Ponteland 40 Redcar 17 Durham and Northumberland, Division Two
Ponteland were victorious in their top-of-the-table clash thanks to a clinical performance.
Redcar had led the league until last week, but they caught Pont in no mood to surrender their own unbeaten record as they ran in six tries in a power packed display.
With Bramble away and Norris unavailable due to illness, Adam Suppan stepped onto the wing and Phil McAreavey on the bench.
The hosts won the toss and played into a howling wind, but they started to build phases immediately.
A good line-out drive gained 20 metres as Ponteland kept runners short to keep Redcar on their toes. A surging run from David Gregory got them behind the visitors’ defence, but their quick re-alignment kept Pont at bay.
The Teesside team then went ahead with an unconverted try after taking advantage of a wayward pass.
Pont quickly responded as their scrum began to dominate.
A five-metre scrum shunted forward and Craig Robinson crashed over. Will Newbigin converted the difficult kick to give the home side the lead.
Redcar’s defence continued to withstand the attacks and on a rare play in Pont’s half they scooped up a bouncing ball from a line-out and their backs worked an excellent move to score in the corner (7-10).
Michael Searle continued to be a thorn in the visitors’ side as a sharp break produced a penalty on the 22. However, the wind played havoc with Newbigin’s kick.
The second half was delayed as the away side’s fly half was injured and had to be removed by ambulance with a suspected broken arm.
Ponteland knew that if they ruled out the mistakes and used the wind to their advantage, they would benefit from their forward dominance.
From the kick-off they gained a five-metre scrum. A big push saw Newbigin collect the ball behind and he danced through to touch down. Another excellent conversion made it 14-10.
With their tails up, the hosts had another spell of attacking pressure and a 35-metre scrum saw Ritchie Moller pick up and dash in unopposed. Newbigin added the extras.
Redcar did not lie down as they continued to tackle their hearts out, but it was becoming one-way traffic.
Searle continued his excellent kicking out of hand and as the forwards drove the Redcar pack backwards again, Suppan stepped off the wing to jink his way through for an unconverted try (26-10).
Constant tackling began to take its toll as Redcar players received attention and it was only a matter of time before Pont increased their lead.
The try came when Gregory smashed his way through the away defence and Newbigin kicked over the conversion.
Pont’s pack laid the foundation for their final score as a big drive gave Sam Walton the ball wide to power over with five minutes to go. The excellent Newbigin was again successful with the conversion.
Two Redcar props went off injured during the game, forcing the ref to go to uncontested scrums. This released some of the forward pressure as Redcar broke free from a scrum to score a converted try at the death.
This made it 40-17 at full-time.