Park who were made to work hard for the win could have earned a four try bonus point at the end, but Sheffield held out and earned themselves a losing bonus point in the process. The early exchanges were largely in favour of the blue and whites, who had much of the possession in the first quarter, but on the 20 minute mark, Marcus Rutter had a chance to draw first blood with penalty but the attempt went wide.
Percy Park were without lock Michael Langlands who had succumbed to a virus which has affected several of the squad in recent weeks. James Ponton came in at second row, and Jonny Dubois came up from the Lions to the bench as front row replacement.
It took a full 30 minutes before the scorers were troubled when Sheffield opened their account with a try by Joe Cribley after some uncharacteristic sloppy tackling allowed the centre through to cross the line. Cribley took his own conversion and the visitors led 7 – 0.
The score sparked Park into action and they responded almost immediately with a try by Phil Morse. From the kick off Park attacked the ball but there was a knock on from which referee David Conway on exchange from the Oxford Referees Society played advantage. Sheffield reclaimed the ball and kicked to touch and with advantage over, the ball came back into play on the wind with Ash Smith running hard at the visitor’s defensive line. The ball was spun wide and found Phil Morse in the line, who showed to pass on the outside which opened up a gap for him to race through for the try. Marcus Rutter converted to level the scores.
Phil Morse was in on the action again moments later with an incisive break through the Abbeydale Park ranks, Sheffield infringed and Percy Park were awarded a penalty which was off target and the scores stayed deadlocked.
Percy Park had picked up the tempo of the game and with 2 minutes over normal time scored through number 8 Sean Williamson. David Griffiths drove the ball up into midfield before quick ball was recylcled left and Phil Morse again in the line through the long pass to Williamson to cross the line wide out. The conversion was wide, but at half time Park took the lead 12 – 7.
Sheffield who are renowned for their staying power, hit back straight after the break with wing James Montgomery exploiting a dog leg in the Park defence. The conversion was wide of the mark but again the scores were level.
Again Park upped their game and were awarded a penalty in front of the posts and Marcus Rutter made no mistake with the boot to take back the lead 15 – 12. Two further penalties from the fly half’s boot moved Park into a 21 -12 lead.
Park continued to attack the visitor’s line and a break down the left wing by Thomas Turnbull was halted 5 metres out but not before the ball was played back in field with Ash Smith picking up the ball to cross the line. The touch judge flag stayed down but the referee deemed the player had been in touch, much to the cries of derision by the spectators. Justice prevailed a minute later when from the line out Sheffield knocked on, and Park were awarded a 5 metre scrum. The ball was cleanly won and Park attacked the line. The recycled ball was then spun left to find Andy Dunn who powered over for the unconverted try.
With 10 minutes of the game remaining, Sheffield came back and Park were made to defend for a sustained period before Tommy Marples crossed the line on 80 minutes and the conversion brought Sheffield back within a converted try of drawing level. Park however were intent on a bonus point and when awarded a kickable penalty, opted for the line out on 5 metres. The ball was won by Craig Fidler who was immediately brought to ground, and although the ball was secured Park were unable to cross the line before a knock on relieved the pressure on the visitors line. Play continued until Park were awarded a final penalty which was just outside kickable range. Rutter did the sensible thing and kicked to touch to bring the game to an end which Park had won 26 – 19.
Although the Marauders did not have a game, their shirts came in useful as the Pumas had taken their shirts and the 1stXV’s to Blaydon. Sadly they lost 15 – 5 to Blaydon Bricks. The Lions returned to winning ways however with a 32 – 26 win away against Middlesbrough Wasps with six tries and the bonus point. Scorers were Craig Bartle, Ian Bradley, Jonny Ward (2) Stevie Irving, try and conversion.
Next week Park have 5 teams in action as the 1st XV take on Cleckheaton away, the Lions entertain Westoe II, the Pumas are also at home to North Shields Artisans and the Marauders are away to Alnwick III. Finally the Academy play Morpeth Colts at Preston Avenue.
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