By JUST H JOHNSON
Road to Twickers.
Fresh from their Hambleton Team of the Year award at Northallerton Forum on Tuesday 6th November, Northallerton first team bounced back to winning ways with a comprehensive 36-0 home win over visitors Whitley Bay Rockliff in the Senior Vase National Cup. This cup competition culminates with the final at Twickenham in May, in which North were runners up in 2015.
North welcomed back youngster Jed Bainbridge after his four month tour of the outback - which makes him the most/only experienced Antipodean in the club!
But North were without prop big Joe Osleton, who had opted to go Christmas shopping down south with his wife.
North started the game on the front foot and with only four minutes on the clock, the travelling Romani gypsy, Ashley Rio executed the perfect drop goal to give North a three point lead.
Five minutes later North doubled their lead with a penalty, again from the trusty boot of Rio.
Despite Norths early domination Rockliff did not let their spirits drop but instead rallied to match Norths physicality for the next twenty minutes.
On the half hour mark North suffered a big loss with Iain Swall being withdrawn due to an injury, after six minutes of playing with 14 men, North eventually replaced Swall with the more than adequate criminal catching Alex Bilby.
North missed a difficult penalty soon after, but came back with a try from the effervescent Sam Taylor who was barely recognise-able without his usual strapping and bandages. The try was created via some precise and dynamic passing through the backs assisted by the flair and vision of Rio.
Five minutes from half time scrum half Jed Bainbridge was yellow carded for deliberate offside while defending his own try line. With the man advantage, Rockcliff kept the home team pressed back in their own 22, but could find no way through Norths solid defence. Half time 13-0.
The second half was a more action packed encounter but unfortunately for Rockliff they could only manage sporadic bursts of pressure while Norths was more constant and ground the opposition down.
Five minutes into the second half North were awarded a scrum forty metres from the visitors try line in a seemingly unimposing position. However, number eight James Hopkin picked the ball up from the back of the scrum, like a slice of pepperoni pizza that he was never going to share, and galloped all the way to the line for a converted try.
Ten minutes after the joy of a try, Hopkin was brought back down to Earth when was surprisingly yellow carded for what some would say was a minor infringement.
Despite being down to 14 men North added another score when they stole a Rockliff lineout before releasing Phil Swall to score in the corner. The conversion attempt from Rio drifting just wide.
Rio made up for his errant conversion attempt with two successful penalties in the space of five minutes to put North thirty one points in front.
With the last play of the game North again produced their well worked catch and drive technique that created space for Swall to showcase his amazing turn of speed of 5 yards and go over for his second try of the game.
The game tactics were a surprising but welcome change to recent weeks and show North have the skill and variety to mix it up with a drop goal, penalties, backs tries (I count Hoppy as a back) and forwards tries.
Man of the match was awarded to Ashley Rio who seems to have returned to his form of earlier in the season.
Next week North resume league action against third placed Goole with a 2.15pm kick off, which promises to be another tough encounter.
Again Northallerton second team were without a game but will hopefully have their fixture away to Bradford and Bingley confirmed during the week.