Pont follow up league title by claiming county plate

Scrummage action from the Northumberland County Plate final between Ponteland and Novos. Picture by Keith Robertson.
Scrummage action from the Northumberland County Plate final between Ponteland and Novos. Picture by Keith Robertson.
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Ponteland 32 Novos 23 Northumberland County Plate Final

Following their exploits as league champions, Ponteland beat Novos in a thrilling final to win the Northumberland County Plate.

On a mild sunny day at Morpeth, Pont started as the underdogs playing a team in the league above.

From the kick-off, Pont played patient rugby, but a missed kick to touch saw Novos’ back three run a dangerous counter-attack, something Pont knew would happen.

The first scrum of the day saw Novos shunted back, but as it wheeled, Pont were penalised.

Novos picked and drove well and a penalty for not rolling away saw Novos score first for 3-0. Novos again pressed and only excellent defence kept them out.

In a game that see-sawed back and forth, Pont went down the field and a home scrum five metres out saw one of several strikes against the head by the excellent Cam Bell.

The pick and drive saw Robinson over for the first try. Michael Searle made it 7-3.

It was still end-to-end stuff, but Pont’s line-out started to ratchet up the pain as Novos were driven backwards.

A penalty and another line-out drive saw Townshend give a superb weighted pass to Gregory, who danced his way under the posts. Searle added the extras to make it 14-3 on 16 minutes.

Novos again came back at pace and only a monster hit by Marcus saw them repelled. However, a further pick and drive saw Novos score (14-8).

Pont kicked off and a chase saw Novos return the kick. Somehow the full-back caught it in mid-flight and despite a double-team tackle, he offloaded the ball for a run-in try (14-13).

You could try that kick another 10 times and you would not see the same outcome, but sometimes you just have to sit back and say, ‘what an excellent try’.

Pont’s scrum was turning the screw as several penalties saw them move downfield, only for Novos to push Pont back through their counter attacks.

A Novos scrum on the 22 saw a pre-set move and as Pont dropped off a tackle Novos took the lead, 18-14.

A quick regroup saw Pont’s forwards win another scrum penalty as Searle made it 17-18 at half-time.

A half-time talk by Ally Hogg saw Pont fly out the blocks.

Another scrum against the head saw winger Suppan make great inroads, a 22 metre line-out saw the Pont bulldozer grind forward. A penalty for collapsing saw another line-out with the same outcome.

This time the referee had enough and awarded a penalty try. Searle’s conversion made it 24-18.

Novos were finding it harder to stay in the game as their forwards were ground down, although their backs still looked dangerous with the ball in hand.

Two big driving scrums saw Pont advance as quick hands by Robinson and Searle saw Suppan scream into the corner to score on 56 minutes, 29-18.

Novos would not lie down and some quick pick and drives saw them gain a five metre line-out.

Unfortunately Pont’s defence got their wires crossed as Novos gave Pont a taste of their own medicine by scoring a push over try.

On his arrival on the pitch Phil Bramble almost scored as a brilliant kick and catch saw him hauled down just short of the line.

With 18 minutes left the Pont touch line were having kittens as Novos always looked dangerous on the counter attack and a converted try could still snatch it.

Fortunately Pont’s battle hardened troops had more resilience, that Novos rested players from last week as they coolly strangled any Novos ball within their own half.

Novos’ defence cracked as a kickable penalty was awarded to Pont.

In the fog of war sometimes some things get lost. Instead of taking the points for an unassailable lead Pont took the scrum and Novos relieved the pressure with a penalty.

Not to be outdone Pont’s forwards again won a scrum against the head and a 10 metre drive saw Novos penalised.

Sense prevailed and Searle slotted the difficult kick with aplomb to see Pont riding out the last few minutes for a notable victory.

The cup final was an excellent spectacle to watch as both teams played with heart and passion.