West End 38 - 8 Berwick Bears
A Berwick Bears side made the long journey south down the A1 to St. Cuthbert’s on a day that was dictated largely by the adverse weather. West End spent much of the opening quarter camped deep in their own half with the wind in their faces, and struggling for an exit. Berwick pilled on the pressure in the early stages but were kept out by dogged West End defence over multiple passages of play.
West End’s fortunes changed from a Berwick scrum 30m inside the West End half – good line speed, coupled with a strong wind, caused a fumbled from the Berwick inside backs, allowing an alert Jacob Foy to pounce and make a half-break before off-loading to Matt Stevenson to complete the run-in from 50m. West End 7-0 up. Berwick continued in the fashion they had started, pilling pressure on to the West End defence. A succession of penalties later and Berwick opted to take the points on offer, 7-3 to West End. Berwick allowed the ensuing kick-off to bounce. A mistake that allowed West End cheap possession deep within the Berwick half – a luxury they had not enjoyed over the course of the game thus far. West End mounted phase-after-phase of pressure on the Berwick defence before a penalty allowed West End to pin Berwick deep in the corner – a chance to get some oxygen in the lungs and re-assess the situation. West End spent much of the remainder of the half inside Berwick’s ’22, their forward pack banging on the door with hard yards around the fringes (including Darren’s 10m crawl – never double movement!?), before spinning the ball wide allowing Jamie Shilling to cross the whitewash to the right of the posts. 12-3 at the half.
West End utilised another fantastic turnout at half time, making a number of changes that, combined with the wind now on their backs, could see out the game. And this showed – Berwick struggled to match West End’s pace in wide channels and struggled to get out of their half for the opening passages of the half. West End’s centres took advantage of this scoring from a couple of set-pieces, with both try scorers playing to their strengths. Firstly, Gary Blake used his size and power up front to bounce off a couple of would-be tacklers before placing the ball directly under the sticks, shortly before Matt Stevenson side-stepped through the Berwick backline leaving Martin McHugh with two relatively routine shots at goal. 26-3.
However, Berwick were not going to go down without a fight. With the wind in their sails (pun 100% intended) a succession of penalties had West End on the back-foot, and deep in their own half. Berwick resorted to a short game tactic to try and punch a hole right through the West End defence, but to no avail as West End were able to turn the ball over and clear, getting them out of their own half. West End took advantage of their large lead, keeping the ball in the Berwick half, waiting for the cracks to show and Berwick to make mistakes, and it was not long before they did. Further forward dominance resulted in Jamie Shilling crossing for his second of the game. 33-3.
Berwick came back hard once more with West End indiscipline finding them on the edge of their own ’22 again. The dogged West End defence was finally broken due to a smart right-foot step allowing a Berwick player to pierce the line and put them ball down just wide of the posts. A strong head wind meant that Berwick could not add the extras. 33- 8 .
West End were not finished just yet and fresh legs pilled more pressure on Berwick with some slick hands from the backs allowing Ewan Pritchard to waltz into the corner to score his 136th try of the season (pre-season, training and dreams inclusive) in the last notable action of the game. Ewan could not further trouble the scorers with a ‘well-struck’ conversion from the touchline tickling his young brother.
That was not the highlight of the game, however. That accolade goes out to Paul ‘Jordie’ O’neill – quick ball meant that Jordie found himself in space against a weary backline and, like any good forward does, skewed the ball of the outside of his boot – much to the bemusement of the crowd. 3/10 for idea. 1/10 for execution.
In summary, West End played the conditions well and were very happy to come away from the game with maximum points, stretching their lead at the top of the River Blyth league. The victory, and performances so far, have been aided massively by the great turn-out on match day, and is something that needs to continue over the cold winter months. Always nice to see so many spectators supporting the team, too. #HowayWest
Tries: Matt Stevenson x2, Jamie Shilling x2, Gary Blake, Ewan Pritchard
Conversions: Martin McHugh x 4
Convergys MOTM: Jamie Shilling
6 M Allmond
10 J Rowan
12 C Allmond
Subs Blake, Carn, Dancer, Douglass, Holme, Pervis, Parkin