19-34. Man of the match: Charlie Beachell (C)
Not even the brisk October weather could dampen pre-match spirits for the mighty 4s. A feeling of excitement accompanied the calls of “eyes-eyes-up” in the warmup as Mick put us through our paces.
On a day where a fast start was needed, the first 5 minutes saw Durham camped in the Newcastle 22, with fresher fly-half Will Edwards calling the shots. While pressure and territory mounted, a consistent high press from the Newcastle defence saw Durham return without points on this occasion. Newcastle then, armed with a number of high class weapons in their backline began to march up the field. While the Durham defence, led by a furiously blitzing Fergus Hamilton and strong tackling from a high calibre back row consisting of Ed Culliney, Fitz Harding and captain Charlie Beachell, was enough to keep Newcastle at bay temporarily, the pressure eventually told. A Newcastle penalty was kicked to touch and the the ensuing rolling maul was impossible to contain as the Newcastle winger and scrumhalf combined on the blind side for a simple 2 on 1 score. A Durham response was needed and captain Charlie continued to lead from the front with a series of mountain moving carries. As the game began to open up, Durham found more and more space in the wider areas with prop Alex Nikolatos combining with Ed to get Durham deep into the Newcastle 22 once again. Yet again, Durham were unable to come away with points and a sloppy turnover saw Newcastle exit with ease. Still very much in the game, Durham returned with the ball, carving through the Newcastle defence line, however, one pass too many saw a Newcastle player step up into our attacking line and intercept a pass, returning it for a score. A blow to morale, it was up to the captain and his right hand man, the Sun, to rally the troops as Charlie eloquently exclaimed “the suns out, lets have some joué.” Charlie’s words were music to the ears of the fleet footed backs such as James Otulakowski, Jacob Lineen and Matt Beese, who was clearly inspired as he responded with a large bosh on an unsuspecting Newcastle player. Following these strong words, not even Dean Elmore’s antics on the touchline could distract the Durham XV from their target as they set about an unlikely comeback. After a series of Newcastle errors and penalties Durham found themselves with a lineout on or near to the 5 metre line. A beautifully thrown dart and a good catch in the lineout, saw hooker Theo Lazarides holding the ball steadily at the back of a well crafted maul, over he went and the comeback had begun. Sadly, following his try scoring heroics, it was at this point that Theo’s game was over as he showed signs of a concussion, prompting the introduction of Adam Mallinson, while Alex Nikolatos suffered a neck injury, allowing for the introduction of Jonathan Edes.
a Newcastle penalty and another Newcastle driving maul try left the score at an uncomfortable, but achievable, 20-7 at half-time.
A much stronger second half followed as Durham tries were scored by both Ed Culliney and the newly introduced Ben Scher, who’s direct running from 10 seemed to have turned the game in the latter stages. Sadly, Newcastle on this occasion had that little bit extra as they stretched their lead to 34-19. On another day it could have been a very different score, and the reality is that this will go down as a game that could have been won. Plenty of things to work on, but also many positives to take from a very close game