BLYTH RFC’s match at Winlaton Vulcans remained in doubt up until kick-off with the referee opting to play on the second team pitch at Axwell View despite one of the touchlines remaining frozen.
With no rugby since November 20, Blyth would probably have been happy to play on the Western By-Pass just for the chance of a game.
Playing uphill Blyth dominated the first 30 minutes with some enterprising play and some slick handling.
Full-back Graeme Sutherland gave Blyth the lead with his third penalty attempt, followed on the quarter hour mark with the best move of the match. Crisp passing at high speed between winger James Bostock second row Craig Turnbull and back row Wayne Davie put skipper and scrum- half Tony Smithson into the left hand corner for a picture try.
Not to be outdone the Blyth pack rumbled forward pushing their opponants back with the referee crediting hooker Martin Stephenson with a try, so with 25 minutes gone Blyth led 13-0.
Inevitably Winlaton mounted a response and prolonged pressure along their left wing resulted in a try for flanker Steve Kane.
Full-back Kevin Allison, who gave his his usual excellent display with the boot, kicked the difficult conversion to make the score 7-13.
Blyth upped the ante and No. 8 Davie thought he had scored when he outpaced the Vulcans defence from the halfway line only for play to be brought back for a previous infringement.
Blyth, however, got their due reward with a try from centre Scott Robinson to make the half-time score 18-7.
With the slope in their favour, Blyth were expected to cruise to victory by a substantial margin, but it did not happen and they only had a Sutherland penalty to show for their efforts.
Credit to Winlaton who defended well, but the second half was scrappy with Blyth struggling to find any rhythm and both sides tiring.
Ryan Davison, Kev Barratt and Andy Dunn replaced Steve Long, Martin Stephenson and Craig Broadhead but failed to make any major impact.
The penalty count of 16 overall against Blyth must be addressed but the visitors were by far the better side and well worth their victory.
Following the resignation of Joe Miller before Christmas, coaching duties have been taken over by Kevin Barratt, assisted by ex-Blyth player Darren Cunningham, the current coach of Jed Forest.
The committee and players at Blyth have placed on record their thanks for Joe’s work over the last four seasons.
On Saturday Blyth are at home to league leaders Acklam. Kick-off 2.15pm.