Maroons falls to first league loss of season

Whitby's Sam Webster about to put in a big tackle at Houghton
Whitby's Sam Webster about to put in a big tackle at Houghton

Whitby travelled to second-placed Houghton on Saturday and, in a hard-fought game, suffered their first Durham and Northumberland League defeat of the season.

The home side showed their intention early on with several powerful drives from their forwards.

Whitby’s solid defence stood firm and the opening 20 minutes were played out in midfield with neither side looking like breaking through.

Possession was proving elusive for Whitby as the home props dominated the scrums, the referee’s interpretation allowing them to wheel every Maroon’s scrum and therefore spoil the ball.

Despite much work at training in the last two weeks the Whitby line out was also performing badly with non straight throws surrendering the ball.

On 22 minutes, the home side took the lead from a 30 yard penalty after Whitby were pinned for not releasing at the tackle.

Stung by this the Maroons regrouped and with Gordon Bland the catalyst for much good counter attacking they steadily worked their way down the pitch.

A good flowing move saw Whitby Maroons take the lead when Luke Brown popped up on the wing and did really well to brush off tacklers and score in the corner to lead 5-3 at half-time.

Turning to play with the slope, Houghton upped the ante in the scrums and started winning more penalties.

Whitby had all the problems as top scavengers Anth Craig (partial knee dislocation) and Connor Clements (stinger), were forced from the field. A speculative kick from Houghton saw Whitby caught out of position at the back and the result was a 5m line out to the home side.

The expected catch and drive duly arrived but great defence from Whitby saw it repulsed.

With the referee now intent on penalising the visitors seemingly due to field position a series of short penalties culminated in Houghton’s forwards ploughing over.

A further penalty followed as the home side took a grip on the game.

Neil Waterfield, back in the side off the bench, started to make his presence felt, poaching some ball from the opposition throw.

This led to a Whitby break out but having covered 60m and with Stuart Gregson tearing for the line, the distant referee blew for a forward pass.

Houghton, now totally dominant in the possession stakes, moved downfield and another short range forwards try sealed Whitby’s fate.

Whitby did throw one final effort in an attempt to at least glean a bonus point but came up just short as Gregson was pulled down inches short.

This was a game which Houghton deservedly won, Whitby could never win enough ball to give their talented backs the chance to show their abilities.

Whitby’s young side must take these hard lessons on board and double their efforts especially in sorting out the set piece plays.

Highlights on the day for Whitby were the magnificent tackling of Sam Webster, who put in a dozen shuddering hits in the midfield, Jack Reeves who had a great game on the wing with several powerful runs and Gordon Bland at full back who again looked class.

It was not a great day for the forwards with little going right.

Whitby Gazette man of the match: Sam Webster – great defence, great attitude.

Whitby’s coach Darryl Grason said after the game: “We got beaten by a better side today and we have no excuses, we can learn from this.

“We need to look at our week spots and improve, which I am sure we can.

We have young players who have great attitude and team spirit and I am backing them to bounce back.”

Houghton 16 Whitby Maroons 5