Maroons ruthless in ‘banana skin’ clash

Maroons winger Stuart Gregson off on a run at Sedgfield
Maroons winger Stuart Gregson off on a run at Sedgfield

Top-of-the-table Whitby travelled to Sedgefield for a potential banana skin encounter, against a tough improving team who won at Washington the previous week.

With hooker Nathan Kaz back available, this meant a return for Connor Clements, to his more effective position in the back row with Scott Armstrong starting on the bench.

With these the only changes made by coach Darryl Grason, after an impressive display at Richmondshire last time out, it meant a settled squad could continue to improve.

The first 10 minutes of this encounter witnessed a start for winger Jack Reeves, who in essence sealed the victory and made sure his team did not slip on the proverbial banana skin, which hosts Sedgefield had hoped for.

The first of his tries came from a great territorial kick from captain Steve Allen and gathered by Reeves, who duly did the rest.

The next two tries witnessed the tricky winger sidestep his way through the Sedgefield defence after good hands were witnessed through the equally impressive backs, with centre Sam Webster slotting the final ball through on both occasions.

With one conversion added by Stuart Gregson, this made the score 17-0 after just ten minutes played which was a fantastic start for the Maroons.

The following period of the game saw a determined Sedgefield pack take a firm foothold in the game and in particular, in the scrum.

The Whitby pack were forced back at a rate of knots which was causing them to win minimal ball.

The home side did come close on a couple of occasions to getting on the scoresheet, but this was where the Whitby forwards shone and stood up to be counted with veteran prop Matt Russell and flankers Connor Clements and George Reeves, leading from the front by defending their line.

Whitby started to play their way back into the game and came close when Sam Webster offloaded impressively to Luke Brown, who was unlucky not to finish off an impressive move.

The final points of the half did eventually come for Whitby, and the all-important bonus point, when pacey winger Gregson sprinted down the wing to both finish and convert a fine solo effort to make the score at the interval Sedgefield 0 Whitby 24.

Grason made several changes at half-time to give some fringe players valuable game time which gave them a chance to make their mark.

The second half started in similar fashion to the first, but this time it was Sam Webster who kept the scoreboard ticking over with two neatly finished efforts in the opening exchanges of the half, followed shortly by the experienced Oliver Roberts to keep his tally ticking over for the season.

The hour mark then witnessed Jack Reeves complete his fourth try of the afternoon, after again using his sidestep to create the space need to get through the Sedgefield defence.

The Sedgefield forwards then decided it was their turn to get involved in the scoring action when a scrum some 5m out followed the pattern of the afternoon and pushed the Whitby pack back to gain their first try, which was converted.

With Sedgefield legs now tiring, scrum half David Bland began impressively spraying the ball around the park, to set up further attacks for his team mates who continued to advance.

With the fresh legs of Jack Pearson and Scott Armstrong on the park, this also helped the Whitby cause and ended with the former sprinting over the line for another try for the Maroons.

Gordon Bland, in his typical fashion, was involved all over the pitch to gain his team further points which could be crucial come the end of the season.

With the game petering out, the final moments concluded with the ever-improving Gregson going over, to complete his own hat-trick, and the second of the afternoon for Whitby.

With three conversions added in the second half, two from Webster and one from Jack Pearson, this made the final score 65-7.

This was another impressive away performance from a growing Whitby side who will endeavour to keep this level of performance going for the rest of the season.

With important games coming up, the excellent team spirit that has developed throughout the squad, will only inevitably have a positive effect on results.

Coach Darryl Grason said the Whitby backs put on “an electrifying” display.

“Our lines of running off the ball created space for which we exploited to the full extent,” he told the Whitby Gazette.

“It was great, entertaining rugby and I hope we can maintain that standard when we return to the Showfield on January 31.

“The one negative today was the way we went backwards in the scrum in the last 20 minutes and when we get to the crunch games, this will cost us, so it’s something we need to fix quickly.”

Whitby Gazette man of the match: Jack Reeves – a done deal after only ten minutes after terrorising the Sedgefield defence with four great tries.