Blaydon target a promotion assault

First published in Sport The Northern Echo: Photograph of the Author by

BLAYDON underlined that they are serious contenders near the top of National One when they hung on to win a pulsating game 35-34 at home to Ealing Trailfinders.

They are now only three points behind their second-placed visitors, who took an early lead but found themselves 35-17 down early in the second half.

After thrilling a bigger than average crowd of around 350 by playing at a furious pace, Blaydon wilted. But they had enough in reserve to hang on to their one-point lead in the last ten minutes.

They face a tough match this week at Cinderford, where they have never won, and player-coach Micky Ward is almost certain to be missing with the birth of his third child imminent.

But Durham University prop James Hallam proved himself very capable when he went on for the second half against Ealing, while Newcastle Falcons Academy back row man Jamie Hamilton also showed his class.

It was the pace of the home backs which proved decisive, however, as 18-year-old full back Nathan Bailey, winger Frazer Wilson and centre Charles Incledon all scorched home from long distance.

Blaydon won the try count 5-4 with Andrew Baggett converting them all to stand third in the division's points charts on 120.

He is 12 behind the leader, Ealing's Tom Wheatcroft, who twice needed the assistance of a post in landing four conversions and two penalties.

In a blistering start by both sides Ealing carved through the middle and sent a winger under the posts, but Blaydon hit straight back through hooker Matt Hall taking a quick penalty.

He made ten metres before quick recycling allowed No 8 Gavin Jones to crash over and Blaydon went ahead when Baggett's half break and clever off-load following a scrum on halfway sent Incledon galloping over.

It was end-to-end stuff as Ealing came straight back with a try when they created an overlap down the right, only for Blaydon to reply immediately.

This time Hamilton secured turnover ball in their own 22 and teenage scrum half Jonny Burn's kick had the visiting full back in two minds.

Unfortunately for him the awkward bounce on halfway allowed Blaydon centre Sam Hanks to collect the ball and he cleverly put Bailey away.

The full back skinned two defenders on his way to the line.

Then it was Wilson's turn to show what he can do when granted a little space as he latched on to a pass from Baggett 70 metres out and easily out-stripped the cover.

Shortly after the interval Hall took another quick penalty on halfway and after the ball was recycled several times Hamilton burst through to score.

For the last half hour Hamilton made way for Tom Nutley, who again impressed, and Hall Charlton went on at scrum half.

The furious pace had taken its toll and Blaydon needed Charlton's experience to help them stay afloat after Ealing came back with a penalty and two tries.

With less then two minutes to go Blaydon were awarded a kickable penalty, but they chose to run the clock down by going for the corner and driving the line-out.

A knock-on allowed Ealing to clear and mount a final attack, but in their anxiety they also knocked on and Blaydon recorded their fifth successive win.

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