P&S made the short journey to face fellow Northumberland side, Wallsend RFC in a highly anticipated match between two sides who have greatly improved since last year. The New Ridley Road Garage sponsored side welcomed Stephen Armstrong back to the front row and Tom Burges-Lumsden was available to make his competitive debut in the backline.
Claiming the kick off confidently P&S worked the phases, with plenty of willing runners off both 9 and 10. Despite working themselves into Wallsend’s half, tough defence proved impenetrable as the home side turned ball over with ease.
Having conceded a penalty close to half way, the home side’s fly half kicked to the corner before Wallsend’s forwards took control. From the resulting lineout, an unstoppable maul was formed despite the best efforts. 5-0.
Having seen in the opening stages where the home side were strong, P&S changed attack tactic, trying to stretch the defence that was so strong around the fringes. In order to do this however, there must be a period of tying in the opposition pack and Rob Reid, Will Foster and Yannick Debil were constant carriers.
This worked well with both wingers having plenty of opportunities to stretch their legs leaving the defence scrambling. Even with the home side on the ropes at times, P&S struggled to execute the final pass something that has proved costly in many fixtures this season.
P&S weren’t going to be behind at half time however, after scoring two tries, both of high quality. Firstly, strong carries from Adam Murphy and Yannick Debil carved a hole in the defence which Danny Whiley used his great speed to dart through and score under the posts. 5-7. Unfortunately, this was to be his last involvement in the game having been adjudged to have suffered a head injury despite his apparent recovery.
Due to this, Luke Masters started a new centre partnership with Tom Burges-Lumsden and the pair combined to score the second try of the day. Following a solid set piece platform set by the forwards, Steven Henderson utilised strong runners on his inside to move over the gain line. Quick ball was then received as Burges-Lumsden timed his pass perfectly to send Masters over. 5-12
With Wallsend not getting close to the try line again that half, they took 3 points on offer to keep themselves in touching distance at 8-12 at half time.
Some strong words were exchanged at half time with many players frustrated that we hadn’t put Wallsend away during our strong 15-minute period. However, knowing that the game was close P&S needed to be ready to face a resurgent Wallsend especially up front.
The opening stages of the second half started like the first with P&S tackling well in defence and keeping possession in attack. In their first foray into Wallsend 22 this half, Steven Henderson slotted the easy penalty to extend the lead to 8-15.
At this stage, P&S stopped playing and allowed Wallsend to dominate the rest of the second half. They were more abrasive at the breakdown and carried harder, constantly breaking tackles and provided quick ball to the backline who began to click. As is the case when a team is going backwards, penalties were conceded allowing the home side the opportunity to spend plenty of time in our 22.
From one of these penalties, a kick to the corner set up another maul platform for the home side. This time it was defended well, with Alex Fitton working tirelessly to disrupt. However, multiple phases later the home sides player coach, used his large frame to barge over from close range. 13-15.
Straight from kick off, the tiring P&S players didn’t go up as a line and this allowed the home sides captain the opportunity to catch easily and feed the quick winger. He spotted gaps in the dog-legged defensive line to dance his way 70 metres to score under the posts and give Wallsend the lead. 20-15.
Having gone from having control over the game to now chasing the win, P&S had one last opportunity to nick the victory. From a scrum penalty Yannick Debil charged towards the line. Quick ball was distributed right where there seemed to be space however, as was the case in the first half, the final pass let us down as we knocked on with the line beckoning.
A frustrating second half performance in the end let P&S down but effort levels and commitment could not be questioned. With a little more composure, the result could have been different. Congratulations to Wallsend for the victory, a tough game played in the right spirit. Good luck for the rest of the season and we look forward to welcoming you to Stocksfield next year.
For P&S its back to the training ground on Thursday in preparation for next Saturdays match against promotion chasing Seaham.
Man of the Match: Luke Masters, sponsored by https://www.facebook.com/DragonTaleTheatreGroup