Blyth lead the pack

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THE conditions at Preston Playing Fields were ideal for rugby with the pitch soft on top and in immaculate condition as Blyth took on North Shields.

A game of two halves was certainly applicable as in the first Blyth threatened to run riot before a change of tactics from Shields led to a more even second period.

Within 15 minutes the visitors led 15-0 thanks to a try from wing forward Dean Langdown, a penalty from skipper and scrum-half Tony Smithson and a try from full-back Steve Hall, which Smithson converted.

An incisive run from Hall put centre James Bostock in for a try and Blyth led 20-0 after 25 minutes.

Blyth were outplaying Shields and went further ahead with tries from number eight Wayne Davie, prop Michael Barber and a solo effort from Langdown, all three converted by Smithson.

A 41-0 lead looked fine on paper but in truth the gap would have been even bigger but for unforced errors and some erratic passing.

In the final seconds of the half the referee, after some deliberation, awarded a try to Shields scrum-half Tony Hansen to make the half-time score 41-5.

All credit to North Shields for changing tactics and opting to keep the ball in the forwards and disrupting Blyth’s flowing and expansive style.

Early pressure from the home side brought its reward with a try from second row Mark Hall 10-41.

With the game virtually won, Blyth coach Richard Calvert made good use of his replacements, bringing on Barry Smith at fly-half with Andy Sutherland dropping back to centre alongside brother Graeme while James Bostock replaced Oliver Clark on the wing.

Blyth were not finding it easy to cope with Shields’ more combative ‘in your face’ approach but did score at regular intervals.

A solo try from Bostock converted by Graeme Sutherland stretched the lead to 48-10, then another solo from Langdown completed his hat-trick of tries and the conversion from Smithson made it 55-10

Further changes for Blyth saw Dean Reay replace Michael Barber at prop while Kevin Barratt came on for Martin Stephenson at hooker.

In the final phases Blyth picked up their game and added tries from winger Andy Barker converted by Smithson and Barker again from an overhead flick from Barratt.

A 67-10 win, which included a bonus point, should have pleased the Blyth travelling faithful, but there were mutterings about how much bigger it could have been.

Nevertheless, Blyth are top of division two ahead on points difference from second placed Consett, who visit Plessey Road on Saturday at 3pm.

With both sides unbeaten, this promises to be a tremendous contest.