This match report is brought to you by the letter – B. Recently there has been a tendency to avoid discussion the B word, people seem to be deeply divided on the issues and exchanging views can get heated. They say avoid putting that in a match report or it was nice to read something that didn’t mention it. Well like always I will not sidestep the issue and plunge straight in, it’s the Blaydon match everyone!!!!!!
It’s quite a prospect as both clubs sit second and third in the league divided by one point with Hull seemingly uncatchable to (I would say mathematically safe but my adding up isn’t that good). So this is an 8 pointer taking into account bonus points, see previous comment if this isn’t correct. It also a local derby which puts an added spin into it, think Middlesbrough v Leeds, town v Synthonia, Brunner v Furness. It also is ex-players day at the club which sees a bumper good natured crowd reliving those heady days, runs from the halfway line, front row shenanigans and passes gone astray, aided with a few shandies.
Following questions regarding my parentage I have been involved in yet another personal matter based on my recent non-attendance at matches, the match reporter who wasn’t there. This has evolved into some kind of where’s Wally? spotting contest if I do appear usually for the Tuesday or Thursday jog, various Billingham alumni point, asking if I had forgotten the way and checking if I was still alive. I am unsure of the similarities but with this being a pivotal weekend, I brushed this aside as I readied my stock of Christmas booty, I picked up my stripped bobble hat, cleaned my glasses and headed down to the Greenwood road complex.
It is indeed a packed club and I am in time to witness the full ex-players photo and lend a hand to steady the snapper’s chair. I then set off towards Harry’s hill and catch up with current Durham winning cup Colts players back form Uni and the usual suspects. The 2nd team is already engaged in action on the top pitch with the 3rds on the side pitch, with all this going on the teams are on the main pitch and kicking off before a pen is scrambled from the pocket.
The view is from Harry’s hill down towards the club house, Blaydon in red and black play in the same direction. The conditions can only be described as blustery, for those with hair it moves in the breeze and controlling wayward pages is a job in itself. On balance the first half action is fairly at the other end of the pitch, from kick off Billingham look to move up the pitch but a nudge while catching the ball leads to a bobble and Blaydon move forward. The ball is moved out with the Blaydon attack being seen into touch. The first line out is taken well with a clearing kick taken by the wind into the 3rds game, an early stoppage is taken as player hobbles off gingerly leading to an early switch for Blaydon. This does not seem to hamper them as they secure the scrum and set about moving over the 22. Clean hands sees the ball switched out and missed tackles leave the door open for a try out wide, which is unconverted but sets the visitors on the board 0 – 5.
Kick off has to be measured as too much air and it will end up in the council car park, Peter pops one up with Blaydon field well and switch wide. Tactics employed by the visitors are ideal in the conditions as they look to pin Billingham back as much as possible using wide runners or kick placed over the top, this means that play switched to the far end as a kick over the top makes maximum yards. Billingham look to counter but the cover is good, Billingham being contained well within their own half. Blaydon look to pressure and hammer the line looking for the next try. A switch out wide ends in a forward pass but an infringement brings it back for a scrum, which sets up Blaydon for another run of try line attempts which come to nothing. Billingham clear the lines but its soon coming back and Billingham are penalised at the ruck, with Blaydon opting for the sticks. Straight through the middle for 0 – 8 but could have been more.
Kickoff is well gathered and Blaydon again start to ask questions, the pace of the match is relentless and Billingham have yet to really have a clear opportunity as Blaydon punt the ball down the pitch meaning Billingham have to retreat to build from the 22. It’s all at the club house end again as Blaydon look to move the ball wide then straighten up it the gaps, The Billingham defence managing to limit any clean breaks but being moved back over the gain line as the attacks continue. Both teams stop for a bit of player maintenance and I expect a breather. Ritchie mentions that the Boro are up and I pull my hat down more securely on my head. Line out deep in Billingham territory which Billingham take and look to break out, ball lost and Blaydon start hammering at the line again, several attempts are made and the hill notices a winger way out wide which if his hands are warm enough should give him a walk in. The ball is moved and the defence looks to cover but an inside run before it gets out breaks the whitewash. Converted the visitors move on to 0 – 15.
Peter puts a bit of a longer kick off in this time but it’s fielded and sent back, Billingham look to play it out and a high tackle give a penalty. Billingham move up the pitch and although Blaydon secure the maul from the line out at least it is a step into the Blaydon half. Billingham pressure the scrum no headway is made once the ball is out by either team as Billingham pounce on the ruck to get a holding on penalty. Secure line out sees Billingham run the ball and get a glimpse of a chance with a Kirby/Hopley interplay which ends in a knock on and Hopley hobbling off. Big scrum still in the Blaydon gives Billingham a chance and they nudge well to win the re-set. Chances like this will be golden so the teams set up, solid scrum, Danny D draws the defence in with a strong run towards the posts, the backs line up and play it switched blind with a long pass gives Elliot’s fresh legs the space to go in at the corner. Unconverted Billingham break the doughnut for 5 -15.
