MARAUDING Whitby Maroons made it 12 league wins in a row as they saw off a determined Houghton side in a deceptively tough game.
A boggy pitch at The Showfield on Saturday meant it was going to be hard to get any speed onto the ball and it was a matter of playing territory.
Playing down the White Leys slope but into a stiff breeze, Whitby started quickly and forced their well-drilled opponents back through a series of strong runs by the forwards with pack leader Matt Russell prominent.
The home side opened up an eight-point lead thanks to a Christian Pollock penalty and a try from the speedy Guy Taylor.
On 20 minutes, the Maroons extended their lead with a try from a strong run from the talismanic David Straker.
The last 20 minutes all belonged to Houghton who raised their game and put Whitby under severe pressure. The Houghton forwards took over and with their speedy number nine taking a series of quick taps, it was the Geordies who went over for a deserved converted try for 13-7 at half-time.
The Maroons made changes at the break with Bland, Pottas and Harrison entering the fray in an effort to rest the initiative back.
There was an even start to the second half before Whitby, using a change of tactics in employing the mauling game, started to get on top.
In his last game for a month due to work, Gordon Bland profited from good drives by the forwards to sneak over.
Houghton were by no means out of the game and were proving a tough nut to crack with their excellent defence.
It was only in the last 10 minutes, as in so many matches this season, that the Maroons’ superior fitness told and they closed out the game.
Exciting full back Christian Pollock used his mighty boot to full effect, and launched the ball 70m up the field and then with the opposition tiring, used his speed to be first to the ball, securing the valuable bonus point in the process.
A few minutes later, he repeated his feat with a similar effort to seal the win, the final whistle coming after his successful conversion.
Captain Steve Allen led by example, putting his body on the line and Straker, Roberts and Richardson all defended robustly in what turned out to be a very attritional game against a gritty Houghton.
It was a good test for Whitby, having to deal with ‘streetwise’ opponents and a frustrating interpretation at the breakdown.
The discipline was generally good but the forwards did not enjoy the control of the previous weeks, the line-outs proved to be an Achilles heel in need of much improvement. One worrying aspect was a couple of bad injuries - the worst to back rower Anthony Craig, a bad ankle injury which is likely to see him sidelined for several weeks.
Utility back Matt Kendrew also cracked ribs playing for the Quins and with still some nine league games to go, the Maroons’ small squad will be tested to the limit.
Whitby Gazette man of the match: James Newton - mapped out the back row play.
* Saturday saw Whitby’s main rivals league leaders Hartlepool BBOB win comfortably, 46-20 over bottom dwellers Newton Aycliffe to gain five points.
The Maroons are nine points behind the leaders but with a game in reserve, which will be on Saturday (19 Jan) on the Showfield against Washington.
South Tyneside’s 22-0 win over Sedgefield saw them go third, Chester-le-Street had a comfortable home win over Jarrovians, while Whitby’s next opponents Washington downed Richmondshire 14-10.
* Saturday (19 Jan) sees the Maroons at home for the second successive week as they take on an improving Washington side at the Showfield.
Coach Darryl Grason said: “Last week was a tough test in conditions which did not suit our flowing 15-man game.
“However, we dug in and got the win.
“We are by no means the finished article but we do have heart and belief which can take us a long way.
“We had a large vociferous home crowd behind us last week and as our promotion push gathers momentum, that kind of support will make a big difference.”
Whitby Maroons 34 Houghton 7