THE much anticipated clash between second placed Blyth and league leaders Consett, who have tracked each other all season, certainly lived up to expectations.
Back in October Consett had won 31-3 at Plessey Road, a result which has rankled with the Blyth squad who were determined to reverse matters.
A decent sized crowd at Belle Vue with a good sprinkling from Blyth witnessed a fascinating battle with no quarters asked or given and played in the best spirit of rugby.
Doubters in the Blyth camp appeared to have their fears justified as for the first 15 minutes the visitors were pinned in their own half, struggling to get to grips with the pace of the game.
Nevertheless they held their nerve and despite a couple of narrow squeaks with ferocious tackling backed by excellent covering they came through the opening quarter unscathed.
In the 25th minute, Blyth centre Andy Sutherland put the visitors 3-0 ahead with a 40-metre penalty, having already hit the crossbar from a similar distance.
However, the lead was short lived as two Blyth players went for the same awkwardly bouncing ball and failed to secure it, allowing home winger John Aspiery to score.
Blyth regained the lead in the 30th minute with another long range Sutherland penalty and then added a try through the same player to lead 11-5 at half-time.
Blyth replaced winger Ollie Clark with expectant dad Andy Barker, and with his first touch of the ball he finished off an excellent high speed handling move with a try in the left hand corner. Sutherland’s conversion hit the post but Blyth had now opened up a 16-5 gap.
The match was far from over as Consett found another gear and had Blyth rocking momentarily as home fly-half Nick Cook kicked a brace of penalties to cut the margin to 16-11.
At this juncture the game was at the tipping point and it was down to who wanted it the most.
Blyth brought on Steven Long at wing forward for Stefan Krzysiak and it became noticeable that the Blyth forwards had got the measure of the home pack, particularly at scrums and lineouts, where they were now dominant.
The next score was crucial and it came to Blyth No. 8 Wayne Davie, who, with little room to manoeuvre, eluded two defenders to score in the right hand corner. Sutherland converted for a 23-11 lead and by now Blyth had worked up a considerable head of steam and had the game in a stranglehold.
With ten minutes to go they increased their lead when the forwards drove towards the Consett try line allowing hooker Martin Stevenson to break several tackles to force his way over the line. Sutherland duly converted for a lead of 30-11.
It was perhaps fitting that the longest serving member of the team, full-back Steve Hall, should have the final word with an excellent try in the corner.
The 35-11 final score, which certainly did not flatter Blyth, included five tries, which gave an extra bonus point and sees them now top the division, four points ahead of Consett.
The Blyth coaching duo of Dave Massie and Richard Calvert were delighted with the performance, which they insisted was a team effort marked by tenacity and tactical nous and was by far their best performance of the season.
But team manager Roger Phillips sounded a note of caution.
“We have done the hard yards and it’s now ours to lose, but we are not counting our chickens as there are still five games left,” he said.
“I am sure our inspirational captain Tony Smithson will keep everybody’s feet on the ground until the job is done – nevertheless it has been a great afternoon.”
On Saturday Blyth are at home to Hartlepool, kick-off 3pm.