A BRIGHT blustery day on the Headland at Hartlepool marked the start of the 2012/13 rugby season.
Whitby travelled with a 21 player squad, probably the youngest they have fielded for a first team fixture in the club’s history.
Despite a lack of practice games due to numbers and unavailability, the Maroons eight started well with veteran pack leader Matt Russell giving his opposite number a tough time at the set piece with good back up from Coverdale, Young and Bryant.
A strong wind blowing down the field meant the first 40 minutes were mainly played in Whitby territory but resolute defence from Anth Craig and great turnover work from Andy Grady saw BBOB have limited chances.
However, around 25 minutes in, Whitby allowed a soft try when the black and whites’ number nine took a tap and the forwards did not react quickly enough and this, allied to an easy penalty, gave the scoreline an imbalance which was harsh on the Maroons.
Just before half-time came the defining moment of the match as Whitby were camped on the home line and created a five-on-two overlap, only for the crucial pass to be intercepted by the burly home centre who dashed 80 metres unopposed.
Hartlepool BBOB led 15-0 at half-time.
Whitby attacked from the off in the second period, only for a lot of good approach work to be undermined by giving away needless penalties at the breakdown.
When the Whitby try did come after 25 minutes it was a result of a long raking kick by stand in stand off Ollie Roberts, Joe Lenton sprinted after the ball and put the full back under pressure, allowing winger John Hatton to touch down,
Roberts adding the conversion.
A further penalty narrowed the gap to five points and it was game on.
A few injures (Roberts hamstring, Russell ribs) undermined Whitby’s challenge as both sides tired and play became disjointed.
Connor Clennan headed for the bin for slowing the ball down and BBOB added the final points of the game.
Despite defeat, this was a great effort by a very young side and there was a new renewed vigour, enthusiasm and team spirit.
Diehard Matt Russell led his troops from the front with one trademark legal smash setting the example.
All the younger players, Bruce Reid, James Newton, Connor Clennan, Joe Lenton, Dan Marsay, Lee Bryant, Dyran Jones and the two Taylors, played well and if a few rough edges can be knocked off at training a good season should unfold.
The line-outs need more organisation and the three-quarters need to back themselves and learn to play deeper and trust in their undoubted ability.
It was a tight call for man of the match with Andy Grady, James Newton and Anth Craig all having big games but scrum half Connor Clennan got the vote for a gritty performance.
This Saturday (8 Sep) sees the Maroons’ first home game of the season when they face Chester-le-Street, kick-off 3pm.
After the game there will be an opportunity for supporters to meet the players in the bar.