Blaydon racing to the top

HOLDING ON: Michael Shepherd of Darlington gets to grips with his Durham City opponent during their 22-18 win

HOLDING ON: Michael Shepherd of Darlington gets to grips with his Durham City opponent during their 22-18 win

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

BLAYDON are only four points off the top in National One after a 39-12 home win against Cambridge made it seven successive victories.

Ealing went back to the top as previous leaders Rosslyn Park lost at Wharfedale. The Londoners visit Blaydon on December 15 in what could be a crucial spell for the Crow Trees club as they visit Tynedale the following week.

There were two tries for full back Gavin Painter, one of them set up by a powerful burst from former Stockton winger Tom Jeffery, who also stormed over from halfway for the final try.

Up front Rob Bell was outstanding, as was fellow back row man Ben Morris until he faded in the second half.

With Hall Charlton a late cry-off and Andrew Baggett named on the bench, Blaydon fielded two 18-year-old half backs in Jonny Burn and Jamie Guy.

It took the team 20 minutes to get going but by half-time it was 22-0.

The first of the seven tries came when they won good ruck ball and hooker Matt Hall appeared in the centre to burst over.

Then Painter's first was swiftly followed by Morris being involved twice in a 50-metre move before finishing it off.

A diagonal kick by Painter stood up nicely for centre Tommy Banks to collect and race over.

Early in the second half Painter got on the end of a good move by the backs to score, then flanker Jamie Hamilton finished a line-out drive.

Cambridge managed two tries before Jeffery latched on to a long pass and charged away to score.

Otherwise it was a poor day for the North-East's top teams, although Tynedale put up a stern fight at Blackheath before losing 21-14.

In National Two North Westoe crashed 66-14 at Caldy after trailing only 16-14 when Joe McKenzie scored their second converted try in the 24th minute.

Darlington Mowden Park missed the chance to move up to second place when they lost 15-13 at Hull, Tom Hodgson hitting the post with a conversion attempt with the last kick of a dour game.

With veterans like ex-Newcastle flanker Rob Devonshire and former West Hartlepool lock Chris Murphy in their pack, Hull's only objective was to stop Mowden scoring.

They did manage two second half tries, both from winger Chris McTurk, while all Hull's points came from penalties.

It was 3-3 at half-time, although McTurk went close just before the break when he chased a Grant Connon kick and dribbled on, only for the ball to run through the short dead ball area.

It became 9-3 before Mowden scored in the corner, then two more Hull penalties made it 15-8.

Mowden battered their hosts in the last five minutes before McTurk scored ten metres left of the posts. Hitting the upright put the seal on a bad day.

West Hartlepool remain third from bottom of National Three North after a 30-25 defeat at home to Waterloo, while Billingham suffered their fourth defeat in the last five by losing 22-13 at Burnage.

Waterloo scored after five minutes through a 60-metre interception try at West and showed more spirit to overhaul a 25-10 half-time deficit.

Stu Waites slotted two penalties for West before forward domination was rewarded by tries from Adam Coates and Andrew Davies.

Just before half-time Paul Moss sent in Luke Watson and Waites's second conversion proved to be West's final score. Waterloo got back into the game with two penalties followed by a pushover try. Then an angled kick was touched down by a winger to put them ahead and West's late rally was to no avail.

Middlesbrough eased their worries towards the foot of North One East with a 17-3 win at Morpeth, where improved teamwork allowed them to dominate the game.

There was a good build-up for both tries, but they were well finished, first by fly half Simon O'Farrell, who made an outside break on the 22 to go under the posts.

He added a penalty for a 10-3 interval lead after Jack Bircham had been forced to retire and good defence continued to keep Morpeth out.

Midway through the second half, the forwards created a platform for centre Rhys Kilbride to show his pace as he went straight through a gap and rounded the full back to score.

Stockton needed a forward try at the death to clinch a 15-15 draw at home to Acklam in a match played under a thick blanket of fog.

The football match on an adjoining pitch was abandoned and in the last 20 minutes of the rugby game only shadowy figures could be seen.

After eight minutes a stray Acklam pass was intercepted 40 metres out by Danny Phinn, who sprinted under the posts for Jeremy Good to convert.

But by half-time Stockton trailed 10-7 and had lost hooker Ben Cordiner and scrum half Rob Green through injury.

Coach Craig Lee's harsh words seemed to have an impact, only for errors to creep back in. With 20 minutes left Stockton were pressing hard when they allowed Acklam to race 90 yards to score.

Forward drives caused Acklam to concede a penalty, which Good converted to reduce the gap to five points. From the kick off, the Stockton pack again started a drive and, aided by several penalties, they eventually got over with Matt Wootten claiming the touchdown.

England Women, led by Darlington Mowden Sharks' Katy McLean, came from 13-3 down to come back and beat world champions New Zealand 16-13 at Esher. McLean kicked a penalty and one of the two tries was scored by vice-captain Sarah Hunter, from Newcastle.

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