even so, this only provided temporary respite for Penrith as Durham turned the screw and camped in Penrith’s 22 for some time. It was only a matter of time before Durham turned recent dominance into further points and the breakthrough came from a great cross-field play and team effort which found an overlap and exploited it for a 21-31 lead. Once again, though, Penrith refused to fold and with only a minute remaining in the second period they reduced arrears. Gaining ground from a series of penalties awarded in the Durham 22, Penrith assaulted Durham’s defence which was pinned on their try line. Durham withstood two major pushes with brave tackles, but were eventually pushed back over their own try line. Penrith’s fourth try and conversion pulled them back to within three points of Durham at 28-31 at the close of the second period to set up a potentially nervy final period. The strength of attacks, the bravery of defenders and the sheer physicality of the match at this point was awesome at times…..what a final period it promised to be!

Mind you, if there were any nerves on show, they were confined exclusively to the side lines; these two teams were focused on one thing….to triumph in the final session. Durham were in no mood to surrender and they went into overdrive in this final period. Scoring their next try from a great right to left move after only two minutes, they converted successfully and increased their lead to 28-36. Penrith continued to throw everything at Durham whose defence was severely tested as the home side looked to get back into the game. But Durham stood firm and then moved forward, fighting for every yard gained and pushing up from the centre of the pitch into Penrith territory and then testing Penrith’s defence until a gap finally opened. That was all Durham needed to increase their lead to 28-45 after another well-taken conversion. Play was held up for lengthy treatment of a Penrith player – thankfully he was able to resume playing – and in the remaining ten minutes Durham shut out Penrith whilst adding two more well converted tries to their total for a final score of 28-59. A special word at this point for Jack who sustained a head injury in gallant defence of our try line… wishes for a speedy recovery!

This was another great display from Durham who showed calmness and courage in adversity and against some extremely powerful drives from Penrith. They woke up slowly and conceded fourteen points in the process. But they just don’t panic! Slogging it out in a really physical encounter, they rattled in nine tries and seven conversion to score 59 points for only fourteen more conceded. Penrith never gave up in this game and provided just the type of challenge that Durham need in order to improve. There are action points from their performance, but credit is very much due to them; they came, they saw and they conquered!

Proud of you!

Keep it going!

Phil Spooner

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Match details

Match date

Sun 19, Nov 2017