HAVING enjoyed a week off following their hard earned win against Seaton Carew, Blyth were almost back to their best in the derby game against Rockcliff.
Their 27-8 away win consolidated second place behind Consett and 13 points ahead of the chasing pack.
Rockcliff kicked towards the clubhouse end with a strong following wind and downhill slope, but over 40 minutes they failed to make best use of it.
Early exchanges favoured Blyth with some high speed handling which was countered by a strong home defence with some excellent tackling.
On the quarter hour Blyth took the lead when fly-half Andy Sutherland scooped up an awkward pass and popped up a delicate pass to left wing, Chris Grey, who spotted a gap and from 30 yards nobody was going to catch him.
Sutherland kicked the conversion to give Blyth an early 7-0 lead.
This was stretched to 12-0 when tremendous pressure from Blyth forwards, in which hooker Martin Stephenson was prominent, put prop forward Stu Brown across the line despite the attention of several Rockliff players.
This dominance could not last, particularly against the wind, and Rockliff got on the score sheet with a penalty from scrum-half and captain Andy Webster making the score 12-3.
An interception ‘try’ by Blyth right wing Andy Barker was correctly disallowed as the referee had already blown for an offence in favour of the visitors, several of whom had appealed for the foul.
Rockcliff were now asking the Blyth defence some serious questions as they enjoyed their best spell and were rewarded just before the break with a try by winger Steve Scott to make the interval score 12-8.
It took a while for Blyth to gain momentum in the second half but some excellent long distance kicking from the backs and halves kept driving Rockliff back deep into their own territory. Eventually Blyth moved up a gear and a superb lineout catch and drive saw the forwards drive the Rockliff pack a full 35 yards for hooker Stevenson to touch down for 17-8.
Adrian Mckeown replaced left wing Grey for his Blyth first XV debut against his former club and was soon in the thick of the action.
In the 25th minute the long striding Sutherland broke through three tackles to score under the posts, converting the try himself for a 24-8 lead.
Blyth coaches Dave Massie and Richard Calvert brought on Kev Barratt at hooker for Stephenson and Dean Reay at prop for Browne.
By now the game was won but the finishing touch was supplied by Sutherland with a penalty for a final tally of 27-8 with Blyth gaining a bonus point for their four tries.
Rockcliff officials were generous in their praise for Blyth’s performance and a pleasing aspect was though hard and very competitive, the game was played in an excellent spirit.
Blyth coach Dave Massie said: The skills were great, decision making concrete and the game plan was fixed.”
Skipper Tony Smithson added: “We may be 13 points ahead of the pack but we are taking nothing for granted with two very difficult games before Christmas.”
These matches are Barnard Castle at home on Saturday and Winlaton Vulcans away on Saturday, December 17, both kicking off at 2.15pm.