Sat. 24th March – 4th Team Shield Semi Final – South Shields Mariners 3, Blaydon Bricks 38

This was always going to be a difficult fixture, both the Bricks & Mariners would have targeted the 4th Team Shield this year, with Mariners strong this season, haven put out 3 teams at times this season. Bricks had played the Mariners twice early in the season and lost both, although first game we had 12 men and had to lend players. Bricks are a late season team, we always struggle getting full squads out before Xmas, the Ryton Xmas games seem to ignite the Bricks and then the numbers start to grow. This was a planned cup match with dates known back last June and the Bricks where they can, ensure availability for the three 4th team Cup games involved.

It would be wrong to single out individuals (with 2 exceptions I’ll come too) in this game, it was a fantastic squad performance with Mariners beaten in the end by a more experienced (they was 15 Vets in the 27 squad and 10 in the starting team) streetwise team, backed by youth in key positions. The ‘Finishers’ who came on took over without a gap in skill or capability and the strength on the bench with fresh legs was a big contributor to the result.

You can bet the guys from both teams would have known Sunday morning they had been in a bruiser, there was physical clashes all over the park and big hits from both sides, it was full on with no quarter given.

As I always tell the team I hate cup matches, people who know me hate them even more, often just avoiding (more than normal) me, Tracy left the country to escape the lead up to the cup match. I get hyper for the week before the game (Sorry guys!!!) and it continues until the final whistle, thankfully the experienced heads in the team keep us on track once the team is on the pitch. The cause, the 4th Team Shield is really the only thing this team focuses on, the league ensures we get games, but we always approach those games with a basis of everybody players, even if just starting to learn the game, it’s more about people taking part, rather than the win. In the cup matches it’s about the win. Also you’re limited to 7 subs and reality is, you don’t want to make too many changes as it can disrupt the team, so you wait for injuries or players to wear themselves out, to force your hand, which means when you have a large squad, lots of people don’t get on. The squad was fantastic, people went on when needed and the rest were there for the ones on the pitch, giving support, taking photos, running on with water & kicking tee and sharing in the victory as they deserve.

The highs and lows:

· Forwards were great going forward, took the ball on well, with a lot of support and offloads going to Bricks hands well
· Our scrum was too strong for the Mariners, they failed to secure a lot of their own ball
· We also took a fair amount of their lineout ball and vast majority of our own.
· Mariners had a very good strong young centre, but his game was straight running and our centres cut him down every time.
· Our backs lines of running caused Mariners real problems, making good yards and always with our backrow there to secure the ball when we were stopped.
· I think the backs were just trying to stress me, (probably deserved, for my loud, lecture in the changing rooms, you know you probably over did it, when you finish, ask your Captain (Paul Winter) if he has anything to add and his response is, you’ve said more than enough…. ) with a couple of attempts to run out of the 22, when a kick would have relieved the pressure.
· Front 5 carried well and our backrow were everywhere, both in attack and defence
· The teams defence was immense, keeping Mariners to a penalty score only.
· There is always a spell in any game where a side comes into their own and for the Mariners, that was about 10 mins into the 2nd half, they were camped in our 22 and having their best spell of the match, but the Blaydon defence, to a man was not breached and they left empty handed and you could see heads drop somewhat, as they lost the opportunity to get back into the game.
· First of the 2 mentions; has to go to Rodders, when you call your full back when he’s late for the meet time and wake him up with less than 40 minutes to kick off, it puts a bit of a spanner in the works….
· 2nd mention goes to Jak Tuck from our U18s, who has played for us in league but stepped up into a cup semi-final against a good Mariner’s scrum half in later stages of the second half and played well, scoring a good try.

So, a good hard fought win, then back to Mariners club house, (a good few short as many went off to the Falcons game at SJP) and great hospitality from the Mariners. The final will be on the 21st April, venue to be determined, against Houghton Boars, so a repeat of last year’s close won final.

Thanks to Derek for the majority of the photos:


· Trys: Liam, Arran 2, Vinnie, Chester, Jak
· Conv Alex 2, Rodders 2

Semi Final winning squad:
· Paul Winter
· Keith Winter
· Tom Hirst
· Phil Partington
· Steve Sewell
· Mark Todd
· Keith Oliver
· Derek Turnbull
· James Knox
· Simon Drennon
· Justin Clarke
· Arran Poad
· Paul Vinnicombe
· Liam Bradley
· Jak Tuck
· Alex Twinn
· Lewis Hill
· Ryan Robson
· Paul Dingley
· Mark Hopewell
· Steven Davidson
· Phil Divers
· Peter Andrew Bath
· Matt Robinson
· Damien Shaw
· Robert Pyle
· David Reay