The teammates, friends and family of Ian “Dicka” Dickinson, a club stalwart who passed away a couple of years ago, gathered pre-match to dedicate a bench in his memory.
Mick “Rocky” Robson paying his last visit to the Club before returning to an unnamed Greek Island for tax reasons.
Shields, still missing key individuals, facing a Northern side which gave them a rugby lesson early in the season.
Playing in to a strong wind Shields immediately adopted a simple approach and for 10 minutes simply ran the channels to make ground; but the warning signs were ominous. Northern’s first meaningful possession was chipped downfield, their winger hacked on gathered and was off – only to be brought back for an offside decision. However, on 10 mins Northern’s intelligent use of the ball resulted in a try mid-field by the same player (0-7).
Would Shields crumble? Not a bit of it. Shields attacked the kick off, forced a scrum and after a series of battering runs Watson squirmed over for the try, well goaled by Forster (17 mins 7-7).
The game then settled in to a stalemate Shields looking after the ball well but expending a lot of energy; Northern defending more intelligently and using the wind to good effect, stretching the Shields defence with their power and pace.
On 25 minutes Shields pressed the self-destruct button and conceded 19 unanswered points in 10 minutes…
Northern ran from deep, cut through midfield and raced in for a try under the posts (7-14). Given the conditions there was no need for Shields to panic, all Shields needed was to keep their defensive shape and focus on ball retention. However, they inexplicitly failed to defend their own kick and allowed Northern to score in the corner (29 mins 7-21). Worse followed as Shields again failed to defend their kick and allowed Northern’s forwards to surge up field recycle and score on 33 mins (7-26). To add variety to the collapse Shields gifted Northern a further try. Having successfully attacked a Northern ruck deep in their 22 Shields opted to kick forward and concede a penalty for kicking in the ruck. Northern touch, lineout, ruck, try 36 mins (7-33).
Shields should have had the final score of the half, with the line in sight they were called back for a “player dispute” and awarded the scrum. Which Northern defended and saw out time.
Half Time arrived and what should have been a close game looked like a route. What words of wisdom can you deliver – think before you act? Every action causes a reaction? No need, collectively the players knew they were still in a contest and were determined to improve.
The second half started with Northern pressing, Shield’s defence forced the penalty but failure to find touch allowed Northern to run from deep and score on 45 mins (7-38). Shields frustration was made worse when Northern again used width and pace to score on 55 mins (7-45).
Injuries forced Shields to shuffle their resources: Cole from back row to wing; Watson from prop to backrow and Bowman switching from lock to backrow. The only question now was how would Shields react?
Gaining parity in the lineout Shields were starting to use the conditions and on 65 mins Leon crashes over after series of drives (12-45). This lifted Shields and on 70 mins a slick back row move saw makeshift winger Cole dance over for a try well goaled by Forster (19-45). Playing some great rugby Shields crossed again on 74 mins when a slick move was well finished by Guy and again converted (26-45).
Gaining possession from the kick off Shields attacked. Frustratingly Shields were penalised for crossing, Northern kicked to the corner and scored (76 mins 26-50).
Down to 14 and deep in their 22 Shields tried desperately to break out of defence, however Northern secured a penalty at the breakdown went to the corner and scored off the edge of a maul on 80 mins.
Final Score 26-57.
Northern are a good team and took their opportunities. Collectively Shields need to reflect and learn from this game, over 30 of Northern’s came from Shields mistakes.
On another day we might have won this game but regardless of the score Shields played with pride, passion and for long periods control. Dicka would have been proud …
Report by Tom Gallon.