The freshers team travelled to Newcastle on Wednesday for their first away match of the season. Coached by Luke Chadwick, the team was nearly 30 strong complete with two full back lines and almost a second pack. After turning up at the wrong location and having to get back on the bus, the team arrived and completed a quick warm-up and soon the game was underway.
The initial 15 minutes were a game of attrition with both sides having decent periods of possession but being unable to convert that pressure into points. The Durham side showed creativity and structure but got turned over at the breakdown too often from holding on. The stalemate was soon broken though after Matt Bond crashed into the corner for the first try of the match. Good patience was shown as Durham kept the ball in the narrow channels, picking and going a few times before sending the ball wide to score in the corner. The third try came shortly after the second as Hugo Carter made a half break in behind the ruck and offloaded to Will Vardon who chipped ahead and beat the full back to the ball, and the fourth try swiftly followed after some slick hands by the backs.
Durham went into the halftime period 22-0 up after surviving a period of extensive pressure from Newcastle which almost culminated in a yellow card for the defending side. Instead, it ended with Durham turning over a Newcastle scrum for a penalty, showing complete pack dominance.
Newcastle started the second half on top and were soon on the front foot. They established an off-load game which enabled them to get in behind Durham’s defensive line and scatter a previously organised defence. Subsequently they scored 3 quick tries which brought the game to 22-19 roughly 15 minutes into the second half. However, with enough players for two teams and better fitness, Newcastle’s onslaught was halted after a penalty for holding on was conceded just inside the Durham half.
Durham soon got some possession after some words of wisdom from Tom Neden stopping the penalty from being taken quickly and instead kicked to the corner. Again Durham showed patience in the oppositions 22, applying consistent pressure which led to a few line breaks and eventually a try under the posts for an easy conversion and 7 points, taking the score to 29-22.
Newcastle then started their fight back but a strong and committed Durham defence kept them at bay. A few well placed kicks helped gain some more pitch territory and put pressure on the trailing Newcastle side. Durham always looked in control of the game, but lacked some clinical finishing to seal the deal. Newcastle eventually had a break through when the 9 slipped a tackle and slid through a gap next to the ruck, to score under the posts and take the game to 29-26. The game was set for a close finish, but Durham’s defence held and eventually the final whistle went after a failed chip and chase from Newcastle saw the ball being booted into touch. A good win for the freshers team.