BLYTH arrived at Stockton’s Station Road ground on Saturday expecting a stern test, but it was the atrocious weather which won on the day as both teams slugged out a draw.
The draw was probably a fair result as the weather killed off any chances of an open game of rugby.
A sodden pitch, strong wind, heavy rain and a bitterly cold afternoon meant a forwards battle was inevitable, and despite the conditions, the game had plenty of tension where either side could have won the game with missed penalties deep into injury time.
It was Stockton who were first on the scoresheet after only five minutes when a lineout catch and drive was driven a full 25 metres for second row Phil Douglas to touch down in the corner.
Not surprisingly the difficult conversion was missed.
Stockton continued to dominate proceedings for the first 25 minutes and Blyth, although hardly touching the ball, defended astutely.
Rather worrying for Blyth was their sloppiness, constantly allowing turnovers and giving away needless penalties.
From one kicked to the corner, Stockton scored again with another lineout catch and drive, this time from a meagre ten metres out when prop Andy Bailes burrowed over on 30 minutes.
The difficult conversion by Jeremy Good was successful, giving Stockton a 12-0 lead.
Blyth settled into the game and started to get their act together with some good forward drives against the strong wind, putting them into good field positions, and it was from a good platform that centre James Bostock, slotting in at fly-half popped a well-timed offload to giant back-rower David Baxter to crash over for Blyth’s opening points.
Fly-half Andy Sutherland missed the conversion, leaving the score at 12-5 to Stockton at half-time.
Blyth knew they had weathered a storm, in more ways than one, and director of rugby Darren Cunningham and skipper Tony Smithson both reiterated at half-time that the game was there for the taking if mistakes were cut out.
And it was Blyth who started the second half much the stronger with Sutherland and Smithson kicking cleverly deep into the Stockton 22.
From a resulting attacking lineout, Blyth gave Stockton some of their own medicine with their own touchdown from a lineout catch and drive, with Baxter getting his second try of the day on 45 minutes.
Again the difficult conversion was missed, leaving the score 12-10 in Stockton’s favour.
Blyth continued to dominate proceedings and it was now Stockton’s turn to defend astutely, and after winning a penalty cleared into the Blyth half.
From that rare foray into the visitors half they scored when a neat chip over the Blyth defence was well caught by full-back Danny Phin to crash over in the corner on 60 minutes.
Blyth’s response was swift, and after more pressure on the Stockton line with the Blyth forwards battering away at the home side’s tiring forwards, No. 8 Wayne Davie cut a neat crash line to score virtually unopposed under the posts.
Sutherland slotted over the routine conversion.
With the score at 17-17 well into the final quarter, the game could have went any way with Blyth continuing to have plenty of possession but Stockton always looking dangerous on the counter attack.
With barely minutes left Sutherland had a chance to snatch a win for Blyth but his long range penalty fell just under the posts, and from the resulting 22-metre drop-out, Stockton worked the ball up field to be awarded a penalty themselves wide out in Blyth’s 22, and that chance also fell short with the referee signalling time on what was a good game of rugby given the terrible conditions.
A draw was a very fair result and both sides will be satisfied with two points from a game which could have gone either way.
The game was played in good spirits and sportsmanship was in abundance throughout, with Blyth first XV player panager Kev Barratt adding: “We expected a very difficult game today and we got exactly that, but I think overall a draw was the right result.
“Both teams could have snatched a victory at the death but it would have been harsh to have a loser today.
“I thought both teams tried to play open rugby today in awful conditions and all players and the referee deserve great credit.”
This weekend Blyth travel to Druid Park to play Gosforth, kick-off 3pm.