Panthers 10 v 21 West End. Match report: Rob Richardson.
Recent weeks have seen Coach Huw call for discipline before games as many have slipped by the way as we are refereed off the park. This message needs a few more weeks to sink in given this performance. If he also has any lessons in punctuality they wouldn’t go a miss.
At 5 o’clock on Friday we had 24 players and having to turn people away. At 5 to 3 on Saturday we had 15! However even with Jordan Brown swapping the front row for the centre we still looked the younger and fitter squad. West End had early dominance in the scrum leading to possession and an early try. But hard running and tackling, in particular from Brown & Nathan Williams turned the tide allowing the Panthers an unsuccessful shot at the post. Pressure told and Alex Turnbull was released on a Lomu type rampage over the West End defence - he eventually finished in the corner 5-7. Pace and power was the way to go and late arrival Arthur Thorpe subbed onto the wing and scrambled over on the half hour mark 10-7. There was one more chance toward the end of the half and if Williams had only spotted a flying Josh Vince-Erwin earlier there would have been a bigger margin at half time.
As the second half kicked off the game ebbed and flowed and the Panthers slowly annoyed the ref more and more and we were marched back further and further. Although the yellow card for Lloyd Holmes was harsh the one for Dave Lockhart was obvious. They are laws not rules as a not very wise man once told me, the ref and Northern defiantly had a differing of opinion on how they should be applied on the day! Although defence was stout till the end giving up at least 50 meters in back chat will get you nowhere and West End converted two tries in the final minutes.
Tries: Alex Turnbull, Arthur Thorpe
MoM: Nick White (a force in the lineout)
MoS: Nathan Williams
DoD: Dave Lockhart
Percy Park Pumas 10 – 49 Northern Panthers. Match report by Dean Gray.
A glorious autumnal day saw Northern Panthers make the short trip to the coast to play Percy Park Pumas in the Quarter Final of the Third Team County Cup.
A young squad of predominantly first year University students, ably marshalled by Jack Swain (unfortunately out for the rest of the season with injury but acting as a very effective adjutant) were complemented by a number of "old stagers" such as Neil Carter (in his first game in three years), Ian Brierley, Deano Laws, Tom Sealby, Richard Fullerton alongside "new stagers" Alex Hale, Matty Gordon, Ant Baird and the returnee from climes abroad, Adam Mohammed.
Playing into a strong wind in the first half, Northern showed their attacking credentials early on by moving the ball at every possible opportunity. This also had the effect of quickly tiring a very large but somewhat restricted Park pack and this strategy, combined with a shrewd kicking game ably executed by Matty Gordon and Tom "Cabbage" Boag, when appropriate, meant that Northern dominated, despite conditions being against us. Within thirty three minutes Ian Brierley had scored a hat trick of tries, the pick of the bunch being from an off the top line out on five metres and a long pass to midfield to find "Bear" on a classic out to in line to cut straight through the Percy park defensive line and dot down to the side of the posts. James Allison bagged another fine try sandwiched in between Ian's efforts and a thoroughly satisfying first half ended, with Park eventually using the strong wind to play a territorial game to gain a single try despite manful defence by everyone wearing a white Northern shirt. At half time the score stood at 5-26 with the wind in Northern's favour in the second half.
The wise (?) words of coaches Gray and Reynolds (who came to support coach Gray despite being loaded with cold) were in essence simple- first of all to maintain the high tempo that had reaped such benefits already, to score first in this period and last, to use the wind with no more than two phases of two passes each before "going downtown." Matty Gordon and Tom Boag both executed this strategy and that territorial game, coupled with some slick handling led to the team scoring a further four tries in the second half with Percy Park not being able to answer with a single point. The try scorers were Ant Baird (having his best game in a Northern shirt for a while), followed by students, Paddy Keetley, Ashley Wilde and Alex Hotchkiess, some of the latter tries showing deft offloading skills as confidence reached its zenith.
Final score Northern 49 - Percy Park 10 (they were allocated another try by a miscount- which it would seem churlish to deny them).
