Ponteland 23 Gateshead 25 Durham and Northumberland, Division One
PONTELAND took an unfortunate turn towards the relegation trapdoor as they fell to an agonisingly close defeat to Gateshead, writes Chris Morgan.
Both teams have endured seasons to forget so far, but they produced a match to remember. It ebbed and flowed from start to finish, ultimately ending in the two sides being separated by the mere margin of a conversion.
With conditions far from ideal as a bitterly cold wind blew in from the south-west, the visitors took the lead after five minutes when Cartner sent a penalty over from close range.
Pont were afforded the opportunity to even things up just two minutes later, but Dan Walton shanked his fairly straightforward kick wide of the mark.
The home side struggled to make inroads in the opening exchanges as Gateshead enjoyed the majority of possession, although as the half wore on, they started to come back into the match.
They spent periods of time in the opposition 22 and had a tough penalty chance, but they did not put any points on the board and were made to pay for their profligacy when the away side built up some pressure.
Ponteland failed to clear their lines and a dropped ball on their own ten-metre line led to the visitors controlling possession before outside-centre Tate ran in to score. The impressive Cartner converted.
The hosts did not let their heads drop and they responded well. Walton sent over an impressive penalty kick and he then converted a chance right in front of the posts in the dying moments of the half to send the teams in 6-10 at the break.
Pont started the second half on the front foot and Dan Marcus made a fabulously pacey break through the Gateshead line. Although he was stopped in his tracks before the try-line, the supporting Michael Searle picked up to score under the posts.
Walton’s conversion gave Pont a three-point lead, but the scores were soon level when Cartner kicked over a penalty.
Back came the home side and they scored another five points when Richie Moller broke loose from the visitors’ shackles to gain ground before the ball was flung wide to Marcus to score beautifully in the corner. Walton missed a tricky conversion chance.
Again though, Ponteland failed to maintain the lead. From the restart, the ball was dropped in midfield and Cartner was able to run through the Ponteland defence all too easily before sticking over an excellent conversion (18-20).
Gateshead then went further ahead when a drive over from a line-out led to Tandy scoring, although Cartner missed the conversion.
The hosts deserve immense credit for their battling qualities and again they found a route back into the match. They mounted a desperate onslaught and were met with their rewards as the tigerish Peter Maughan turned brilliantly to score. Walton missed a difficult conversion chance.
Pont wasted a good opportunity to mount yet more pressure on their guests as they opted to kick a penalty into touch instead of driving up the field, which they had successfully done on previous occasions, and in the closing minutes, they conceded two penalties themselves which allowed Gateshead to clear and ultimately claim the win.
This was a devastating blow for Ponteland, but there was no doubt that every player really fought for the shirt.