IN recent seasons games between Blyth RFC and Rockcliff have been bruising affairs with the two sets of forwards wrestling for dominance in midfield and the backs largely redundant and this proved to be no exception.
Prolonged overnight rain made the Plessey Road pitch heavy and probably suited the visitors’ style of play rather than Blyth’s.
Nevertheless there was little to choose between the sides in the first half with scoring opportunities at a premium.
Rockcliff struck first with a 17th minute penalty from full-back Andy Webster.
Blyth were unlucky to lose hooker Martin Stephenson with a calf muscle, Dean Langdown moving to the number two spot and Steve Long replacing him in the back row.
The half continued with both sides battling for supremacy and honours at the lineout and scrum were about even until an injury time penalty from centre Graeme Sutherland brought Blyth level at 3-3.
It was obvious that Blyth had to be more adventurous in opening up the game and making the visitors run whereas Rockcliff were happy to keep possession and trundle forward at their pace.
A penalty from fly-half Barry Smith edged Blyth in front at 6-3, but they were still cramped in style and unable to bring their backs into play.
Two tries in quick succession through fly-half Josh Donnelly and scrum-half Dan Simpson, the second converted by Webster, left Rockcliff seemingly in command 15-6 ahead with 20 minutes left.
Blyth coach Kev Barratt brought on fresh legs in Stu Browne for second row Karl Rose and Dave Herron for left wing Andy Barker as the home side went for broke.
A clever handling move put Sutherland in for a fine try to make it 11-15, but time was running out.
Rockcliff were beginning to struggle as Blyth found an extra gear and after going close they got what they were after.
A sustained attack had Rockcliff at sixes and sevens behind their own posts and Blyth’s replacement hooker Langdown came from nowhere to charge down a desperate attempted kick for touch and then dived on the loose ball for an unexpected but well deserved try.
Blyth ran down the clock to record a narrow 16-15 win.
Returning after lengthy periods out with injury, Blyth wingers Barker and Chris Grey came through unscathed.
Skipper Tony Smithson and coach Barratt were pleased with Blyth’s performance, the consensus being that when you do not play too well but still win you probably have a pretty good side.
The win moves Blyth into fifth place, but with six of their remaining league fixtures out of seven away from home they will do well to finish higher.
On Saturday Blyth are away to Yarm with a 2.15pm kick-off.