Maroons claim crucial last-gasp win at Blyth
Whitby RUFC snatched a late victory at Blyth, a result that ensures they cannot be relegated from Durham & Northumberland Division Two.
Whitby made the long journey north without the services of flu victims Dave Bland and Steve Allen, but came away with a win against the odds, triumphing by the narrowest of margins in a pulsating encounter.
The Maroons played with the wind and started brightly. Their reward for 20 minutes of dominance was a 6-0 lead thanks to two penalties from full-back Stuart Gregson.
The hosts boasted a huge pack, but despite this Whitby’s front row of Bruce Reed, George Reeves and Nathan Kaz fronted up well against much heavier opponents in the scrum.
On 30 minutes, the visitors were penalised for not releasing and Blyth kicked to the corner. Despite a gallant defensive effort, a rolling maul crashed over for a converted try giving the home team a one-point lead at 7-6.
The Northumbrians’ gigantic pack then rolled over again from close range, meaning they took a 12-6 lead into half-time.
Blyth used the strong breeze to pin Whitby back in their own half at the start of the second period and the Maroons had to absorb 15 minutes of pressure in which they did well to hold out, thanks to some fine cover tackling from the back row of James Newton, Andy Little and Anth Craig.
The home side added a penalty to extend their lead to 15-6 and with 20 minutes to go Whitby rolled the dice, throwing on a half-fit Ollie Roberts at centre and the combative Mitch Cannon at prop.
The change had an immediate effect, Roberts using all his experience to angle a hefty punt upfield, which produced a panicky response from Blyth and gave the Maroons field position in the opposing 22.
A great take in the line by Newton set up the drive and a well-marshalled maul saw Whitby go fully 20 metres before skipper Gordon Bland lunged over, reducing the deficit to four points at 15-11.
With Blyth tiring, locks Luke Brown and Dan Marsay began to make plenty of headway, while Cannon’s aggression helped Whitby’s pack seize the initiative from the home eight.
With just five minutes to go the Maroons almost went over the line, before, with only seconds remaining, Bland charged down a clearance kick and a favourable bounce allowed Brown to pounce on the loose ball to register the game’s decisive score.