Ponteland 27 Wallsend 7 Durham and Northumberland Division Two
Ponteland are guaranteed promotion to Division One next season following a bonus-point win against Wallsend.
With Grant, Bell, Chris Searle, Marcus and Robinson missing, the hosts gave a first start to hooker Elliott Mew and there were bench slots for the returning Graham Herbert and Pete Newbigin.
Playing into the wind, Pont started slowly as the visitors ran the ball short into their defensive line. But an excellent steal by David Gregory turned the ball over and the league leaders swept upfield.
A 20-metre line-out saw a punishing drive and Wallsend were driven over their own line, with Lee Coulthard claiming the touch-down to give Ponteland the lead after 10 minutes. They continued to press and a quickly-taken penalty by Michael Searle saw Pont gain territory.
Another massive line-out drive resulted in Richie Moller scoring his first of three tries on 18 minutes (10-0).
Wallsend did not roll over and continued to attack and tackle with gusto.
A decent breakthrough meant Adam Suppan needed to make an excellent try-saving tackle in the corner.
The away side continued to run the ball short and a ten-metre scrum saw Pont’s back row slip off a tackle. This allowed former Ponteland player George Reynolds to score under the posts and the conversion made it 10-7 on 28 minutes.
With Searle again making telling kicks into Wallsend territory, a sweeping move along the backs saw the home side look set to score a try until a deliberate knock-down stopped the move. A yellow card was issued for the transgression.
Pont kicked to the corner and the ensuing line-out drive was held up over the line. The five-metre scrum shunted the visitors backwards and it then collapsed.
They opted for another scrum and this time the forwards made no mistakes as Wallsend were unceremoniously dumped over the line, allowing Moller to claim his second score. Jonny Murphy successfully kicked over the awkward conversion.
There was still time for Gregory to smash his way through and the forwards got the ball over the try line, but the ref was unsighted so the half ended 17-7.
Ponteland were aware that one more try and the victory would ensure promotion and they started the second half on the front foot.
A bounced kick-off saw Gregory charge through. The ball was moved out wide and only a knock on prevented a certain try.
Wallsend soaked up ten minutes of pressure and defended well and they eventually moved downfield as their big runners made dents in the Pont defence.
Heroic defending by Coulthard and Chris Freer saw Ponteland relieve the siege as both teams cancelled each other out. There appeared to be a lack of urgency at this point in the game as play became more broken and the whistle was heard more often.
But the hosts sprung into life in the 70th minute to get that all-important try.
Another massive line-out drive was collapsed five metres out and then Gregory was held up over the line. A five-metre scrum again saw the Ponteland crushing machine turn the visitors’ scrum into spare parts as Moller got his hat-trick of tries.
From the kick off, Wallsend immediately broke through and only a magnificent tackle by James Shiells prevented a try.
Pont kicked downfield and were winning quick ball as the away side tired. A brilliant sweeping movement almost led to a score, but unfortunately the last pass went astray.
From the scrum, Ponteland won the turnover and several passes later saw man-of-the-match Freer canter in for a try to make the final score 27-7.