For the rest of the half Blaydon press and Billingham don’t really break out but defend right across the park. A bit too vigorous at times as a yellow is shown for a dangerous clear out but despite the pressure the score stays at 5 – 15.
A few comments at half time as we switch our vantage point to the concourse under the balcony, nice and crowded with a bit of a buzz as refreshments are in abundance. Updates about the Boro keep coming as injury time is 12 minutes!!!! The lucky charm that is Budge is moved to the club house end as most of the play seems to follow him, some sort of magnetic personality I guess. I encounter the part time ghost writer and Elmer Fudd stand-in so discussion around the Beaufort scale ensues.
Billingham jog out to a full throng as the wind is now at their backs, well sort of side and they are now playing downhill which of course not really true on the AGP, any way it’s all mind games. Billingham kick off long and force a knock-on which outs them on the front foot, although we look to have gone to un-contested scrums which given the first half nudge may not work in our favor. Ball is out Peter has a snipe then Danny D forces his way will over the gain line, quick hands and Joe finishes in front of a packed house, converted it narrows the gap to 12 – 15.
Here is quite a tussle before the next points are scored as both teams have glimpses of chances with field position being pivotal. Billingham are again forced back with several last ditch tackles having to be made to keep the line intact. It’s very hard to establish rhythm as most of the time its defensive duties rather than getting into phases, Billingham have taken the few chances they have managed to make. Penalties are starting to mount up and the man in the middle takes the chance to talk to both captains as a high tackle goes in. Despite the first half the Blaydon runners are still in full force and happy to take it in but a few chances when the wing is open are missed by the step inside into traffic. It’s nip and tuck but not any clear winner at the moment. Billingham get a penalty and form the line out Danny B wrestles it out of the air, a couple of phases see the forwards around the corner but then knock on, which stops momentum. Blaydon posetion is making it hard but Billingham look to move up the pitch with a kick for touch, the passes stick this time as the team gather to drive it forward, its moved wide and then back as Luke bursts through for the try, with the kick holding up in the wind Billingham move ahead for the first time at 17 – 15.
Blaydon kick long and its cleared back immediately to gain some field advantage. Blaydon take the line out and move the ball out, mixing up the passes and delaying the runners. It back to defensive work for Billingham, as the attacks come thick and fast from every angle. A couple of missed tackles and Blaydon counter back at the Harry’s Hill end with a converted try for 17 – 22.
So time is ticking and you have a niggling feeling that it could be just slipping away as Blaydon cleanly take the kick off and counter with numbers. The gaps are appearing as both teams have thrown everything at it. Blaydon move the ball up the pitch and try a drop goal to seal it but it’s wide and this gives possession to Billingham. It’s all or nothing as Billingham move up the pitch but the Blaydon defence covers any clean breaks so it’s the grind of move, ruck and set up. Billingham attack one side then look to move quickly but the Blaydon defence is there, setting up a ruck just outside the 22 middle of the pitch. Sean Richardson picks up, no guards in place as they have moved out to cover. He tiptoes around the ruck and sets off towards the line.
And time slows down,
The Black beauty TV series theme tune (The adventures of Black Beauty 1972 – 1974) plays out in the mind as the blood vessels pump into time to Sean’s legs,
He looks around to see if the ref’s noticed anything, there is no defence in sight
He strides over the try line and places the ball
And the whole place goes mental and I drop my pen.
Peter has to compose himself for the final kick which is right in front of the posts. It’s over for 24 – 22 and its over as the ref puts whistle to lips it’s the final score. Fitting on a day that see’s some many who have built this club in the past in attendance, the players looked absolutely empty after digging deep so even the wander over to friends and family told a story. A full squad effort, no chance to hide as Blaydon were at it all afternoon and the work put in to defend kept the score within touch given that chances were few.
If you had to go shopping, had a family event, were working or just didn’t know that the match was on, I feel for you and I know your pain.
So due to the packed event there is no time for the daily commute, Beaufort scale facts, snappy dressers on the 2nd team touchline, it’s a packed hill, still Durham Cup County Colts winners, mine’s a still water, is there anybody there?, name the stand, mobile ring tones of the rich and famous, Gong hei fat Choy and constant clenching.
I expect that the result was warmly celebrated in the bar area, not knowing when the bell ended proceedings but I bet is what a late one.
Strength grows in the moments when you think you can’t go on but you keep going anyway. – Unknown
An innocent bystander.