Whitby Maroons faced their first opponents in the Durham & Northumberland Division Two on Saturday, in the form of Hartlepool BBOB, who were also promoted with Whitby last season.
Whitby were still without key players due to other commitments and injuries but were dealt another blow when losing Andy Grady after suffering an ankle injury at training which failed to settle down in time for the game.
Whitby fielded a much younger team than their opponents, which included three 17-year-olds.
Hartlepool started with more intensity than their counterparts and put themselves on the scoreboard within two minutes when their hooker broke out of maul on the blind side to touch down.
They missed the conversion as well as a penalty soon afterwards which kept Whitby in the game.
Young Joe Russell and Jack Braithwaite at flankers were working tirelessly to restrict the space that BBOB’s number 10 was making, but when the experienced fly half did make space it started to cause Whitby problems.
BBOB made it 10-0 with another try on 21 minutes before Jack Braithwaite was yellow carded for what the referee saw as ‘consistent sealing off’.
The loss of Braithwaite and bad decisions in the backs led to BBOB going over twice more to give the visitors a 20-0 lead at half-time, which was in no way a true reflection of the first half.
The effort from the young Whitby team was never in any doubt but the decision-making and the more seasoned opponents led to a stern half time talking to from coach Darryl Grason.
The second half started much like the first, with BBOB going over after just three minutes to increase their advantage. This was followed by another BBOB try with the first conversion of the afternoon.
Whitby were then dealt another blow by being forced into substituting captain Matt Russell who injured his ankle. This meant shuffling the pack around with the versatile Bruce Reed moving up to the front row and Andrew Watson stepping up to captain at number eight.
The forwards were working immensely hard against a larger BBOB pack; the scrum was steady with hooker Shane Young winning plenty of ball.
Whitby steadily started to pick up their game with scrum half Connor Clennan dictating the play.
The centres, Sam Webster and the ever reliable Anthony Craig began to put pressure on the BBOB defence line with the former being denied a try just yards from the line by a last gasp tackle.
The pressure Whitby were enforcing on their opponents deservedly paid off when Braithwaite burst through to put Whitby on the scoreboard, this was converted by fly half Joe Lenton to make the score 32-7.
BBOB grabbed their last points of the afternoon with a breakaway converted try from their influential number 10; however, the last 10 minutes of the game were played in the BBOB half with great attacking play from Whitby.
Substitute Dave Mahaffy, along with fellow lock Neil Waterfield, were making good territory for Whitby with some powerful running. This allowed the Whitby backs to start to move the ball in the right areas which led to Guy Taylor doing what he does best by using his pace to score Whitby’s second try of the day.
With Sam Webster picking up an injury, it gave a chance for Barney Fountain to show his worth by going on the wing with the tough-tackling Mitchell Cannon going into the centres.
Fountain made an immediate impact when clearing the ball from inside his own half and gave chase to their retreating full back to nearly score a brilliant solo effort.
This was followed by the last play of the day when veteran full back Ollie Roberts picked the ball up on the halfway line and bursting down the wing before beating two men and putting Taylor in for his second try.
Man of the match: Jack Brathwaite - a real powerful performance with some excellent tackling.
The performance highlighted areas that need to be worked on but was also a great effort by every player.
A real team spirit was evident and this will bode well for this team to move forward in consolidating their place in this league. Saturday sees the Maroons travel to North Shields and the Quins are at home to Guisborough 3rds.
Whitby Maroons 17 Hartlepool BBOB 39