Durham County Under-20s kicked off their County Championship campaign against Cheshire in the gale force winds at Birkenhead Park RFC and despite outscoring their rivals two tries to one they lost 16-10.

Durham produced a highly commendable performance in testing conditions, characterised by some entertaining running rugby. This was in spite of losing fly-half Chris Sainty (Hartlepool Rovers) to injury in the warm-up. Sainty was replaced by makeshift fly-half Max McAllister (Durham University) who rose to occasion most admirably.

The opening 20 minutes deeply frustrated both sides, with no team being able to display any flowing rugby due to an excessively strict interpretation of the laws by the referee.

However, it was Durham that dominated the opening exchanges despite a heavy penalty count against them. The determined Durham outfit took the game to Cheshire but were unrewarded.

A series of penalties in Cheshire's favour allowed them the break the stalemate, Anthony Quayle (Old Anselmians) converting a penalty after 15 minutes.

Durham's cause was dealt a further blow when hooker David Rogers (Durham University) was sin binned for an offside offence. Cheshire capitalised on Durham's misfortune with Quayle converting the resulting penalty for a 6-0 lead.

Soon after, a Cheshire move in the backs gave Durham a scare as their line was almost breached, but scrum-half Tom Bazey (Durham University) produced a stunning cover tackle to haul the attacker down inches short of the whitewash.

However, a few minutes before the break Durham produced a demonstration of attacking flair from within their own half.

Centre Jimmy Atkinson (Gateshead) made a dazzling midfield break, this coupled with a well timed run by fullback Craig Shepherd (Billingham) enabled winger Andrew Greaves (Durham University) to touch down in the right corner.

Deep into injury time Cheshire extended their most slender of advantages with another Quayle penalty to make the halftime score 9-5 in the home sides favour.

Durham again started strongly in the second half, taking the game to Cheshire but again it was the home side that converted their posession into points.

Sprightly centre James McLaughlin (Leeds Tykes) scoring a soft try under the post, Quayle added the conversion to extended Cheshire's advantage to 16-5.

A determined Durham side hit back soon after with centre Chris Metcalfe bursting into space to create another try for winger Greaves.

Despite continued pressure deep inside the Cheshire half, Durham were not able to capitalise as luck and a few shaky decisions conspired against them and the final scored remained 16-10 to Cheshire.

* Durham play Lancashire in the next round of matches on Sunday, February 21 at Waterloo RFC, 2.15pm kick-off.