Novos 50, Barnard Castle 5 - Fortress Vos Intact
By Magnus Leask
Novos pushed it to 8-0 at home after an excellent first half performance against a side directly below them in the league.
We were highly motivated for the arrival of Barnard Castle as the group had a few milestones to uphold as Ben Merrett was playing in his 300th, Shaun Stewart in his 200th and Sam Busby playing his last home game before a trip to Australia. Our opponents arrived and during the warm up it was noticeable that they were much changed since the last time we played - only six or seven faces were familiar.
Our squad was not really finalised till Friday night as we were relying on Adam McDonald and Euan Duncan to get through playing for Northumberland U20's on Friday night. We greatly appreciated the gesture by the county coaches to only play them for 20-30 mins, allowing them to play for their clubs the following day.
We received the kick off and looked in the zone from the first moments - we held our shape brilliantly and after some strong carries we found space at wide. After 5 mins of play Ben Merrett was injured after making a great tackle allowing Euan Duncan an early entrance to the match.
Novos were dominant at early set pieces as Josh Stacey, Daniel Shuttleworth and Pete Twentyman were confirming that they have made progress at scrum time. In addition, Chris Ward and Darren Kelly (ex Gosforth) on debut gave Barney a torrid time in the line out - stealing their first three throws. From one of these stolen line outs the backs moved the ball through every set of hands before Sam Busby raced away for his customary score. Conversion added by Shaun Stewart - Novos 7-0 up.
Shaun Stewart reclaimed the kick off (as he would go on to do all match) and Sean Ramsay made a trademark break. After Barney conceded a kickable penalty Pete Twentyman chose to kick into the corner. A great decision as we mauled towards their line before carrying out a few pick n go's. Eventually Euan Duncan crashed over to make it 12-0.
We were on fire in attack and dominating possession as every time we scored we took the kick off and went on the attack again. The forwards were sharing the work load beautifully as carrying duties were spread evenly throughout the pack. After a spell of possession we had created an overlap which caused the defence to get stressed. They rushed up to try and prevent us from moving the ball out wide but Lewis Chater saw the dog leg and went through untouched for a try. Conversion added by Stewart for 19-0.
Only 20 mins in and Barnard Castle had hardly touched the ball - when they finally did gain possession they already seemed like they were chasing the game. A wide looping pass was snatched out of the air by Lewis Chater and he stormed in from 50 metres. Conversion added again by Stewart as we went 26-0 up after just 25 mins.
We had been in this position a few times at home and were desperate to not let them back in to proceedings. With half time looming Daniel Shuttleworth went in for out fifth try of the half to make it 31-0 at the break.
At half time we spoke about the fact that they are going to get the ball at some stage and we just need to stay calm and put into the practice the defence work we had done in training during the week. No changes at half time.
We continued to dominate possession and were smashing into Barnard Castle at scrum time - disrupting their ball and launching attacks off ours. Novos were playing some of the best attacking rugby I have seen this season as we balanced carries with playing out wide. It wasn't all straight forward though as Lewis Chater came off with a collar bone injury to join Ben Merrett on the side lines. After 50 mins we were round their defence again as the ball was spread for Henry Wilson to score out wide. Novos 36-0 up.
From the kick off Sean Ramsay smashed through the defensive line and linked up well with Darren Kelly who was having a great debut. We poured into the opposition half and with a nice switch of play by Christian Selkirk we were in again via Josh Stacey. Conversion added by Stewart for 43-0.
The game then lost all its structure as the contest went to unopposed scrums due to injury to Barnard Castle players. This finally gave Barnard Castle a platform to attack off clean possession despite having to drop a man. Their youthful backs made some nice breaks and we were forced to give a way a few penalties and Euan Duncan was lucky to avoid a yellow for not being back ten at a quick tap. We held them out for a while putting our two defensive based training sessions into our play. There was some noticeable improvement from the group including a few great tackles by Josh Stacey. From an uncontested 5m scrum our backs jumped the gun and were caught off side - yellow card issued to Nick Bellamy.
With a platform to attack and both sides now down to 14 men Barnard Castle went in for a good score to get on the scoreboard at 43-5.
We finished the game back on top and after a great carry by Euan Duncan we went in for the final try of the game as Zac Weatherhead crashed over - a very popular try scorer by the reaction on the balcony. Conversion added by Shaun Stewart to make the final score 50-5.
Thank you to Paul Minto for taking charge of the game - a couple of great spots for some forward passes and generally had a good day with his decision making.
To the Barnard Castle lads - we have been in your position before. A few seasons back we won the Plate Final and finished in the top six only for the majority of that squad to move away. One of your supporters said that there were only six lads in Saturdays squad that played for you last season. It is always difficult when you lose a few lads to higher clubs and I know availability was poor yesterday. However, you played some decent rugby in the last 20 mins when the game got a bit chaotic and both sides threw the ball around. We wish you well in this period of transition at the club and hope you knock Westoe over next week as we hope to try and catch them up in the league.
Novos - an incredible day for the group and I enjoyed watching it.
Ben Merrett - 300 matches is an incredible achievement and I'm grateful for the opportunity to be your coach. A great link player who can do the dirty work of the forwards but can thrive out wide in space. A great Novocastrian.
Shaun Stewart - 200 matches. Under my coaching I think Shaun has played second row, back row, in the centres and all three positions out wide. His attitude is amazing as he is happy to play anywhere if it increases his chances of playing more first team matches. This mind set has led to him become a well rounded rugby player and will enable him to try and push passed Ben's 300 figure.
Sam Busby - think todays try makes it 108 tries from a 110 games. An incredible stat and that no one else has got near in my time at the club. We wish you and Amelia a safe trip to Australia and hope that you will back in a Novos short in the near future.
Richard of the Day went to Shaun Stewart for the shambles that was the pre match music.
Man of the Match went to Lewis Chater.
Well done gents - great performances from Adam McDonald and Euan Duncan after their Friday night exploits. The tight five out scrummaged our opponents and dominated the line out. An excellent first outing from Darren Kelly on debut after only three sessions with us - an excellent acquisition to the club. Some great carrying as usual by Sean Ramsay and the backs to a man handled the ball accurately and often got round Barneys defensive line by holding width.
Next week we travel to Acklam - a potential banana skin who we can't take lightly. In our home fixture they tore us apart for a 20 min period which we will have to avoid to get an away win.
Up the Vos !