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Baggett’s penalty seals it for Blaydon
BLAYDON survived a fright at home to Richmond when they battled back from 22-7 down to clinch their 11th successive win in National One.
A yellow card proved crucial as flanker Rob Bell finished off two driving mauls while the visitors were depleted and the conversions reduced the gap to one point with 20 minutes left.
It took until three minutes from time for Blaydon to nail the victory, Andrew Baggett recording a 100 per cent success for the tenth time this season when he landed a 40- metre penalty to make it 24-22.
Player-coach Micky Ward said: “I gave them too much time off over Christmas. We only had one session and our intensity just wasn’t there.”
The experience of Jason Smithson helped to turn the tide when he went on shortly after half-time following his two-month absence.
With their line-out misfiring, Blaydon hardly saw the ball in the first 15 minutes, but after going 3-0 down they went ahead when skipper Matt Hall took a short pass to charge into the 22. He linked with centre Charles Incledon, who sent winger Simon Barber over.
Baggett added the first of his three conversions, all from wide out, and they proved crucial as Richmond failed to convert either of their two first half tries.
That looked unlikely to matter when a flanker nipped over near the posts after 48 minutes, but the yellow card which swiftly followed gave Blaydon a route back into the game and they gratefully seized it.
Tynedale eased further away from trouble with a 19-9 win at Sedgley Park and can do Blaydon a favour this week when they entertain leaders Ealing.
Tries were scored by wingers Hamish Smales and Andrew Moralee plus No 8 Ollie Stedman, who was also entrusted with the goal-kicking.
He missed twice in the first half but converted his own try after 46 minutes, which gave Tynedale the lead for the first time.
The hosts missed a penalty which would have levelled the scores five minutes from time and shortly afterwards Moralee squeezed over for his tenth of the season.
Westoe remain third from the bottom of National Two North after a 36-13 defeat at Sheffield Tigers. They trailed only 7-6 at the break but then conceded four tries in ten minutes and a late try by Jordan Carey was scant consolation.
Billingham scored four tries in a 26-3 home win against Penrith.
Brothers Craig and Paul Shepherd touched down, along with Steve Hutchinson and Andy Evans, while Peter Evans added three conversions.
Billingham climbed to fifth in National Three North, but are 13 points adrift of fourthplaced Percy Park, who deepened West Hartlepool’s plight with a 32-6 home win.
Fielding a very young side, West dominated the opening quarter and led through a Stu Waites penalty. He added another before half-time, but by that stage the home backs had shown their greater finishing power with two converted tries.
Darlington kept alive their slender hopes of survival in North One East with a shock 17-12 home win against Wheatley Hills, who beat them 85-5 in September.
After losing their first 11 games and also having five points deducted, this was Darlington’s third win in four and owed much to vastly-improved defence.
They also benefited from having senior forwards Richard Snowball and Tom Wilkinson available, while young Arun Keans had his best game at scrum half and colt Jack Tully made an encouraging debut at full back.
Lock Chris Anderson finished a catch-and-drive before the visitors scored twice to lead 12-5 at half-time.
After 56 minutes Darlington ran the ball from their own 22 and winger Matthew Sowerby beat three men in racing over from halfway.
Keans scored the winning try eight minutes later when he got on the end of a series of passes in midfield and made a diagonal run to the posts, with Henry Carver converting.
Middlesbrough lost 20-12 at Malton and Norton, again having to make late changes as senior forwards Richie Horton, Craig Chapman and Richie Barker were ruled out.
Skipper Barker has landed a job in Scotland and his future availability is in doubt.
Vice-captain Rob Bellerby led by example, but Boro were second best and needed four Simon O’Farrell penalties to stay in touch.
Stockton’s 44-23 win at home to Medicals lifted them into second place in Durham and Northumberland One, but the game was marred by a double dismissal.
It happened after 60 minutes, when Stockton veteran Martin Howe retaliated after being spear tackled.
Five of the seven tries were scored by a dominant pack, although the first came from winger Danny Phinn following a chip over the defence.
Prop Andy Bailes burrowed over for his third try in three games and skipper Mark Skirving finished another forward drive, with a penalty and conversion by Jeremy Good making it 20-6 at half-time.
A 60-yard break by Bailes set up the position for fellow prop Ben D’Cunha to force his way over for the first of his two tries. No 8 Martin Dixon also touched down before centre Joel Simpson made a fine break to set Phinn away on a 50-yard run to the line.