IT was ‘derby’ day at Belmangate as Guisborough entertained near neighbours, Middlesbrough, in spring-like conditions.

Late changes to the front row, and in the backs, did not deter the home team entering the pitch in a confident mood, hoping to claim that elusive first win of the season.

Guisborough kicked off, attacking the club-end of the pitch and were immediately awarded a penalty 30 metres from goal. Joe Whyman stepped up and confidently gave his team an early 3 points lead. Middlesbrough soon showed that they had plenty of power in the pack, as they dominated the early scrums. From one such set-piece they were awarded a penalty which was kicked to touch inside the hosts’ half.

From the line-out, the ball was passed along the Middlesbrough back division to Peter Homan. His arcing run took him wide before he stepped inside, wrong-footing the home team defence, allowing him to score a fine try under the posts. Matthew Todd added the conversion. This was followed by a period of pressure from the home team but resilient defence from Middlesbrough kept them out. Guisborough pressed again and enjoyed a spell of pressure in the Middlesbrough half. From a scrum, Phil Shields combined with Mark Ferguson to attack along the left wing. Halted 5 metres short, the home team forwards piled forward, but the ball was knocked on just short of the whitewash.

Both defences were keeping scoring opportunities to a minimum, but from a turnover at a ruck situation Middlesbrough increased their lead. Winning possession, a swift attack along the right wing was switched into midfield. Yards were gained and defenders sucked in before a pass to the left wing saw Middlesbrough’s Harry Bryce dive over to score in the corner. The conversion was missed to make it 3-12.

Not letting their heads drop, Guisborough continued to show their attacking capabilities. Ryan Mitchell broke clear from a ruck before off-loading to Shields. Middlesbrough were penalised for a high tackle and the penalty was kicked to touch to within 5 metres of the try-line. A catch and drive from the line-out saw Michael Henderson bulldoze over the line to touch down, but the referee indicated a double movement and awarded a penalty to the Boro.

With the majority of play in their opponents’ half, Guisborough were eventually handed another scoring opportunity when they were awarded a penalty on the 22 metre line, following an infringement at the breakdown. Whyman stepped up to convert the kick, reducing his team’s deficit to one score. Both teams were trying to play open rugby and with one last attack by Middlesbrough into the Guisborough 22, the home team defence held out and the referee brought the first half to an end with the scoreboard reading: Guisborough 6 points, Middlesbrough 12 points.

During the early stages of the second half, Whyman’s kick behind the Middlesbrough defence was ushered into touch with Alex Ruff applying pressure. A moment of indiscipline with the ball not in play, gave Guisborough a penalty on the away team 22. Whyman stepped up again, and was successful with his third kick of the game.

Dominating a period of play, Guisborough stormed back upfield to take the lead. Ferguson collected a kick in his own half and charged forward. Oli Muir continued momentum, brushing aside tackles before offloading to Whyman. Taking play to the half-way line, the stand-off drew a Middlesbrough defender towards him and then passed to Lewis Robson. Still with plenty to do, the youngster had enough fuel in his legs to touch down next to the posts with the opposition defence closing in on him. Whyman continued his 100% success rate with his kicks.

Stung into action, Middlesbrough came back into the game. A strong run by their second row Richie Lonsdale took play into the Guisborough 22. However, a great tackle by PJ Finken-Hayes brought him down and Matty Storey won turnover ball and the danger was cleared. It was not long though, before the visitors regained the lead. A high tackle was penalised allowing Middlesbrough to kick to touch inside the hosts’ 22. A catch and drive took play towards the Guisborough try-line, before the forwards tried to power over. Held up by some staunch defending, the ball was passed wide to the right wing, where Andy Micklewright dived over to score in the corner. The difficult conversion reached its target to make it 16-19 to Middlesbrough.

From the re-start Rob Leggott climbed highest to win possession for his team. The ball reached Whyman who burst through the midfield. Richard Cahill and Michael McDougall took play up to and over the try-line, but the ball was held up. However, a penalty had been spotted in front of the posts, which Whyman successfully kicked to bring the scores level. Both teams went for victory in the closing stages. Middlesbrough attacked inside the Guisborough 22, but Storey showed strength at the ruck to win possession back for his team and the danger was cleared. The game switched to the other end of the pitch. As the visitors ran the ball out of their 22, Guisborough counter-rucked through Liam Corcoran and were then awarded a penalty. Electing to kick at goal, Whyman’s effort went just wide of the right post.

Middlesbrough had not taken note of the dangers of counter-attacking though. In the dying seconds Guisborough were awarded a penalty which they attempted to kick for the win, alas, this fell short and with one final attempt the Boro lads tried to go all out for the victory. In a final twist as they did so, Guisborough won the turnover ball. McDougall, Storey and Corcoran took play into Boro’s 22, before an inside pass to the supporting Robson, saw the scrum-half break a tackle and score under the posts to claim his second try of the game. Whyman’s successful conversion brought the game to an end with the scoreboard reading: Guisborough 26 points, Middlesbrough 19 points.

Both teams played their part in a highly entertaining game. Lewis Robson and Joe Whyman did well to score, but the excellent defence work by Guisborough nullified Middlesbrough’s strong-running back division. Tomorrow’s game for Guisborough is away at 2nd placed Heath and will be a difficult challenge but with the spirit Guisborough should do well.