Match Report: Eastern Counties v Northumberland Centurions - Saturday 18th May 2019

Sunday 19 May 2019

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Eastern Counties Wanderers v Northumberland Centurions - Match Report.

Two Northumberland Senior Men’s teams travelled to Bury St Edmonds on Saturday 18th May for matches against representative teams from Eastern Counties (a region taking in Cambridgeshire, Norfolk and Suffolk amounting to more than fifty clubs).

First up, following the 260 mile journey (plus an extra bit from Alnwick to Newcastle) was the Northumberland Centurions versus Eastern Counties Wanderers; teams made up of players from Clubs at Level 5 and below. The Northumberland squad was predominantly made up of players from our Level 7 and 8 Clubs and captained by Josh Hedley of Percy Park RFC, facing a team who had already played two fixtures against County opposition. So, Northumberland faced a daunting task but the pride in pulling on that County Shirt and wearing that Centurions Tie was evident for all to see and we had a very entertaining encounter that Eastern Counties eventually won 31-22.

Early possession by Northumberland was undone by a forward pass decision leading to pressure on the away team’s 5 metre line. An Eastern Counties scrum but Northumberland demonstrated their forward power, winning the ball and allowing the backs to progress up field, with a subsequent scrum earning the Centurions a penalty, converted by fly-half James Thompson of the Berwick Rugby Club. Eastern Counties were quick to respond and even though flanker Sean Ramsey of Novos RFC won his first of several turn overs a misunderstanding led to an Eastern Counties scrum followed by a pick-up from their number 8 Chris Blom to score, with the conversion from the host club’s Corey Button. Back came Northumberland, winning an attacking lineout leading to a try for prop forward Josh Stacey, another Novos RFC player. Thus on the quarter hour mark Northumberland had a one point lead.

However, even though the forwards in the scrum were certainly functioning well, the same could not be said of the lineout, which was to prove costly. On the half-hour possession for Eastern Counties saw them move the ball along the line and a missed tackle allowed winger James Phimister to touch down with Button again adding the conversion to take the score to 14-8. The Centurions responded immediately and earned a very kickable penalty but opted to go for touch, lost the lineout and allowed Eastern Counties to clear. However, their clearance kick was poorly judged allowing Northumberland captain, Josh Hedley to rumble his way from 35 metres out for a try converted by Thompson with less than five minutes of the half left. Then that old adage of failing to keep your concentration took effect allowing the home side’s fly-half to kick ahead, gather, score and convert to give his team a six point half-time lead.

Eastern Counties were forced into a change at fly-half for the start of the second period but they still began as they had finished the first and scored a try almost immediately from the kick-off to extend their lead to eleven points. Once again, Northumberland responded positively, advancing up field to earn a penalty on the Counties’ 5m line. Opting for the scrum, the number 8 pick-up was stopped and Eastern Counties cleared to touch on their 22. From there, they won the ball and fed on to replacement fly-half Tom Duffy who went to kick the ball, missed it as he was tackled but somehow missed by all three match officials, allowing him to pick back up and press into the Centurions’ 22.  Northumberland recovered and cleared, progressing once more to earn a lineout on the 5m line. This was well won but then undone through that old failing of holding on in the tackle. We then had some fairly loose play by both sides but on 75 minutes great movement from Duffy, breaking out from his 22 took him away from the Northumberland cover to put his team 31-15 up.

As usual, back came Northumberland up to the Counties’ 5 metre line. Another penalty, another scrum followed by another penalty and another scrum! This time, no mistakes for second row Jack Inglis from Ashington RFC to score with centre Rhys Johnstone from Whitley Bay Rockcliff adding the two extra points. As we approached full time Northumberland were again in control of the ball and in their opponents’ 22. However, that same old failing, hanging on in the tackle, and game over.

A final word of praise for hooker Stephen Pentaland from Whitley Bay Rockcliff. He faced a potential major disaster. Due to be married on 23rd May he tested the patience of his fiancée if he in any way had been injured. Such was Stephen’s pride in being selected and his fiancée’s understanding of what it meant to him, epitomises what County Rugby is all about.


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