Magnificent Maroons stay top after scalping South Shields
Durham and Northumberland Division Two table-toppers Whitby RUFC made it three wins out of three when they won at newly-promoted South Shields.
The Maroons were forced into a number of changes leading up to the game, with veteran prop Shane Young returning for his first appearance of the season and second team captain Richard Eglon receiving a late call-up.
The hosts, a traditionally large and aggressive side, posed a test to the young Whitby team early on, particularly in the forwards.
There were plenty of set-pieces during the opening exchanges, and the Maroons front row of Young, Bruce Reed and Richard Hare stood up to the task, maintaining good momentum in the scrum.
The first points were chalked up on the board 20 minutes into the game when full-back Stuart Gregson chased his own kick down the field to score a fine solo effort.
He then added the conversion to put his 7-0 in front.
The visitors built on their good momentum when lock Luke Brown made one of his trademark strong, crashing runs forward and got the ball down for a good finish.
Soon after, Whitby were back on the attack, with Mitch Cannon entering the field and repeating the feat of last week by crashing through several defenders to score Whitby’s third try of the afternoon.
Gregson added the extras for a 19-point lead with just 30 minutes on the clock.
Some strange refereeing decisions then led to Whitby becoming frustrated, which resulted in a yellow card for Young and 10 minutes in the sin-bin.
This injected some energy into the hosts who began to press the Whitby defence. They eventually broke through with the last action of the half to for a converted try to make the score at half-time 19-7.
The team-talk delivered by coach Matt Webster was mainly keep the discipline, keep calm under pressure and stick to the gameplan of keeping the ball moving through the hands to spread the South Shields back-line.
However, this was proving a difficult task due to the management of the game from the referee.
The start of the second half started the same way as the first had ended with Whitby penalised at almost every possible occasion.
With the South Shields players not believing their luck they were camped in the Whitby 22 for at least 10 minutes.
They did break through the Whitby line but a magnificent tackle and holding the man up was performed by the busy number eight Jack Braithwaite.
Another try-saving tackle was witnessed from Bruce Reed, who found himself as the last man and made no mistake in halting his opponent to save a certain seven points.
Whitby soaked up all the pressure laid upon them with more great defence work from Richard Eglon, James Newton and Connor Clements standing up to whatever came their way.
After composing themselves and clearing their lines, Whitby began to play some good ruby once again.
This worked for Whitby when Jack Reeves seized his opportunity to finish off a very neat move.
However, disaster was soon to follow with South Shields scoring a close-range try and a red card for Connor Clements, after the referee adjudged him of making a dangerous tackle.
The next phase of the game became tense for Whitby, with cool heads needed which came from Sam Webster controlling the game well and Ollie Roberts and Aaron Jones in the centres using all their experience.
Chances started to come for this young Whitby side and after a great run from winger Jannie Jacobs, fellow winger Guy Taylor appeared and finished off another good team try.
South Shields had no option but to attack and try and close the score gap which inevitably left spaces in their defence, this was exploited by Sam Webster who intercepted a pass and ran 80 meters to make the game safe for the visitors.
The last action of the game witnessed the hosts intercepting a loose pass to grab a converted try to make the score at the final whistle more respectable.
Coach Matt Webster said: “This was one of those days when you control what you can and win the game.
“The performance is of little note due to the way the game panned out, but what we can take away is that we can adjust to situations, dig-in and gain five valuable points.
“This maintains our position at the top of the league which is an incredible effort and sets up next week’s visit of second-placed North Shields very nicely.”
Man of the Match: Sam Webster kept a cool head all afternoon and controlled the game well for his team.