Virtuoso Consett performance from Novos
Novos were looking to back up their impressive opening day rout of Darlington with a first away win at Consett for many seasons.
Not many people gave them much of a chance of doing that, including some knowledgable pundits on local rugby forums, but the 20 or so players and management who made the trip had a quiet belief that they were capable of upsetting the odds.
Training had again been well attended and really positive this week, with Falcons Rob Vickers doing some valuable set piece work with the forwards again. Coach Leask couldn't make the trip due to school commitments so three old fellas from the management team stepped in to help out. Truth is though, that Mags has got the team so well drilled and organised, that come match day, they pretty much run things themselves, which is the ideal situation. The players are trusted to control and manage things, thinking for themselves and making decisions themselves - they certainly repayed that trust yesterday.
So, onto the game. As always, the weather up at Consett was a mix of Four Seasons in one day, with torrential rain at some points, and glorious sunshine at others, but at least no snow this time. Despite the slippery conditions, Novos warm up went smoothly, and they started the game confidently, dominating territory and possession for the first 5 minutes or so. Unfortunately they were unable to turn that dominance into points, with Richard Dodd missing a difficult penalty attempt.
Consett got some possession and forced Novos to giving away a pen which Consett's points machine Cook slotted over easily. This spurred the away team on, and they went straight back up the other end of the pitch to lay siege to the Consett line. After about 2 minutes of Novos forwards picking and driving, scrum half Cillian O'Shaughnessy showed the fat lads how to do it, by sneaking over from 2 yards out. Conversion missed unfortunately.
There the followed a bit of "you score, we score", but every time Consett entered the Novos 22 they seemed to come away with points. Some soft Novos shoulders allowed Consett to score 2 tries, but the usually deadly Cook was having a bit of an off day, missing both conversions, which for him had been relatively kickable. Novos had just about kept themselves in it with a Dodd penalty, after Igoe had dropped the ball in the act of scoring (must have been the pressure of having his fan club watching?), but finished the half strongly with Iain Dodds scoring from a 22m driving maul from the line out.
Consett 16 to Novos 13 at half time then, and the message from the old fellas was simple. This was anybody's game but we needed to tighten up and be a bit more aggressive in our defence. The foundations for the victory were laid in the next 20 minutes, with tries from the impressive Aedon Maloney after a mazy Johnny Ward break and some great drives by the pack, and quick hands from the backs, and Vice Captain Nash finishing strongly from 20m out after a 40m drive by the pack. Both of the difficult conversions were nailed by Dodd, and it was now 27-16 to Novos.
Novos had emptied their bench by now, and it shows what strength in depth there currently is, as we were able to bring on Merrett (not a single moan about the weather all day!), Stacey, and Richy (get me on Coach, I'm ready!) Harrison. Their fresh legs were needed as Consett staged their inevitable comeback, and Novos getting constantly pinged, giving Cook the chance to knock over 3 pens to bring it back to 27-25, squeaky bum time, and Novos perhaps fortunate not to have anyone in the bin. With about 10 minutes to go, a brief flurry of handbags involving Chronicle poster boy Westgarth, seemed to spur Novos on and the decisive score went to the flying Sam Busby, who went close to the posts to crucially give Dodd the easier conversion, which he gratefully accepted. There was time for one late rally from Consett, but rather curiously they spurned the kickable penalty that was on offer and which would have given them a losing bonus point, by going for touch and the lineout. Novos stoic second half defence held out, and they turned possession over to seal the win, keeping their try line unbreached for the whole of the second half. Final score 34-25 to Novos, another Bonus point win.
Before kick off, Novos had been set the challenge to prove to themselves and others how much they have improved as a team, and that last weeks victory hadn't been a one off. Challenge accepted and accomplished.
Another great performance with all 18 players contributing to the win, another show of togetherness and the chance to use our new favourite word "unity" again. MoM could have gone to anyone, with a special mention to new Scrum half O'Shaughnessy, who is really starting to grow into the role. However the 3 'Wise' men gave the nod to Skipper Alex Littlefair, for another tireless performance and decisive leadership. Like a fine wine, Alex has matured well and is possibly playing the best rugby of his Novos career at the moment. It's good to see that the pressure on places seems to be pushing everyone on to keep hold of the shirt.
Thanks to Ref Mike Hodgson, who had a good game, and controlled things well, especially when some frustration crept into the match later on. No complaints from us. Thanks to Consett as well, who were gracious in defeat, which hasn't always been the case in recent years, but the new Coaching team led by Jon Benson seems to have a different outlook than their predecessor. They will be right up there once again this season, and they have a great new clubhouse to enjoy also.
So, 2 bonus point wins for Novos, and top of the League, so far so good. The players are switched on enough nowadays to not get above themselves and realise that yesterday's win is now old news, and that the challenges continue to ramp up, so they have to continue to work hard in training and as the old cliche goes, take one game at a time. A huge challenge awaits us next Saturday as we welcome Horden to Sutherland Park for a top of the table clash - something's got to give!
Finally, congratulations to Ben Melrose's mighty 2nds, who beat Westoe away in their league match. It's a long long time since a Novos Senior team beat a Westoe side, well done lads. Commiserations to the 3rds who lost a tough away game to Ponteland 2nds, and well done to Stevie Thompson for getting a mix and match 4ths to have a run out with the Ravens as a precursor to their jolly away to Border Park next Saturday.
Oh yes, in case you had forgotten, the World Cup starts on Friday, get yourselves up to Novos, the only place to be during RWC!
Consett 25 Novos 34
Tries: O'Shaughnessy, I. Dodds, Maloney, Nash, Busby
Conversions: R.Dodd x 3
Penalties: R. Dodd x 1
By Andy Leonard.