Lookers sponsored South Shields Westoe entertained league leaders Durham City in a thrilling competitive match. City travelled to Westoe having only lost one match so far this season against promotion rivals Barnard Castle.
Following their own recent victory over Castle, the Westoe faithful were eager for a repeat performance on the famous Wood Terrace slope. Unfortunately City’s management decided otherwise and declined to play on the pitch, meaning a late change of venue to Harton School’s 3G surface to prevent postponing the match.
Westoe exploded from the kick-off with a clean take and set-up from Andrew Kirton; the ball was spun into mid-field, finding crowd-pleaser Raymie Elliott who blasted his way downfield into City’s territory. Fly-half Michael Potts took the pass and broke through the midfield to within five metres of the line, where recycled ball again found Elliott, who touched down in the corner. 5-0
The early score sparked the match into action; in a fiery uncompromising spectacle where both sides defended hard and attacked at every opportunity. It was saddening to see an early yellow card for Joe McKenzie, after a perfectly executed tackle was adjudged to be illegal by the man in charge – something we are seeing more and more as the game shies away from contact and penalises big hits.
Durham responded well and after a prolonged period of pressure the ball was sent along the line for fly-half Armstrong to cross after ten minutes for the try. 5-5
Durham took the lead for the first time after 15 minutes with a penalty for offside at the ruck. 5-8
In an end-to-end match, it was Westoe who struck next, with centre Zach Clarke splitting the initial defence and powering towards the line. Faced with three defenders, Clarke was aided by winger Ben Roberts who took a perfect supporting line, dragging the defence with him to allow Clarke to beat the final man and touch down under the posts. 12-8
Durham showed why they are currently league leaders, pressurising Westoe immediately from the restart. An obvious improvement in their scrummage from the earlier meeting, saw them launch an attack from the base of the scrum and attack wide. Stopped short of the line, Durham’s full-back Stewart fed the inside runner, Dent, who crossed to see the lead change yet again. 12-15
Westoe were unfortunate to lose fly-half Potts to a foot injury, but lucky enough to have returning Jordan Carey on the bench to come on as replacement.
Within minutes Westoe were back in control. An overthrown line-out was gathered by Sean Ramsay, who switched inside and attacked the blind. Chris Judson was on hand to recycle quick ball to Sam Gaff who made good yardage before passing the ball to Joe McKenzie who wove his way through the defence close to the sticks. 19-15
With the half-time whistle beckoning, Westoe went to the line-out for one last push. Gathered and set well, the ensuing maul was stopped dead by a determined City defence. A series of pick and goes from Joe McKenzie, Sean Ramsay and Sam Gaff, sucked in the City defence and when spun, replacement fly-half Carey found the gap to increase the lead and gain the four-try bonus point. Half-time score, 26-15
Westoe came out the blocks quickly for the second half. Solid City defence initially held short and then forced a fumble crossing the line. For the first time of the day we saw the traditional Westoe scrum turn the power on and march City back over their line, winning their own scrum five metres out. Westoe’s scrum edged forward and Sam Gaff picked from the base and crossed untouched to extend the lead. 33-15
Never about to give up, City upped the pace and launched a series of attacks eventually Pears crossing in the corner, keeping the game alive. 33-20
Sixteen minutes into the half, Westoe continued to make ground. Following strong carries from James Sant and Andrew Kirton, Luke Moffett crashed over. 38-20
Never say die City took the next score after almost twenty minutes of defensive sets for both sides. With Westoe in attack, Raymie Elliott was charging forward only to be stopped dead in his tracks by City’s Mike Hay, the collision resonating all around the ground. City spun the ball wide for the score and four-try bonus point, keeping their hopes alive with less than fifteen to play. 38-27
In a match where the entire team shone, it was the back-row that finished off a great day. Sean Ramsay hit the ruck and turned over ball for Joe McKenzie who again made the yardage and demolished a now tiring City defence. Support came in the form of Sam Gaff who finished the job with only two minutes left to play. 45-27
Westoe ended with one last score. Slick passing found Zach Clarke who broke the line, slipped the pass to Louis Hagan out wide who finished in spectacular form with a neat touchdown as the defence tried to force him into touch.
Final score was Westoe 50 – Durham City 27
Hats off to a strong City team who fought all the way to the end, showing why they are currently top of the table.
Westoe showed true grit and determination in a hard-fought victory, against well drilled competent opponents. With a penalty count of 16 -4 against, they need to learn to adapt to referees interpretations and reduce the penalties where possible.
With performances akin to today and their last match against Barnard Castle, Westoe have shown they should be fighting for the promotion spots again this season. Gone are the early jitters and over-complicated plays; replaced with direct and determined running, speedy, safe passing moves along the line and a return of the coal-face defence of last year.
The side now have a Christmas break and return on the 6th January, away to Hartlepool Rovers.