The season is coming to a close as we host West Hartlepool this week before travelling to Hartlepool Rovers on the 27th April to finish off the season. Despite an injury plagued season Novocastrians should be incredibly proud of their work this season. 48 players have been used in the 24 league games so far - an incredible stat given that we sit comfortably in sixth place despite our injury issues. The club has grown some great depth over the years - who would've thought that we'd have ten registered front rowers out at the moment and still be able to nick a tighthead against Meds last week ! In addition, it is great to see that 5-6 colts will be playing in the 4th team cup final on Saturday - the future looks bright.
Our opponents arrive with their play off status in their hands - a win against Novos on Saturday will secure a play off against Heath and the right to play Level 6 rugby next season. We played West Hartlepool in the first game of the season and it was clear to see that they were well drilled up front, a clever fly half and some threats in midfield. No surprise that they look set to finish second. However, we shouldn't forget that we were in the game at 60 mins until they scored three tries whilst Jonny Ward was in the sin bin. It will be a massive victory if we win on Saturday but our home form has been fantastic so why can't we dream of an upset.
The squad is set to be finalised on Thursday as a few lads are still to sort out work as well as child care (issues of the modern rugby player) The 2's are not playing so several lads will be invited down to warm up with us and partake in a few beers afterwards.
1st xv to play West Hartlepool at 1500 (1330 meet) - Tom Dias, George Waterhouse, Josh Stacey, Adam McDonald, Tom Cox, Alex Cleminson, Stephen Hughes-Narborough, Sean Ramsay (captain) Paddy Sowter, Rich Harrison, Fraser Green, Sam Bird, Ben Wollerton, Nick Bellamy, David Marshall, Andy Hall, Ben Merrett and Isaac Robinson.
It is hoped that Christian Selkirk , Ian Pratt, Chris Law, Rory Davidson, Mark Hemmings, John Marshall, Luke Foster and Jonny Bulfin will help the above squad prepare for the match.
The front row performed well on Saturday but this week will be a tougher test as we seek to win our own ball as well as nick their hookers scrunchy. The line out was in great form as well against Meds and Adam McDonald, Tom Cox and Alex Cleminson will provide three great targets for George Waterhouse to hit. There is a change in the back row this week as Stephen Hughes-Narborough comes back into the squad for the unavailable Alex Littlefair. The side will be captained by Sean Ramsay who is having the season of his life - will he capture the final home man of the match award ?
The back line sees its second week of chopping and changing but can't beat last weeks total of six. This time out there are only four new names and one positional change as Rich Harrison comes back in after a few games away. We are grateful to see the return of Sam Bird from Loughborough Uni in time to take his place in the centres. He will partner Ben Wollerton who has been a mainstay in the back line recently as we have build an attack around him. Dave Marshall keeps his place at full back with Nick Bellamy moving to the wing and kicking goals in the absence of the injured Shaun Stewart. The final spot goes to Fraser Green who has finished his colts season and will be desperate to score a senior try against Wests on Saturday.
The bench is completed by Andy Hall, Ben Merrett and Old Novocastrian, Isaac Robinson.
4th xv to play their Cup Final Tournament at Nth Shields on Saturday - Stevie Thompson, Rhys Gibbons (colt) Alan Pitchford, Chris Brown, Jack Shanahan (colt) Jeff Burke, Ben Silk, Jamie Humble, Stephen Wood, Jamie Ogilvie (colt) Ross Grasper, Pete Jones, Brandon Gilbert (colt) Sean Isherwood, Will Evans, Don Handling, Ricky Humble, Jonny Lowes, David Bowman (colt) and Jack Pellew.
Good luck to both sides - Up the Vos !