Old Albanians 29 Blaydon 24
To maintain their status in National League One Blaydon needed at the very least to beat Old Albanians but despite a valiant effort failed narrowly in the attempt and relegation to North Two now awaits. Had they won, and even with a bonus point, the outcome would have been identical however as rivals Hull Ionians guaranteed their own survival with a resounding away win.
They gave it their best shot but the day that had started badly when their train was held up for two and a half hours with a track problem resulting in the start being put back 30 minutes, then ended badly when with the scores level a fortuitous bounce in the final minute let in the home side for a winning try.
Blaydon it was however who opened the scoring on 17 minutes when they moved it 3 times through the backs before sending in No8 Jason Smithson to touch down in his final game for the club before retirement, and Brett Connon adding the extras.
The lead proved to be short lived as Albanians hit back with a concerted attack that ended when Max Mallins crossed in the corner and added the conversion himself,, and just before the break also added the points when centre Jason Lombard touched down between the posts.
A 14-7 lead then for the home side which was improved soon after the restart with a Mallins penalty following a ruck offence but Blaydon were back in contention when good ball was swiftly moved through the backs for flanker Jack Davidson to finish off and Connon to level the game with another conversion.
Play now rattled along from one end to the other, Albanians getting their heads in front again when Blaydon were penalised at a ruck and a penalty try was awarded, Mallins once more on target. With time running out Blaydon produced one last effort to ensure at least a draw, prolific winger Dan Marshall scooting in and Connon landing a tremendous conversion from out wide to make it 24-24.
There was just time for the restart but Blaydon failed to secure the kick-off, the ball bounced badly and Sam Lunnon had a simple run-in to seal Blaydon’s fate.
Ironically when these two sides met at Crow Trees in the opening game of the season Old Albanians were returning to Nat One after a years absence and now in the final game were condemning Blaydon to a similar fate.
Needing maximum points to maintain their push from out of the relegation zone Blaydon responded with a rattling good performance that had 4 tries in the bag by the 41st minute and 6 in all before taking their foot off the throttle in the final quarter.
Director of rugby Micky Ward declared himself well satisfied, saying “The lads performed well, it was a tough build-up and they were nervous with so much at stake. I thought their defence was outstanding in the first half and they attacked the way they have all season. We made a couple of mistakes late on but with one eye on next weeks game we made a couple of substitutions and made the scoreboard a little bit different from what it should have been”.
They knocked on from the kick-off and made life a little difficult for 5 minutes but once the first score went in it became plain sailing. Tom Bramwell and Frazer Wilson combined in a break from defence to put flanker Jack Davidson through a convenient gap for the opener, and hooker Matt Thompson touched down from close range following a line-out drive.
Try No3 looked certain when they swarmed into the visitors 22 on 35 minutes only to be robbed on the line. Possession was soon regained however, Davidson grabbing his second and with Brett Connon having landed the 3 conversions it was 21-0 at the interval.
Within 60 seconds of the restart they secured the vital bonus point try when Connon charged down a clearance and Wilson set off at speed down the left to outstrip the Park defence, and it was one-way traffic. Another penalty to the corner saw Thompson in again and Andrew Archibald finished off the Blaydon scoring when he secured the touch after the pack had driven over the line.
Forty points to the good without reply and with 20 minutes remaining the handbrake was applied and a Park side that thus far had shown no sign of penetrating a solid Blaydon defence were able to run in 4 tries of their own. Lively winger David Vincent twice was allowed to wriggle out of the tackle to score in the corner, and when Blaydon consistently infringed at a short scrum a yellow card resulted and the visitors took full advantage through full-back Henry Robinson. Fly-half Harry Leonard added 2 conversions and in the final minute Josh Ovens went over after good work by Ed Milne.
Only one game to go, and now everything to play for with their future in National League One still in doubt.
Blaydon took what might prove to be an important step towards maintaining their Nat One status with this bonus point winning result at Cambridge but they left it mightily close. With 6 and a half minutes remaining they were trailing 40-31 but hanging on in there and by playing a more expansive game than they had earlier were rewarded with a try by Frazer Wilson. Then with only 2 minutes left on the clock the forwards bombarded the Cambridge line and skipper Keith Laughlin crashed over to secure the priceless win.
In a high scoring game both sides scored 6 tries as fortunes swung one way and then the other with the home side opening the scoring through their fly-half Dan Lewis who added the conversion himself. Within 2 minutes Blaydon were on level terms with some excellent interplay between backs and forwards producing a score for Chris Wearmouth, added to by the first of Brett Connon’s 5 conversions, and thus the pattern was set.
Cambridge hooker Ian Griffiths crossed from a catch and drive, and Connon landed a penalty before Blaydon centre Ben Stevenson intercepted on half-way to leave the home defence for dead. The visitors then moved further ahead when replacement scrum-half Ryan Foreman scooted over, his first for the club, but in the final seconds Albert Portsmouth grabbed a third for the home side to make it 21-24 at the break.
Blaydon lost concentration at the start of the second period and paid the price when they conceded quick tries to Cambridge flanker Louis Rawlings and winger Mike Ayrton, and on either side of the interval the score had moved from 14-24 to 33-24.
Tom Grimes made sure Blaydon got back into it when he showed great fortitude to persist along the line before squeezing over in the corner, but yet again the home side increased their lead, this time through Matt Hema.
And finally came the crucial 6 minutes with firstly Wilson bursting through the middle for an fine effort and then the pack taking it on from a catch and drive for Laughlin to do the business.
With Hull winning at Rosslyn and 2 games remaining everything is still to play for, with Blaydon 2 points behind rivals Hull.
