I believe it was James Haskell who said "education is important but rugby is importanter" . Well some things are even importanter as the delightful picture of young Joshua Montgomery shows when he tries on his Rovers replica kit. Young Monty has had a tough few months but he is over the most intense stage of his treatment and is on a maintenance phase. Great news.
Joshua's progress allowed Dad Jamie to make his first start of the season against Gateshead 2nds in a friendly. He was joined by Alex Page and Headland hero Mick Rugby Ryan who managed to roll off the couch and onto the pitch. Also Sargeant James Coxon returned after military exercises. With the addition of Simon Wilson who kindly guested for us from Seaton we had 18 at Kick off. Just.
With the benefit of Storm Callum (how appropriate) behind us we kicked off towards the changing rooms on KGV and soon put Gateshead under pressure. Strong running from Monty and Davy Carroll has us on the front foot and Tony Ross drove over for a try converted by t'other Rugby Ryan Hodgson. It was at a cost though as Davy Carroll had pulled a hamstring in the approach play. A hamstring at his age! Almost certainly this was a result of wandering up 5 minutes to kick off having done no warm up other than sitting in front of the fire with a cup of tea and a couple of biscuits. Pah! Gateshead had a powerful winger and he notched 2 unconverted tries to put Gateshead 7-10 up. Then a melee ensued after Ste Groom was bullied by what looked like a 14 year old Gateshead player. Tony Ross was yellow carded for rushing to Ste's defence as was Ste and the young boy. We were awarded the penalty and Ryan Hodgson knocked over a long range kick to draw us level at 10-10. Quite how long range the kick was is the subject of some Facebook debate. Ryan has published a video of his kick but given that it doesn't show where the kick was from nor who kicked it that doesn't seem to prove anything. Gateshead's winger then got his hat trick just before half time.
HT - Rovers Heughers 10 - 15 Gatesheed 2nds
At half time we brought on Milky who had been patrolling the touchline eagerly and he immediately brought a bit more organisation to our play despite us playing into the wind.. However we suffered a blow after we put together a multi phase attack and looked to score only for us to cough the ball up near the line and Gateshead picked up and raced away 90 metres to score another unconverted try. So after looking like we might have levelled or gone ahead we were 10-20 down. Worse was to follow with us having only a 6 man pack a number 8 pick up from Gateshead allowed him to run through unchallenged. 10-27 and we had conceded 17 points while being a net man down. Tony and Ste and the Gateshead child returned to the field after their 10 mins on the naughty step. All apologised to ref Doc English and we returned to 15 a side and contested scrums. This brought results when super handling from Matty Saunders put Ryan Hodgson in just enough space to squeeze over in the corner and narrow the gap to 15-27. This was undone when less than firm tackling allowed Gateshead to score again and be 15-34 ahead. The lads didn't give up though and constant pressure got it's reward with Tony Ross crashing over for his 2nd try. 22-34. Despite continuing to press it was Gateshead who had the last word with another breakaway try.
FT Rovers Heughers 22 - 41 Gatesheed 2nds
Congratulations to Gateshead who deserved the victory. They were more clinical in taking their opportunities and certainly more organised - as expected from a side that was playing Candy 1 last season.
For us it was again a mixed performance. We had as much if not more possession than Gateshead and when we were on the attack we looked good but we didn't make the best use of our chances. We also suffered with the yellow cards disrupting us even further. However we are getting more and more players available - and reducing the team age! Alex Page looks like he will be a good player and just needs more game time to get rid of the rustiness of not playing for a while. Monty was a real handful for the Gateshead defence and Mick Ryan gave us some physical presence in the pack which we have lacked - and he lasted the full 80 minutes. Stuart Hann also looks like he will give us options in the backs with some excellent tackling and running.
The Vue Cinema man of the match was Tony Ross for his 2 tries and for being our go to man when we needed to crash the ball up.
Finally excuse of the day goes to Nathan Olley who didn't turn up at all and sheepishly messaged me about 6pm to say he had fallen asleep and just woken up. Dear me.
Hodgson, Harrison, Grand, Monty, Hann, Sainty, Page, Ross, Monaghan, Carroll, Ryan, Healey, Wilson, Groom, Kirton (c)
M Saunders, Hewitt, Coxon, Milky
Next week we are home to Barnard Castle and back to Candy League action. Still 3pm KO.