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Saracens - Match centre

Durham City Saracens
Berwick Bears
Sat 13 Apr 15:00 - Friendly Kickoff 15:00

Durham City Saracens 41 Berwick Bears 43


City were shaded out of it by 41-43 having shared 12 tries with a Berwick side whose more than able backs won it,

Saturday 13 April 2019
Durham City Saracens (2nds) v Berwick Bears (2nds)
(Home - Racecourse) 2:15pm KO
Result : Durham City Saracens 41-43 Berwick Bears (HT 19-10)

Team sheet :

15 Rob Smith
14 Max Bailey
13 Dan Jukes
12 Owen Chaplin
11 Russell Harris
10 James Coxon
9 Will Heron
1 Andy Kirkup (Captain)
2 Michael Hay
3 Ed Partridge
4 Jonathan Deighton
5 Rhys Henderson
6 Jack Adams
7 Matt Mercer
8 Tom Wilkinson


16 Niall Butler
17 Jason Coumans
18 Jonny Hedley
19 Danny O’Reagan
20 Jacob Weightman
21 Kieron Avis
22 Mark Berriman
23 James Bowman
24 Euan Gardiner
25 Colin Hogg
26 Nic McGoay
27 Will Patterson
28 Greg Roberts
29 Christian Schiffer and
30 Matty Sayer (if needed)

Physiotherapist None

Referee Derek ‘Doc’ English (Durham Referees Society)

Well what a game ! City were shaded out of it by 41-43 having shared 12 tries with a Berwick side whose more than able backs won it, as in the second half City rang the changes from their bench of 14 (yes 14) having looked as though we’d come out on top.

With a wonderful day for rugby on the University’s Racecourse ground, Berwick won the toss of the early 2:15 kick-off and chose to receive City’s kick from the Pelaw Wood end. City won the ball back and went through the phases but full-back Rob Smith’s kick for position went dead so Berwick had a scrum outside their 22. Good City pressure forced a Berwick knock-on to give City a scrum in the visitors 22. From there and retaining possession the overlap was worked to send right wing Max Bailey over in the right hand corner and a great conversion form fly-half James Coxon made it 7-0 to City with less than five minutes gone.

City’s poor receipt of Berwick’s re-start then a penalty to Berwick gave the visitors a line -out inside the City 22. With no advantage from a City knock-on at the line-out play was brought back for a Berwick scrum. The visitors then took play to the City five metre line where they ran a penalty
and again with no advantage from a City off-side kicked a penalty from bang in front for 7-3 after 10 mins. City once again won the ball back from her own re-start and an attack was only halted with a forward pass for a Berwick scrum ten metres from their own line. City won the ball against the head and right to left passing saw left wing Russell Harris break a tackle, check inside and go over for a try that James Coxon converted to stretch City’s lead to 14-3 less than 15 minutes in.

Once again City’s poor receipt of Berwick’s re-start meant he visitors getting the ball and a scrum on the City 22. Fortunately for City a Max Bailey interception took play up to the Berwick 22 where a Berwick penalty was put into touch for their line-out. City’s Matty Mercer won the line-out and from the possession that followed Max Bailey was put away. In the ensuing grubber and chase he recovered the ball to go over but to everyone’s surprise referee Derek English ruled there’d been a deliberate knock-on and gave Berwick a penalty ten metres out that took them to their line-out. Possession from the line-out let Berwick run through a number of phases and eventually went deep with a kick that Rob Smith fielded on the full. Rob ran it back strongly into the Berwick 22 but a forward pass gave the visitors a scrum and the chance to clear but showing their intent to run it, made a break and in turn their forward pass gave City a scrum on half-way. A City knock on and then conceding a penalty for offside took play back into the City half for a Berwick line-out. Though City won the line-out Berwick were given a penalty that got them to another line-out just outside the City five metre line. Their line-out failed to function yet again this time with a not-straight. From deep great City forward drives and support took them into the Berwick half where a poorly executed tip pass went forward to give Berwick a scrum inside their ten metre line.

Then a City scrum on the Berwick ten metre line put Rob Smith away only for a penalty to Berwick bringing them some relief and a line-out on half-way. Another not-straight gave City a scrum and possession to get them into the Berwick 22 but a Berwick penalty repeated the process with another City win of the visitors line-out by Matty Mercer. A forward pass spoiled City’s good progress then a City penalty failed to find touch but pressure won them the ball only for it to be knocked on and Berwick getting a scrum on their 22. Berwick’s footballing No.10 put in a wonderful clearing kick from 22 to almost 22 for a City line-out. Berwick’s win of the City line-out saw them move the ball to the right wing and go deep into eh home 22 sucking in City defenders and the re-cycled ball gave their flanker the opportunity to brush off some poor tackles and go over by the posts for a seven pointer to bring them within one score of the home side at 14-10 with 5 minutes until half-time.

Though City’s re-start didn’t go the ten, pressure on the Berwick scrum forced a knock-on and from there a combination of good hands and support ended with a knock-on and scrum to the visitors ten metres from their line. Though they cleared to half-way a City penalty took it back for a line-out on the Berwick 22 The ball from the line-out and the re-cycled ball that followed gave City’s fly-half James Coxon the chance to show his flair and skill with a beautifully flighted pass directly to right winger Max Bailey for him to score an unconverted try in the corner on the stroke of half-time and give City the half-time advantage of 19-10.