For the 2nd week in succession it was top 3 opposition for Blaydon and with much the same result, but whilst Ampthill yesterday were far the better organised side Blaydon at times were guilty of contributing to their own downfall.
In a short spell just before the interval however they showed what was possible by scoring a brace of tries and at the break it was 17-26, a much narrower gap than had seemed likely after a disastrous start.
Star man for the opposition was winger Nigel Baker who ran in a hat-trick of tries inside 30 minutes and the stage was set for a comfortable away win. In Ampthill’s first real attack they moved it quickly on from a line-out and then through the backs until a long cut-out pass found Baker in splendid isolation on the left wing and who was able to stroll in.
Andrew Baggett responded with a penalty but 6 minutes later Baker was in again from a similar position after some smart work by the scrum-half. Blaydon then had a long spell of pressure in the Ampthill 22, without ever looking likely to score, and eventually were turned over by Peter Weightman who raced the length of the pitch before handing on to Kevin Barrett who in turn unselfishly gave it to Baker to complete his hat-trick.
The Blaydon forwards then had another good spell in the 22, Chris Wearmouth in his 250th game for the club involved in most of it, and this time Andrew Davidson crossed near the posts and Baggett added the extras. Back came the visitors with a try bonus score though Joseph Bercis but right on the interval Tom Grimes broke clear to combine with Max Connon and send in Jack Davidson for a converted score and make it 17-26.
Ampthill increased their lead early in the second period when Ralph Adams-Hale emerged from broken play to storm into the 22 and put flanker Syd Blackmore in under the posts.
The game then began to fizzle out with little happening and neither side creating an opportunity until the visitors had two of their forwards yellow carded in quick succession.
It was ripe for Blaydon to take advantage and some good positions were gained and then spurned, and in the final minute they coughed up possession once again for the grateful Adams-Hale to secure a 6th try with a 50 metres break. Michael Wilson landed the conversion to add to add to 4 earlier efforts by Steffan Jones.
It was hardly a surprise that Blaydon failed to win at Brickfields, the Plymouth side sitting comfortably in second spot in the table and looking for a 9th win on the bounce, but unfortunately on the day they arrived with a side already badly depleted by injuries only to be hit with a catastrophic sequence of events.
The deficit at half-time was only 5-0 but players were constantly being replaced, some with potentially serious injury, and going into the final quarter all substitutes had been used and a hooker who had gone off was back on and playing at centre.
Four tries were conceded in the last 20 minutes as the Blaydon defiance finally crumbled and weary bodies were over-run and out on their feet.
Plymouth skipper and No8 Michael Stupple scored their opener when he gained possession 10 metres out to power his way over in the 21st minute but the visitors had their moments, particularly a stirring break by Jack Davidson and then a catch and drive that was penalised just short.
Lock forward Sam Holmes added try No2 four minutes into the second period after being released by a neat inside pass, and winger Matt Crosscombe ran in 2 more scores, Plymouth piling on the pressure as Blaydon wilted.
The score then escalated near the end with Blaydon now contributing to their own downfall by attempting to run from their own 22 and handing a breakaway pass to the opposition and then repeating the error at a scrum. Harvey Skinner and man-of-the-match Matt Shepherd were the players to take advantage, the latter finishing the scoring with the last of his 5 conversions.
The only good news on a disappointing day was the defeat of their fellow contenders for the unwanted second relegation position and so the league positions remain unchanged.
The postponed game from the 14th January has been rescheduled for Saturday 25th February, with a 2pm KO
If ever there was a must win game it was this clash between the two sides at the bottom of National League One and when push came to shove it was Blaydon that defended the better, used their possession the better, and in the second period crossed for a couple of well earned tries.
Macclesfield however had all the early pressure, much of it gifted by poor kicking by the visitors, and on the half-hour were rewarded with a try from a line-out drive by lock forward Ryan Parkinson to which full-back Alan Morton added the conversion points.
Having absorbed the pressure and easily contained the Macclesfield attacks Blaydon gradually came more into it and with the interval approaching Brett Connon put over a penalty to make it a 7-3 score-line at the break.
The improvement continued in the second period and from a series of pick and drives Blaydon took the lead through prop-forward Andrew Foster who was driven over, but disappointingly the conversion kick went astray. Now playing a more open game the visitors backs became a regular threat with excellent breaks from Frazer Wilson and Tom Small and in particular full-back James Cooney who was voted man of the match by the opposition.
lt took until the 74th minute however to settle the issue and deny Macclesfield a losing bonus point, the Blaydon forwards leading the way for skipper Keith Laughlin to crash over from more good re-cycling work.
This time Connon was spot on with the conversion kick from wide out to bring Blaydon’s 6 match losing run to an end and gain valuable points in the battle to avoid relegation.
Details will be provided as soon as the game is re- arranged
This weekend Blaydon opt for a more experienced feel to there side. In the forwards Matthew Thompson and Andrew Foster partner the ever-present Trevor Davison in the front row, while Scotland u20’s lock Andrew Davidson makes his first start in the second row, Gavin Jones is also back after a week off. In the backs we bring back Andrew Baggett at fly half, Tom Grimes in the center, then wingers James Cooney and Frazer Wilson along with Brett Connon form a new look back three. We are aware how important points are at the stage of the season, so a win is pretty important!
1. Trevor Davison
2. Matthew Thompson
3. Andrew Foster
4. Chris Wearmouth
5. Andrew Davison
6. Andrew Archibald
7. Jack Davison
8. Harrison Orr
9. Nathan horsfal
10. Andrew Baggett
11. Frazer Wilson
12. Tom Small
13. Tom Grimes
14. James Cooney
15. Brett Connon
16. Cam Bell
17. Robbie Morris
18. Jason Smithson
19. Max Connon
20. Ryan Forman