A LATE fightback failed to save Durham Under 20s from a 36-28 defeat in the National Shield final against Surrey at Coventry yesterday.
Replacement prop Danny Cookland blasted his way over for two short-range tries in the last ten minutes and Durham were still pressing at the end.
“Given another five minutes we might have won it,”
said team manager Tony Howe. “It was a very physical game but we ran it from everywhere and it was a fantastic performance. We are very proud of the boys and 15 of the 22 in the squad are still eligible next season.”
An early try by Mowden Park centre Josh Hall gave Durham the lead, but they trailed 10-8 at the interval and despite a second penalty by Westoe fly half Jordan Carey the gap widened to 29-11 before replacement winger Luke Wilson, from Billingham, touched down.
Surrey scored their fifth try before Durham rallied, with Wilson converting one of Cookland’s tries.
Depleted Blaydon were unable to do Tynedale a favour in National One as they lost 23-13 at Henley, who moved level with the Corbridge club in the fierce scrap to avoid relegation.
Four points cover five clubs in the battle to avoid joining Hull Ionians in the drop.
Tynedale still have to visit the Humbersiders, as well as playing Henley and Cinderford at home.
Blaydon remain sixth and will hope the return of fly half Andrew Baggett at his former stamping ground of Wharfedale this week will help them get back on track after a disappointing run.
In his absence they lacked a midfield general and were unable to capitalise on forward dominance in the plush surroundings of Henley, where raffle tickets in the clubhouse were £5 a strip.
Even without first-choice props, Micky Ward and Robbie Kalbraier, Blaydon shunted their hosts backwards in the early scrums and No 8 Jason Smithson touched down a pushover try.
But Henley had a dangerous fly half in James Comben, whose breaks set up two tries before he scored himself and added a penalty for a 20-5 halftime lead.
They were rarely out of their own half afterwards and after 53 minutes Blaydon had the gap down to seven points through a try by lock Chris Wearmouth and penalty by Andy Davies.
But Henley again counterattacked from deep and Comben landed another penalty, after which Blaydon failed to convert their chances. They thought they had scored when Tom Grimes raced up the line and went round behind the posts, only to find a touch judge had belatedly raised his flag.
Player-coach Ward described it as “a dodgy call”
and felt his team should have won after playing all the rugby in the second half.
But Consett still have a chance of coming up on the rails for the promotion play-off spot after winning 39-24 at Stockton.
The patched-up hosts trailed by only three points with ten minutes left but Consett pulled away through two tries and a conversion.
Jeremy Good kicked four penalties and a conversion for Stockton, while their tries were scored by Jonny Cheetham and Steve Tampin.
Darlington won 38-13 at home to Bishop Auckland, for whom two former Darlington juniors were prominent in fly half Tim Tombling and No 8 Mike Ross.
Tombling rewarded early Bishops pressure with a penalty from just inside halfway and later scored an invidiual try to make the score 8-8 before Darlington pulled away.
After Nick Baldwin kicked a penalty, pressure from the home pack brought a try for hooker Rob Goddard and towards the end of the first half they scored excellent tries through centre Adam Gardner and scrum half Mark Baldwin, which was brilliantly set up by Sam Hardy.
Darlington weathered ten minutes of pressure at the start of the second half before prop Dan Miller grabbed their fourth try. Bishops replied with a breakaway score before Mark Baldwin finished off a forward drive and his brother Nick converted.