Lack of control proves costly

Horden 28 Ponteland 5 Durham & Northumberland League, Division One

PONTELAND suffered their 11th defeat of the season on Saturday as they went down fighting against Horden, writes Chris Morgan.

The visitors can certainly take pride in their performance in which they gave a good account of themselves, but the reality was that much of this game was spent with them on the back foot defending against the strong home forwards, whose pick-and-drive tactics were relentless.

This was particularly true in the first half, when in truth, Pont barely managed to get out of their own 22 as they absorbed the pressure from Horden, who with a chilly north-east breeze at their backs and cheered on by a partizan home crowd threw the kitchen sink at the away side.

But Ponteland’s defence stood firm as they repelled the wave of Horden attacks, with Richard Moller, Kyle Norris and Jonny Livingstone-Evans among all the forwards putting in some mean tackles on their opposite numbers.

Despite going 3-0 up through a penalty after Mark Kelly was penalised for dragging down the maul, the home side looked set to have failed in their bid to open their five-point account for the match until an uncharacteristically dreadful piece of defensive play from Pont gifted the home side a try on the stroke of half-time.

A fairly harmless grubber kick was missed by full-back Jamie March and as the visitors retreated behind the try-line, winger Will Chilton and Danny Harrison appeared to get in each other’s way as the ball spilled loose for the speedy Horden centre to get a touch just before it went dead.

This defensive lapse was to prove costly as after the restart, Ponteland conceded two very quick penalties which were both converted by Horden to make it 14-0.

In fairness to Ponteland, it would be harsh to accuse them of indiscipline as a set of bizarre decisions from a whistle-happy referee determined to find an infringement at virtually every breakdown meant it became a guessing game at times as to which way the penalty was going to go.

They were thrown a lifeline just 10 minutes later, though, with a try of their own in the strangest of circumstances.

There looked to have surely been at least one knock on and an offside from Pont in the scrappy build-up, but as the ball broke free into the try-line area, only Graham Turnbull had the presence of mind to follow and dive on it as the confused Horden defence looked on.

The try stood nevertheless and suddenly the away side had a sniff of glory.

But it wasn’t to be as Horden ran in two late tries to quell any hopes of a Ponteland comeback.

Firstly, despite suspicions of a forward pass, the move of the match was finished off neatly in the corner by the winger before a drive forward finished with the number eight diving under the posts to score.

Both tries were converted which meant a 28-5 victory for the home side.

This was harsh on Pont who gave a very good account of themselves and despite being under the cosh for most of the first half, held firm and then played some decent rugby of their own in the second and more than matched their hosts on occasions.

It was probably the greater control and creative spark which Horden had and Ponteland did not that was ultimately the difference between the two teams.

But if Pont can show this level of commitment and workrate every week, then it will hopefully extinguish any thoughts of relegation, which look set to continue to linger over them in the weeks to come.