‘Banana skin’ awaits after Maroons’ off-day

WHITBY Maroons entertained bottom of the table Newton Aycliffe - a team in a false position due to the deduction of 30 points by the league for irregularities.

The Showfield was heavy after the recent snow and rain and ball control was never going to be easy.

A late no-show meant veteran Tim Richardson continuing at scrum half and James Newton shifting to hooker.

Disaster struck for Whitby when former top try poacher turned defensive centre Ollie Roberts had to leave the field on five minutes with a return of his weak hamstring problem.

Long-term injury casualty Andy Grady made a welcome return to Maroons colours with the versatile Anthoney Craig shifting onto the wing.

In a nervous opening, the Maroons kicked away too much ball aimlessly down the middle of the field, surrendering possession and showing a reluctance to build an attack by playing the phases.

This pattern continued until finally after a line-out, Andy Grady drove over the line to open the scoring.

Newton Aycliffe were not laying down and brought with them a level of physicality which at times threatened to overrun the Whitby pack.

The Maroons were treating the ball like a hot potato on a day which was not suited to Harlem Globetrotter antics.

Only the tremendously high tackle rate of the Gradys, Jack and Andy, was keeping Whitby in the game.

Realising the tactics were not working, old hand Russell steadied the ship by barreling over from short range to give the home side some breathing space.

Just on half-time, Anthoney Craig ran a superb line to take an Allen pass to scythe through for a fine solo score converted by Pollock for 19-0.

Turning round to play downhill, the Maroons expected to dominate, but the opening kick-off was to provide a real shock.

A decent enough kick was gathered by the visitors’ full back who fed their large number eight, who then charged up field through some wafer thin tackling to make 60m and eventually feed the left wing who scooted in.

Any complacency was well and truly gone and the second stanza turned into a dog fight with both packs fighting for supremacy in the bog.

As so often this season, centre Dave Staker made the game safe for Whitby, scoring a brace of tries from typically bulldozing runs.

Late on as the home eight finally got on top, returning prop Phil Coverdale squeezed over from close range, with Pollock adding three excellent conversions.

This was not one of the Maroon’s stand-out displays and despite being up against good opposition it was worrying for the future that the players did not seem to have the confidence to take the ball in retain possession and play phase after phase.

This is exactly what will be needed against better sides.

Jack Grady once again stood out in the forwards for his work rate while in the backs Anthoney Craig put two thunderous tackles to snuff out the visitors wide out and Nick Beaumont did well playing in an unaccustomed back role.

With the injuries continuing to pile up and several players being asked to play out of position this game showed that the Maroons squad is stretched and the Quins players will be looking to step up and force their way into the team.

Whitby Gazette man of the match: Jack Grady.

Whitby Maroons 40 Newton Aycliffe 5

Results this Saturday saw a slight swing in leaders BBOB’s favour as they racked up a 52 point difference against Whitby’s 35, gaining 17.

They put Sedgefield to the sword in a 67-15 win, while third-placed South Tyneside kept the pressure on Whitby with a good away win at Yarm.

In other matches, there were home wins for Houghton, Washington and Chester Le Street who beat the Maroons’ next opponents Richmondshire 24-9.

This Saturday (16 Feb), the Maroons travel to Richmondshire, with the Quins making it a double away fixture.

There is a bus on and all players should be at the club for 10.45am as it is important both sides arrive in good time for a warm-up.

Richmondshire were very stubborn opponents when they visited Whitby with the Maroons winning 2-0 but only securing the bonus point in the dying moments.

The Richmond pitch is small, narrow and sloping with the home side very adept to playing on it.

If the Maroons attitude is not right, this match has the potential to be a banana skin.