Whitby Maroons travelled to face an improving Seaham side who had won their last four matches, without the injured Janni Jacobs, Andy Grady and Marcus Coates, but they welcomed back club captain Steve Allen, Gordon Bland and Stuart Gregson.
On a windy day, Whitby lost the toss and had to play down the noticeable slope with the wind at their backs.
Early exchanges were even, Seaham kicking an penalty and Ollie Roberts replying for the Maroons.
Whitby were enjoying the majority of possession but their talented back line just tended to rush things a little and with several chances blown the result was the next half hour saw no scores.
There was a shock in store as the Maroons were camped on the Seaham line and having a three-on-one overlap, looked certain to score, but the home winger snatched the ball and sprinted 80m for a turnover try against the run of play.
Knowing that they needed to score before half-time, a tactical switch saw Steve Allen take to the field at 10 and the versatile Gordon Bland moved to partner Anth Craig in an abrasive wing forward combination. The move paid off as Craig charged over on the stroke of half-time for a touchdown converted by Roberts, to lead 10-8.
The team talk revolved around digging deep, as playing into the stong wind and up the severe slope meant the game was very much in the balance.
With Allen pulling the strings and the front five raising their game, the ball started to come out cleaner and Whitby piled on the pressure, with Nick Beaumont charging over to open up a seven-point lead.
Seaham were not giving up and replied through a catch and drive to reduce the deficit.
The Maroons with Clements, Craig and Bland turning over balls all over the field, attacked again and a rampaging run by Luke Brown saw the number five smash through three tacklers for a fine score.
Captain Steve Allen, who played a fine tactical hand, manufactured the last Maroons score when a switch put Gordon Bland in the clear and with a mesmerising side step, rounded two home players and dived over for the clincher, Roberts adding the extras.
The home side, who put in a spoiling gutsy performance, had the final word when on the stroke of full-time, a short tap saw the prop bundled over.
Inexplicably the Seaham 10 missed the kick under the posts and denied his side a losing bonus point.
This was not the perfect performance by the Maroons, the fluency and great handling which the backs had produced in the previous weeks was missing.
This was a win which came because of the dogged determination of the whole squad and a will to win. No-one personified this more than Connor Clements, a little player with a big heart, his work rate, tackling and ball poaching was brilliant.
All three locks, Richard Eglon, Dan Marsay and Luke Brown, stood up to the physical challenge and props Matt Russell and Bruce Reed bossed the scrums.
A quieter day for the backs saw Jack Pearson and Sam Webster a wall in midfield, with Allen the stand-out using his experience to guide the Maroons home.
A poor kicking game could have undermined Whitby’s game plan but another win, which after Yarm’s shock defeat at Washington, sees the Maroons go top of the table.
Man of the match: Connor Clements – outstanding defensive work.
Coach Darryl Grason said: “Our squad gets thinner and thinner as injuries kick in but at the moment everyone in this club is stepping up to the mark. We had to throw on 17-year-old George Reeves and the youngster just slotted into the team template and got on with it.
“We have so many missing that I am asking lots of people to play out of position and outside their comfort zone but our ‘can do attitude’ and will to win is shining through.”
Tomorrow, the Maroons travel to play second-placed Yarm in what should be a fantastic match.
“Yarm have been racking up the points and Whitby will have to be at their very best to come away with the win,” added Grason.
Seaham 18 Whitby Maroons 27