Novos 15, Stockton 39 - Outplayed at Stockton
By Magnus Leask
Stockton won this match six tries to three as they look to try and clinch second place in the second half of the season.
Stockton were clear winners in this top six battle at Grangefield Academy. They dominated the set piece battle denying Novos backs any platform to play off. It was clear they had made a lot of progress since our game earlier in the season as they looked together, had a clear way of playing and are desperate to chase promotion.
We were not ourselves early doors as we made mistakes and lost the physical battles early doors. Stockton scored first but we bounced straight back as Ben Merrett crashed over to make it 7-5 to Stockton. After trying to play out from our own 22m we handed the initiative to Stockton which they gratefully took. They went in for a fine score to stretch the lead to 12-5.
We seemed to panic a little as we tried to force the pace when what we really needed to do was get a foothold in the game. We perhaps were guilty of trying to go wide before earning the right to do so. It was like we were 20 points down with ten mins to go even though we were still very much in the game.
Stockton scored again before half time to make it 19-5.
The result was decided in early in the second half as Sean Ramsay was yellow carded for collapsing a maul. Then from the resulting penalty a scrum was taken and Jonny Ward was then sent to the sin bin as well for kicking the ball out of the scrum. Penalty try awarded and we were down to 13 men !
We hung on gallantly and only conceded one try during this period as Euan Duncan, Jamie Wallace and Christian Selkirk were all put on to boost our enthusiasm and energy. Stockton had secured the result but we looked to get into the match and seek a bonus point. We finally started to get across the gain line via Ramsay, Adam McDonald and Josh Stacey. We were mauling the ball and much to everyones annoyance Sam Busby joined in. Suddenly, he shot away from the maul and scorched to the line - great idea to get into the mix I guess. Two tries scored, two to go.
With about ten mins left Selkirk threw a wide pass out to Busby who lifted the ball to Ward who raced in for a try to make it 39-15 with five mins to play. Only one try needed for the bonus point ! We drove back into Stockton's 22m and were awarded two penalties which we kicked into the corner. We won the line out and drove towards the try line where it looked like there was another clear infringement but the ref blew for the final whistle. The lads were gutted to not got the bonus point but our play over the 80 mins probably justified coming away with nothing.
Congrats to Stockton - enjoyed staying back to speak to some old friends and to listen to how they have been progressing their club and of the aspirations to go further up the league table. Thought you were excellent and clear winners on the day.
Thank you to the ref - pretty easy game as both sides wanted to play rugby in testing conditions.
Novos lads - we let ourselves down a little bit today by only playing the last twenty mins. We started poorly which allowed Stockton to take charge and we failed to make the game hard for them throughout. I thought our leaders and Adam McDonald did everything they could to try and drag us out of our funk. However, it was not to be - it's been a good first part of the season cementing a top six spot, going unbeaten at home and blooding in important new players in Tom Cox, Henry Wilson and Tom Winning. Although, Saturday was a telling reminder that we still have a lot of room for improvement against the top four or five sides.
We take a break now for Xmas although there is the Jon Elders Memorial fixture against RGS Old Boys on the 29th December. Training resumes on the 3rd January prior to fixtures against Ponteland at home (can we make it 8-0) and our seconds play Percy Park.
Up the Vos !!