North Shields were on the road again this week with a trip to recently relegated Redcar and as usual this meant that there were a number of new faces pulling on 1st XV jerseys. It may be coincidence but people seem to be unavailable for the longer ‘tougher’ fixtures, something which needs to be addressed if we hope to fulfil our ambitions of competing at the top table and securing promotion this year.
The coaches had complete faith in each of the players selected that they were capable of completing the task and a huge thanks goes to Paul Sykes who stepped up on the morning of the game after a late cry off to take a place on the bench.
It was a clear sunny day with a stiff breeze blowing across the pitch but with such a big open pitch, it was always going to be a fruitful afternoon for the Blue & Whites as long as they could keep their error count low coming up against a Redcar side going through a transitional period following the loss of their coaches and a number of experienced players during preseason. We hope they manage to overcome this tough patch and regroup to come back just as strong as they previously were.
Shields stated their intentions from the kick off when they began to run the ball from deep in their own territory, Simon Ayre instrumental in leading the side around the park. Ayre kicked deep and chased his own kick to force a knock on from the Redcar winger. Moments later Shields opened the scoring with Karl Bloxham getting his first try for the club, McCabe with a strong fend to free himself and offload to the wing man who dived over out wide, Simon Ayre’s conversion attempt sailing wide.
Next came the try of the game, Kai Downey took a short ball from Brooks, passed back inside to Leitch who tipped on to skipper Dave Anderson who then set off galloping through the middle of the field. Unable to go the length, Anderson found Downey in support who carried into the 22 before popping up to Ben Marshall who found McCabe to finish off an outstanding 80m effort! Once again Ayre’s conversion attempt was off target so we led 0-10, and hoped these missed kicks wouldn’t come back to haunt us later in the afternoon.
Ayre redeemed himself moments later when he went on a break of his own, a neat show and go created some space for him and he ghosted clear, when the home fullback caught him Richie Sampson was there in support to finish off the move. Whilst Simon was attempting to get ‘Ayre’ back into his lungs McCabe took over kicking duties and his effort was no closer to the first two. Richard Carr who had been working tirelessly to recycle quick ball for his team must have been taking notes from his fly half and showed that he too had the skills with a show and go of his own, and as he broke the line and dragged defenders sideways ran a neat switch play with Andrew Leitch who came back against the grain and when the ball was moved to the right, McCabe once again sat the Redcar left winger down with a strong fend and finished the try himself, but his conversion attempt this time struck the uprights! We had secured the four try bonus point with less than half an hour played but still only led 0-20.
Skipper Dave Anderson’s message was for the boys to stay on task and not get carried away with things and not force the play with unnecessary offloads, and must have instantly regretted his words when he found himself with the ball 30m out from the Redcar line. He realised it meant he’d have to carry the ball and whilst trying to make his mind up whether he was going left or right, he actually bamboozled the Redcar fullback and managed to fall over the line. With the others attempts at goal proving to be in vain Sam Brooks took over the kicking tee and slotted the extras. Brooks then created a chance just on the stroke of half time; picking up from the ruck and beating a couple of defenders before, and I quote from the Facebook Live commentary of a certain Mr B. Reid “Brooksy does what Gav Duffy has been trying to do for years” and flicked a little backhanded offload to Ben Marshall who was again in support for the back rower to touch down, Brooks then slotted the goal and brought up the sound of the referee’s whistle.
Redcar 0 – 34 North Shields at the interval.
Coaches Christie, Houston and Carr reiterated the importance of securing our own ball and staying focused on the job at hand at the break and Shields came flying out of the blocks. Coach Carr (and fans) favourite Ricki Hasnip came up with another barnstorming run and found Tony Jordan in support. The crowd got excited and cast their minds back 7 days and hoped to see another “Raging Bull” moment as he produced against Gosforth last week but this time Jordan played the role of the matador with a cheeky show and go (reports are that he even said “Olé” as the Redcar centre bought his dummy) and he drew the fullback and popped to Richard ‘Flash’ Carr in support who dotted down under the posts which of course Brooks did the rest to bring up the extra points.
A little complacency set in at this point and Shields were guilty of multiple infringements and allowed Redcar some decent field position and after failing to get back the required 10, the Redcar scrum half took a quick ‘tap’ and went over to score which was converted.
This brought Shields to life and McCabe brought up his hattrick score spotting no fullback and indicating for Ayre to kick ahead with McCabe winning the foot race, his flowing locks a sight to behold as he reached top speed and grounded the ball near the posts for Brooks to add another conversion. Shields then racked up 4 unanswered scores when Downey got on the end of another flowing move including forwards and backs, Brooks adding the first conversion but unfortunately lost his 100% record at goal with 2 tough ones from out in the corner. Leitch got his first of the day exploiting a mismatch on the short side then Bloxham got his second, Ricki Hasnip pulling the strings and dictating play. Brooks found Leitch again ‘loitering’ on the short side and the old man managed to get his second of the day but it was Redcar who had the last say. Once again ill-discipline from Shields inviting the home side into the Shields 22 and from a tap penalty the Redcar player sold an outrageous dummy which at least 4 or 5 players bought and drifted away allowing him to dive over almost in disbelief! He said the invoice is coming in the post for you lads! The conversion was missed and the ref brought things to a close.
Shields produced some majestic play at times but also some sloppy errors and lack of concentration gifted them points which we need to address and not take too many things for granted but all in all a strong performance and one which sends a message to the rest of the league that we’re in it for the long haul. Houghton at home next week and already a lot more people available – Shock!
North Shields Squad: Chris Spedding, Kai Downey, Tony Jordan, Connor Reed, Dave Anderson, Richard Carr, Ben Marshall, Andrew Leith, Sam Brooks, Simon Ayre, Matty Dockey, Ricki Hasnip, Richard Sampson, Karl Bloxham, Chris McCabe
Replacements: Paul Sykes, Jack Jeffrey, Aled Jones