On a bitterly cold day and on a very heavy pitch, Whitby Maroons took on Seaton Carew in search of more points to aid their attempt at the ‘Great Escape’.
Having lost the toss, the Maroons were forced to play down the slope and made a great start when, after only four minutes, centre Aaron Jones made the most of an overlap to cross wide out to give Whitby the lead.
However, a defender came in late with his knees, causing a knee ligament injury to the try-scorer which led to Jones leaving the action. Ollie Roberts struck a good conversion but it floated wide.
More bad luck was to follow for the home side when, in the first 15 minutes, they lost lock Dan Marsay to a blow to the head and Andy Watson with a hand injury.
The attritional nature of the game was having an effect on both sides and Dave Mahaffey and Anthoney Craig also picked up knocks but were unable to leave the field due to all the subs already being on.
The visitors had a much bigger pack and in the quagmire conditions they use their big number eight to put several dents in the home defence.
They crafted two short-range tries through driving play from the forwards.
The Maroons hit back through the outstanding Gordon Bland, who had been moved to back row to cover the absence of James Newton.
The diminutive wing forward took a quick tap and jinked through the static Seaton defence for a grand solo score, with Roberts adding the extras for a 12-10 half-time lead.
Now facing a strong wind and the slope, the second stanza was never going to be easy for Whitby with many players unable to catch the ball due to the freezing conditions.
Seaton punted the ball down the field and got their rewards when from a typical catch, maul and drive they crashed over wide out and a penalty was added soon after.
The rest of the game consisted of gallant resilient defence by the Maroons as they tried to cling on to a valuable bonus point. However, frustratingly, right on the stroke of time, another maul by Seaton Carew was heaved over the line and a mass of muddied bodies and despite no camera angle available the ref awarded a controversial touch down.
It later transpiring that Whitby’s old timer Matt Russell was the man at the bottom with the ball lodged on him.
No players could be critisised on this day of appalling weather. Several of the home side were near to hypothermia with wiry scrum half John Hatton the worst affected.
Bland had a fantastic match for Whitby, making countless tackles in an outstanding display.
James Gildroy put in a great shift at the coal face and while it was mostly a bystander day for the backs, Ed Richardson did stand out for his solid defence. The effort of the Whitby lads was there for all to see and there is enough spirit in the side to see that it is not all over just yet in the great escape attempt.
First team coach Darryl Grason said: “In the end, Seaton’s forward strength, especially their big number eight, saw them through but I thought today’s toss was absolutely crucial and on another day the result definitely could have gone our way.
“I want to pay credit to the effort put in by all the Whitby players, this team never gives in.”
Man of the match: Gordon Bland – superb action packed display. Match sponsor: Heineken.
There is no league game on Saturday but the club are putting out a young A side who take on Durham University Freshers at the Showfield kick-off 2.15pm.
Any player wanting to play can contact D, Matt or Rob.
Whitby Maroons 12 Seaton Carew 23