HOPPERS 21-5 TYNEDALE
With both teams fairly safe in mid-table with similar playing records and the game at Tynedale in November having produced 60 points, the spectators were looking forward to an entertaining, high-scoring game of flowing open rugby. However this was not to be as a slippery ball caused frequent handling errors coupled with some wrong options and defences very much on top which led to a stop-start, scrappy encounter.
But Hoppers were very much the better side on the day and avenged the narrow somewhat controversial result at Corbridge. The pack dominated in the tight and a 6-nil advantage at half-time hardly reflected their command of both possession and territory. The first 20 minutes saw play take place almost entirely in the visitors’ half with prolonged pressure often coming to nought through Hoppers’ inability to look after the ball and keep possession and they had to be content with a penalty from Tom Davidson on 23 minutes to break the deadlock.
Breaks and carries from James Fitzparick, Alex Hurst, Tyler Spence and Nathan Pope all showed promise but were snuffed out by determined defence while Matt Lamprey was inches short of a touchdown and again Hoppers had to rely on Davidson’s boot to add another three points after a deliberate obstruction in mid-field.
Whatever was said in the visitors’ changing room seemed to have some effect since Tynedale started the second period with much more purpose and it was Hoppers’ turn to mount some epic goal-line defence as the Tynedale pack was twice held up over the line before a penalty relieved the pressure.
Hoppers’ pack continued to cause problems in the tight but, camped on the visitors’ line, frustratingly lost control of the ball in an attempted push-over. The pressure eventually told but the score was due to an element of luck as Matt Crow was put clear on the wing before his attempted in-field pass rebounded back to him off a defender and he was in at the corner. Davidson converted and then after further Hoppers’ pressure decided to put his side three scores ahead at 16-nil with a well taken drop goal.
Hoppers were straight back on the attack from the restart and, after more forward pressure, Fitzpatrick claimed the try to make the game safe with less than 10 minutes left on the clock. Tynedale had other ideas, however, and, still with the chance of a losing bonus point, mounted a rear-guard action which saw Gareth Black touch down from a lineout drive.
Coach Paul Arnold was ‘very happy’ with the result overall. “Tynedale are a good side and defended well. We should have capitalised more on our dominance in the first half and a lack of accuracy cost us some points. We in turn defended well especially at the start of the second half, didn’t panic and our discipline was good. All 20 of the squad were involved today and we showed that we have some depth, especially in important areas like front row where Ryan Purcell made a good first start today.”
As a result, Hoppers move up two places in the table to 7th and a top half finish looks well on the cards.
Report by Ken Moore, photo by Mike Craig, “Nathan Pope makes a break watched by man-of-the-match Tom Davidson”