The already promoted Whitby Maroons travelled to Chester-le-Street on a fiercely windy afternoon to continue their push for the much-desired thid division title.
With Luke Brown unavailable through injury, Neil Waterfield was back in the starting line up alongside Anthoney Craig who replaced the unavailable George Reeves.
It is a measure of how far we have come and to the team spirit that we did enough to get over the line. - Darryl Grason
Called up to the bench were young Jannie Jacobs, Dan Marsay and veteran prop Craig Hall. The game started with both teams attempting to get used to the conditions and to gain an advantage on their opponents by playing a brand of rugby that would be better suited to the wind.
The first 30 minutes were not pleasing on the eye for supporters of either team with both sets of players finding it difficult to adjust with Whitby making uncharacteristic mistakes and inviting pressure.
The visitors did seem to settle down and started to play the better rugby which concluded with Nicholas Beaumont crashing over to give his team the lead.
However, this hard earned lead was short lived with the Chester-le-Street winger getting over the Whitby game line just two minutes later, in a good move by the home side.
The last period of the first half witnessed both teams attempting to gain the lead, but with two good defences on show, chances were limited.
However, Whitby were felt hard done by just before the whistle, it appeared the Matt Russell had touched the ball down, only to be ruled off by the Durham referee.
The scrum was a positive aspect for Whitby all afternoon with Reed, Kaz and Russell never taking a backward step. With both conversions missed, this made the half time score 5-5.
The half-time team talk consisted of captain Steve Allen and coach Darryl Grason asking for a little more effort and composure and for the Maroons to try to play their usual attacking rugby to gain the much-needed win.
The players reacted positively to this almost straight away with the impressive Mitchell Cannon finishing off a fine move through the Whitby backs.
The away team started to find the breakdown difficult and were penalised at almost every occasion.
This inevitably put pressure on the defence, which was penetrated again by Chester-le-Street, when their number eight crashed around the blind side to put the score level again.
Pressure kept mounting on the Whitby defence and the experience and aggression of Matt Russell was the order of the day alongside great tackling from Anthoney Craig, Connor Clements and Neil Waterfield to keep the scores level. Whitby had few opportunities to attack, with Gordon Bland, Sam Webster, and Jack Reeves having a frustrating afternoon.
An opportunity did develop for the Maroons which fell to the pacey stand-in full back of Stuart Gregson, who after a great run managed to put the ball down right in the corner to put his side in the lead for the third time.
The last 10 minutes of the contest witnessed relentless attacks on the visiting team, with the experience of Matt Russell and Craig Hall paying dividends on seeing the game out and securing a vital and well-earned win.
With no conversions added the final score was Chester-le-Street 10 Whitby 15
This game was a potential banana skin for the Maroons, but the will and determination by this group of players shone through and got them over the line.
One more win is now required to secure the third division title with three games still to play.
Coach Grason added: “All the ingredients were there for a shock on Saturday.
“The home team raised their game, the extremely windy conditions meant it diluted our natural wide passing game, and along with interpretation at the breakdown with little contest allowed for the ball meant this was a game we could have easily lost.
“It is a measure of how far we have come and to the team spirit that we did enough to get over the line.
“Hopefully some of our younger guys will have taken on board some of the lessons and we will be ready for the tough challenges coming up.”
Whitby Gazette Man of the Match: Matt Russell – a colossal defensive performance by the veteran prop.
The Yorkshire Shield semi-final will be played at White Leys, Whitby, on Easter Saturday (April 4) against Northallerton, kick-off 3pm.
Chester-le-Street 10 Whitby Maroons 15