What the first half report doesn’t give full credit to are : Berwick’s preference to let their backs run the ball ; City’s all-round attacking game ; and City’s defence of Berwick’s backs’ wide screen-passing game. With enough experience and guile in the team the half-time team talk was left to Captain Andy Kirkup (usually a back row forward but more-recently and in this game a more experienced front row forward) and his colleagues. The half-time team changes were : Kieron Avis for second row Rhys Henderson ; Colin Hogg on for tight-head Ed Partridge ; Jacob Weightman for right wing Max Bailey ; and Jonny Hedley on for left wing Russell Harris.

An exchange of kicks at the start of the second half ended with a penalty to the visitors on halfway tattoo them to a line-out just outside the City 22. This gave the Berwick backs another chance to run and they took full advantage when their elusive centre went through for an unconverted try after a few minutes to reduce there arrears to 19-15. City made good use of the re-start, winning the ball back and frustratingly only a knock-on prevented an immediate response. Berwick then went through a number of recycling phases to work their way back to half -way where they conceded a line-out to the home side. Thereafter great City support play and continuity brought a fourth home try when fly half James Coxon got over by the posts and with his conversion that followed stretched out City’s lead to 26-15 with barely ten minutes of the second half played.

Within the next five minutes or so Berwick then turned the game around to lead 26-29 with two converted tries from their reinforced back-line as one of their talented centres twice carved City open - Will Patterson having replaced flanker Matty Mercer between the tries. Back came City and with attacking pressure on the Berwick line James Coxon converted a simple penalty from right in front to tie the score at 29-29 as the game entered the last quarter. A take of the Berwick re-start by No.8 Tom Wilkinson set City away again and more attacking plays saw full-back Rob Smith go over for an unconverted try giving City the lead again at 34-29. The tables were turned once more when Berwick took advantage of City’s inability to return the re-start and their fly-half (for me their man of the match) went in for a try at the posts which he converted to make the score 34-36 in the visitors favour.

City’s reply was almost immediate with second row Kieron Avis getting on the end of superb continuity and support play to wrestle his way over the line under the posts for James Coxon’s easy conversion and the lead at 41-36 with ten minutes left. Despite a flurry of City replacements that produced an eventual backline (I think) of Will Heron at 9, Niall Butler at 10 - James Coxon having retired with a calf injury and/or cramp, Dan Jukes at centre alongside Danny O’Reagan who came on for the deputising centre Owen Chaplin and a back three of Jonny Hedley, Euan Gardiner and Jacob Weightman, City dominated the end of the game but losing two of their own put-ins at scrums meant that promising positions and possession was lost at critical moments and the home side paid the price for these failings when crucially and crushingly Berwick’s dangerous centre got through and over again and running round to the posts made it a seven pointer to win the game 41-43 with only enough time for City to yet again lose a scrum put-in and even then missing touch with a penalty that enabled the visitors to end the game.

After terrific performances all round by the 20 and more who got on the park, fly-half James Coxon’s play, talent and youth won him the Man of the Match Award just ahead of No.8 (and soon to be London Marathon man) Tom Wilkinson. Our sincere apologies to the five players out of the 14 replacements who didn’t make an appearance - Mark Berriman, James Bowman, Jason Coumans, Nic McGoay and Greg Roberts - I hope they understand the difficulties of getting the rotations right and balancing that with a closely competitive game that was there to be won. Also this game contrasted with the Hartlepool game the week before when I became sensitised to the level of bad language on the pitch yet this week there seemed to be no repeat as I was probably more enthralled by a thrilling game. As anticipated the game finished in time to get back to Hollow Drift for the second half of the 1st team game where the 1st team’s half-time score against Ponteland was a crushing lead of 71-5.

City scorers :
James Coxon 1 try and 4 cons
Max Bailey 2 tries
Kieron Avis 1 try
Russell Harris 1 try
Rob Smith 1 try

The result and score takes the season’s playing record to :
P 21 W 14 D 00 L 07 F 832 A 538 and a try count of 133 for and 86 against.

and last season’s record was :
P 20 W 05 D 01 L 14 F 349 A 642 and a total of 60 City tries.


1 Congratulations to the 1st team on winning Durham and Northumberland League One beating Ponteland 137-10 to confirm what was almost certain but not quite.

2 Also congratulations to the Saracens coming third in their League (The ’River Aln’ League administered by Northumberland RFU) - a worthy and deserved outcome having lost twice to both winners Whitley Bay Rockcliff and runners-up Berwick Bears.

3 For those who want to follow Matty Ward’s progress with England U17s - google ‘RFU U17s’ and click on the link.

4 Please support the Saracens Raffle for £2 a go - the jar is behind the bar or contact the writer. The question is :

In the City Saracens 2018-19 season up to and including Saturday 13 April :

(A) How many individuals played for City (including those from the opposition but excluding their opposition replacements) ?
(B) How many individuals scored one try or more for City ?

Nearest the (A + B) total is the winner and (B) will be used in the event of a tie break
50% prize money for the 1st, 2nd and 3rd and the other 50% goes to the Saracens funds for kit or a tour.

5 Note the final game of the season will be against the now familiar, well-practised and genial Belgian tourists, Arendonk Pitbulls, with a 7:15pm kick-off on Thursday 09 May 2019.

6 The 1st team play their Intermediate County Cup Final against South Shields Westoe at Blaydon on Wednesday 15 May, 7:30pm kick-off, and

7 don’t forget the Players’ Dinner that is on Friday 17 May (when the raffle winners will be decided).

Stewart Eddie
Friday 03 May 2019

Team selection

Team selection has not been published for this fixture yet.


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