Match Report By Morgan Lowrie
Title favorites Stockton were the first visitors to Woods Terrace, In a game Westoe needed to claim victory after the defeat at Middlesbrough last week.
Boosted by the return of multiple backs, head coach Chris Judson elected to bring in himself, Hughes, Rannigan & captain Luke Moffett to a backline which had a much more first team feeling to it than the week prior.
The visitors won the toss and elected to play up the hill in the first half - with Stockton’s familiar face and ex coach Scott Powell knowing the advantages the hill brings. Westoe weren’t in the mood to allow Powell’s men to dictate any other proportion of the game. Starting with real intent, a clever kick in behind from Moffett left Stockton’s winger little choice than damage limitation, as he recovered well, and was then bundled immediately into touch. A clean take at the lineout and solid drive set the platform for Moffett to snipe over for the games first points after only a couple of minutes. The captain showing great leadership qualities starting and finishing the drive. 5-0
The Stockton restart was a good one, but was taken well by Bengston. A consolidating phase and ruck allowed Judson to put the box kick in, again targeting the same Stockton winger under pressure, this time shepherding the ball out into touch. Westoe’s defensive lineout was again working well and enabled the home side to keep the pressure on. That relentless determination eventually forced a penalty 35m out, after swathes of attacking play, Sutherland was happy to take the three. 8-0 Westoe.
Stockton are tipped for the title for a reason, and it was their turn to stretch the home side. Paul Evans justifying his recall into the starting XV, the depth of his stamina only matched by the length of his hair, Westoe were defending powerfully, forcing a turnover, Moffett showed more fine game management with another kick in behind the same Stockton winger who had seen plenty of unwanted ball under pressure. Westoe securing possession, former captain Andrew Kirton ploughed his way over to give the hosts a three score lead. 15-0
Despite a fine afternoon for the home side, the visitors were in no mood to roll over. Solid phases led to a penalty in front of the posts from 40m, as ex professional Jones converted. 15-3
Stockton grew in confidence as the half wore on, only dominant defending, with Moffett and Hughes particularly leaving a mark, kept the Teesider’s at bay. Six more points from Jones probably left Westoe feeling more content with the outcome after relentless pressure. The ‘Toe ended the half with nice interplay between Judson and Bengston allowing the home side to break, but the final pass was a loose one which brought the opening half to an end at 15-9
The second half began as the first ended, Westoe applying pressure but not coming away with points, Jones kicking another penalty to bring the score within 3 at 15-12.
A series of penalties awarded to Westoe coupled with some hard yards in the forwards forged a path downfield. Once inside the 22m, the Shields side went back to basics, but with searing intensity. A tapped penalty was given to Ryan Lamb who powered within 5m of the line, after more direct running from the base of the breakdown, Moffett doubled up on what to this point was a sensational performance, moving the gap to ten. 22-12.
Stockton’s full back had shown flashes of brilliance, and his break led to a score to pull the visitors right back into it, with the game now finely balanced at 22-17, Westoe battled back up the infamous hill and forced another penalty. Sutherland drawing on his experience to keep the scoreboard ticking over. Extending the home sides grip at 25-17.
Stockton, on the brink of a defeat, applied great pressure to force the home side into multiple penalties, Jones laser-like accuracy this time escaping him, as Westoe survived those scares. As time eroded the visitors chances of victory, a bonus point would satisfy as a penalty secured just that, and with it, the South Shields based side victory.
With a final score of 25-20, Westoe will be delighted to get their season up and running, and coaches Judson and Smith will be delighted with the performance against a team tipped for trophies, especially that of captain Moffett and Man of the Match Paul Evans.