Novos 22 - Durham 54 - City Power On
By Magnus Leask
Durham City have the honour of taking Novos unbeaten home record from them. Been a great run but the league leaders were too strong on the day.
The game kicked off with a strong gale blowing at the backs of Novos. We kicked deep and City took the invite to try and carry out from their 22m. After a couple of carries a City forward through a speculative pass which was snatched out of the air by Ben Wollerton. He ran it in under the posts for a Novos score after just 90 secs. Conversion added by Shaun Stewart, 7-0 Novos.
City are top for a reason and the early try gave them a kick up the backside. Despite having the wind we chose not to clear our lines and we eventually conceded a penalty. This gifted City field position and we let them in for their first try off a scrum 5m from our line after their ten peered through a tackle to make it 7-7.
A side like City don't need any help but throughout the first half we made errors then compounded this by making another mistake straight away. We kicked the ball dead in strong winds again handing field position to City that they hadn't deserved. However, they scored two quick tries from a quick throw in as well as a very good team try involving strong ball carrying and off loading to good support play. City went out to a 19-7 lead but we were still in the game.
From two good kicks from James Bass and Christian Selkirk we had gained some decent field position. We were dominating the City scrum during a great spell on the City line. Eventually, City conceded a kickable penalty which Stewart stroked through the posts for 19-10. Game on.
From the kick off we drove in field before rewinding the ball to an overlap. The City hooker stuck his arm in a passing channel and shut down a potential break. Penalty awarded but could easily have been a yellow as we have had at least three cards for this offence this season. From the set piece we lost possession in midfield and immediately missed a tackle compounding the original error. Fine support play led to City going in again for a momentum swing in proceedings.
Just when we felt we were coming back into the match that score and then another off a turnover again suddenly put the score out to 33-10. We were really struggling to contain their 10/12 and 13 who were able to off load a lot. Their 12 in particular was making line breaks almost every time he touched the ball.
Despite their dominance in midfield every other aspect of the game was pretty even. Except for the scrum where we had complete dominance and should have got more from this throughout the game. We had one a few scrum penalties in the first half and were awarded a penalty try as we pushed the City scrum over the line. 33-17 to City.
Another big moment in the game as we were once again on the City line. From a scrum penalty advantage we ran the ball and the City centre batted a pass out of the air. Again, penalty awarded but no further action. We chose a scrum option and were once again driving City over the line when their second row stood up and spun the scrum. Alex Littlefair drove towards the line but a double movement was correctly called against him. Another try there and we would've perhaps be back in the game.
City used the momentum swing to their advantage and scored again to make the score 40-17. We weren't actually playing that bad but every mistake we made in the first half was punished by strong ball carrying, great support play and clinical finishing by City.
With the wind at City's back in the second half we were staring at a blow out on the score board - especially when City scored first in the second half. However, the boys showed tremendous grit, powerful scrummaging to win additional penalties from our dominance at set piece.
The second half will be remembered as a tight affair and for two moments of humour. First it was Tom Cox who was having a man of the match performance around the park. We were smashing away at the line with numerous pick n go's when Tom wriggled to present the ball perfectly back for his scrum half. Great presentation but he was not aware that he was already over the try line and by placing the ball back he had actually scored ! The second humorous moment came when City's wing was over the line and running round to get underneath the posts. Captain, Pete Twentyman never gave up the chase and the loose head pushed the winger dead in goal !
We showed some real determination in the second half losing it 14-5. Something to take into this weeks game at Gateshead. The pack dominated the league leaders at set piece but we were unable to stop their off loading game throughout the match. It is going to be a real tight run in as City battle Northern and West Hartlepool. All three are excellent sides and well above the level of the rest of the league.
Thank you to Paul Minto for taking charge at the game at short notice. He has made real progress as a ref over the past two seasons and it was great to chat to him about a few things I didn't understand during the game. Very honest discussion and long may this dialogue continue with match officials.
Novos - our first home loss of the season and City were thoroughly deserving of taking the record from us. A big few weeks ahead of the group as we play Gateshead next match, Horden on the 2nd March before the big one vs Westoe on the 9th March in the National Cup. The boys have to aim for taking ten points from the next two matches to ensure we get to the Westoe match in great form.
Up the Vos !