First half dominance seals game for Shields

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Whitby Maroons travelled to North Shields for their first away league game of the year, the early season.

A plethora of injuries continued with veteran captain Matt Russell sidelined with back problems and star back rowers Jack Braithwaite and Andy Grady both out with ankle injuries.

Neil Waterfield, Dave Mahaffy and Joe Lenton could not travel so the reshuffle meant five props in the front five and a debut for Scott Armstrong on the wing.

Whitby had been warned by the coach that the opening 10 minutes would see the home side’s heavy pack throw everything at them and that is what unfolded – the Maroons starting slowly and finding themselves 10-0 down thanks to a penalty and a converted try which came from a terrible attempted kick.

The home side were dominating up front and from a line-out, the home number 10 waltzed through an uncharacteristically slack, Whitby defence to increase the lead to 17-0.

After 20 minutes, the Maroons seemed to settle and get their teeth into the match with James Newton a stand-in seven on seasonal debut, putting in some good hits.

The pack upped their game and with Jones and Reed in the boiler room and the front row of Coverdale, Young and Marsay starting to match the intensity of the home 8, Whitby at last gained some good field position. From a great handling move started by Sam Webster, the ball was moved left where Anth Craig fed the prolific Guy Taylor, who beat three men for a fine score with Webster converting.

The referee then sin binned two Whitby players, leaving them down to 13 players – Mitch Cannon for retaliation and Connor Clennan for a desperate trip.

This allied to a 12-3 penalty count against Whitby swung the balance and the home side added two more touchdowns for a halftime score of 27-7.

The second stanza saw Whitby bring veteran Harrison and youngster Armstrong on to try to freshen things up.

It was North Shields though who increased their lead with a typical catch and drive from 10m out with the Maroons having no answer, despite gallant defence.

Whitby dug in and raised their game. At this point, with a full 35 minutes to go, it could have been a flogging but the next 20 minutes saw the Maroons on top with skipper Andy Watson leading from the front and Anthoney Craig flying round the pitch, putting big hits in.

After finally getting some decisions, Maroons crafted a fine try with Watson dummying and going in under the sticks with Webster converting.

Webster also added a penalty as Whitby hit back.

Whitby lost another player to the bin and also Harrison to dizzyness, with Jones returning.

With the Maroons once again short on numbers, the final score was to go to North Shields as their juggernaut pack, which had dominated all day, once again forced a player over in the last minute of the match, the opportunity though being laid on a plate for them due to a series of penalties for back chat.

Coach Darryl Grason said: “This was a game in which an understrength side tried gamely against bigger opponents, teenagers Barney Fountain, Joe Russell, Mitch Cannon and Scott Armstrong all gained valuable experience but if Whitby are going to compete at this level they need to get some of their experienced big hitters back on the field.

“Hopefully with the cricket season over and people shuffling work commitments this can happen soon.”

Maroons man of the match: Andy Watson - gallant skipper tackled all day and never took a backward step.

Tomorrow sees Whitby at home against Prudhoe, a side who, like the Maroons, have lost their opening two league games.

This is a great opportunity for the home side to grab a their first win and if they are to be serious competitors in this league, nothing less than a win will do.