Bonus point could be crucial for Blyth

DESPITE a three-week lay-off, neither Blyth or Bishop Auckland showed signs of ring rust in a match played in near perfect conditions at Plessey Road.

In an even opening period a tenth minute penalty from fly-half Andy Sutherland put Blyth ahead, but five minutes later visiting fly-half Tim Tomlin repaid the compliment making it 3-3.

Between the 15th and 20th minutes the two fly-halves exchanged penalties making the score 6-6.

Both sides defended well but Blyth showed more enterprise in attack and a clever side-step from right wing Andy Barker, leaving his opposite number flat footed, let him through for a try and an 11-6 lead for Blyth.

Bishops refused to lie down and Tomlin completed a hat-trick of penalties to make the half-time score 11-9.

Blyth exchanged props with Michael Barber replacing an out of sorts Dean Reay and this steadied the pack, who had been having a hard afternoon.

With a light breeze now at their backs the home side started the second half in positive fashion and a series of attacks by the forwards resulted in a try for hooker Martin Stephenson, which Andy Sutherland converted for an 18-9 lead.

The best try of the match followed with centre James Bostock finishing off a high speed handling move involving full-back Steve Hall, Barker and Andy Sutherland among others taking the lead to 23-9.

Blyth coaches Dave Massie and Richard Calvert made further changes, bringing on Gregg Dawson at centre for Graeme Sutherland and Barry Harnett at wing forward for Dean Langdown.

Although Blyth were now well on top the game still had a sting in its tail as it entered injury time.

Against the run of play Bishops suddenly found a second wind and scored a try through centre Connor Smith, making the score 23-14, but then in the dying seconds Blyth scrum-half and skipper Tony Smithson chased a speculative high kick and outpaced the opposing backs to gather and touch down. Andy Sutherland completed the conversion to bring the final score to 30-14.

More importantly the try gained Blyth a bonus point.

Blyth remain second behind leaders Consett with the gap at four points, although the County Durham side have a game in hand.

The showdown between the two is scheduled for February 4 at Consett, and Blyth know Barnard Castle are breathing down their necks in third place.

Blyth skipper Tony Smithson said he was pleased with the performance.

“At this stage bonus points could be crucial and I was delighted to have scored the bonus point try myself,” he said.

On Saturday Blyth are away to Yarm with a 2.15pm kick-off.