Ryton 22 Ponteland 15 Durham and Northumberland Division One
PONTELAND may have lost the match, but their supporters were celebrating at the end of the afternoon when confirmation came through that the team was definitely staying up.
The home side took an early lead through a penalty which Ponteland were unfortunate to concede, with the referee penalising them for offside at the breakdown even though the ball appeared to be out of the ruck.
And it was the sound of the referee’s whistle which dominated the Ryton air as mistake after mistake and infringement after infringement were made in the sunny, rainy, windy and downright freezing conditions that would have sent Vivaldi into overdrive.
Ponteland levelled up as Ryton were penalised for their consistent offside infringements – Michael Mullins sending over a convincing penalty.
But two minutes later Pont were left licking their wounds as Ryton scored the first try of the match as the winger danced all too easily through some weak tackling to score under the posts. The fly-half converted easily.
And Pont were really staring down the barrel as lock-forward Chris Freer was yellow carded moments later for an infringement at the break down.
It seemed harsh on the visitors as Ryton were the team persistently playing on the edge of the referee. The home side conceded another penalty and after some deliberation with skipper Danny Harrison, Mullins notched a fine kick just before the break to leave the half-time score at 10-6 to the hosts.
Five minutes into the second half and yet more Ryton indiscipline saw Mullins bring the visitors to within one point.
But Pont went to sleep and shot themselves in the foot as the home side scored their second try.
Their replacement back forward had a Godzilla moment as the Pont defence literally hung off him as he powered through to score.
The away side were right to protest that the ball was not grounded properly but their complaints fell on deaf ears as Ryton opened up a six-point advantage.
With Jake White on crutches on the sidelines and Pete Burns limping off after just five minutes, Pont were lacking much of the fluidity and creativity shown in their recent revival in form as they struggled to create any try scoring opportunities.
They were instead reliant on the GPS boot of Mullins who kicked them back within three points with a fine strike down the middle of the posts as a Ryton player yet again escaped a sin-bin after another offside at the break down.
But as they clung on by the skin of their teeth, Ryton’s impressive Fijian full back put a nail in the coffin of any misplaced optimism on the sidelines that an unlikely victory could be on the cards as he powerfully ran through to score the home side’s third and final try to claim a deserved victory on the day.
The impressive Mullins was not be outshone though and sent over a consolation penalty five minutes from time to earn Pont a bonus point in a 22-15 defeat.
But it was at Ashington where the real story of the day unfolded. Both sides knew that a victory for visitors Hartlepool Rovers would send the south east Northumberland side down and keep them up whatever happened at Ryton and news soon filtered through that Rovers had won the match.
As for all their struggles this season and the disappointing result in this match, the last few months (since losing to Medicals in the last week of January, Pont have taken 23 points from eight games) have shown real signs that they can be a force to be reckoned with in this division next season.