ALTHOUGH played on the ‘second’ pitch at Winlaton’s picturesque Axwell View, and despite a few patches of lingering frost, Blyth RFC edged a narrow 19-17 win.
Blyth kicked up the slope and dominated the opening 15 minutes.
Two glorious chances were missed with right wing Andy Barker unmarked but failing to receive the crucial pass.
Tight defensive play allied to spirited tackling kept Blyth at bay for the first quarter and then the tide began to turn.
Fly-half Kevin Allison, a thorn in Blyth’s side for a number of seasons, kicked a penalty and hit the post with a second.
Two further long distance penalties from Allison stretched the Vulcans lead to 9-0.
A 70-yard run from centre Adrian McKeown ended just short of the try line and then to rub salt into Blyth’s wounds Allison kicked a fourth penalty for a 12-0 lead at the break.
Blyth brought on James Bostock for left wing Chris Grey and scored an early try through prop Stu Brown, converted by fly-half Andy Sutherland.
A tremendous 30-yard drive by the pack saw hooker Martin Stephenson touch down with Andy Sutherland converting to give Blyth a 14-12 lead.
Further changes for Blyth saw Barry Harnett replace Steve Long at wing forward and Dean Reay take over at prop from Michael Barber.
Although in command territorially, Blyth found it difficult to pierce a resolute home defence.
But eventually a flowing move saw left wing Bostock accelerate away from his pursuers to put Blyth 19-12 ahead.
A shock to the visitors system came when, against the run of play, Winlaton full-back Connor Sheridan scored a breakaway try.
This was a wake up call for Blyth who camped in the Vulcans half for the remaining ten minutes but could not add to their 19-17 lead.
Blyth now have a three-week break and team manager Roger Phillips summed up the season so far: “With 12 wins out of 14 games we are second with a nine-point lead over the third placed club but are far from home and dry.
“We have been blessed with few serious injuries, touch wood, and coaches Dave Massie and Richard Calvert have had to make few changes to the line-up, which has shown in the team spirit indicated by skipper Tony Smithson.
“However the job, promotion, is far from done with six of the remaining ten games away from home.”
The second half of the season gets under way on Saturday, January 7, at home to Bishop Auckland, with a 2.15pm kick-off.