I have highlighted some players above but in truth this was a superb team performance across the board, from Deano stepping up to play seventy minutes in the front row to give some heft to the scrum- leading to a smaller Northern pack matching and eventually edging a much bigger one- to a lineout that functioned nigh on perfectly (bar one throw in) with Alex and Tom dominant in the air and hooker James Allison pinpoint in his accuracy, some real grit, determination and physicality across all fifteen players in the collision, meaning that defensively the squad was extremely sold and well executed attacking options across the board, with pace all-round the team especially through our wide men, Dan Stalmeister and Ashley Wilde (being asked to play out of position on the wing). Malachy Kinder (still learning the laws from rugby league), Luke Bell, Richard Fullerton and Alex Hotchkiess worked tirelessly in the back row stemming close quarter attack after attack from Park's big beasts and Neil Carter, mostly ably supported by the always reliable Paddy Keetley, ran his honest and straight lines once again to give a focal point in attack and quick front-foot ball whenever possible. Adam Mohammed's reappearance after four months of absence (I think about a stone a month Adam?) was extremely welcome, and despite being shy of match fitness, showed what a good athlete he is and what soft hands he has. The team was also excellently captained by Rob Thompson, who not only put a "shift" in as always but led the boys with his usual quiet confidence and unflappable authority
All in all a good day at the office!
The only slight blot on the old copy book was that we conceded far too many penalties, often for silly offences on the ground, which led to two yellow cards. This is an area we need to vigilant about and get the penalty count into the very low teens or single figures for the next game up- Ponteland II's in the Semi Final of the County Cup in a fortnight.
I would hope to keep a very similar squad together for this game - which promises to be an absolute corker.
Panthers won 13 – 10 at home to Sunderland IIs. Match report thanks to Dean Gray:
Northern Panthers, ranks swollen to eighteen players by the introduction of Northumbria students and three players from the Army encouraged to come down by Jacob Barr, played Sunderland II's on Sat at home in an Aln League game. Deano Laws also supplied the Panthers with a couple of experienced front rowers from the Wanderers in Big Dave Lockhart and Jordan Brown which meant that the game could have contested scrummages.
Northern set off brightly controlling the ball and looking dangerous in their speedy backs when the ball went into the wider channels with Sunderland determined to play a tighter game and use their greater physicality closer to the breakdown. The first try on 28 minutes of an evenly contested game came courtesy of a pick up and run on the blind side of a scrummage five metres from the Sunderland try line, after they had made a mess of clearing their lines, by no-8 Ollie Dykes, who timed his run to perfection to go over the whitewash unchallenged and who once again impressed with his overall game play, running lines and work ethic. The conversion was missed by fly half Vince Lung.
Northern manufactured a number of other opportunities in the first half but accuracy in the final pass meant that no further tries came for the home team, while Sunderland scored with five minutes of the half remaining from a forward drive, which meant, as they missed the conversion, that the scores were tied at 5-5 at the interval.
The half time team talk from coach Gray and motivational Captain Rob Thomson, consisted very much of "more of the same but with a higher tempo and more accuracy" but a frustrating second half meant that, although Northern were to score another try first, from a delicate chip ahead from Olly Dykes on the hour mark, well taken and superbly finished by replacement centre Angus Thomson, in his first game for the club, the conversion being missed by Lung, the Panthers found it difficult to build a lead that would have taken the game away from a Sunderland team that battled until the end.
Jordan Brown, who led by example all afternoon, took over the kicking duties on the 63rd minutes and slotted a sweet penalty from 35 meters to give Northern what would prove to be a vital cushion;- 13-5 to the home team. Sunderland responded well and scored an unconverted try on 73 minutes, which set up a fascinating denouement in which the visitors worked their way down to and proceeded to pound the Panthers try line for the last three minutes of the 80, remorselessly. It is enormously to this young side’s credit that they held out and despite conceding one penalty which Sunderland could have kicked for a draw and instead tapped and went, focussed on the job at hand, making a series of committed tackles on the more robust Sunderland ball carriers which eventually led to the ball squirting out of the contact and being joyfully hoofed off the field. Final score- Northern Panthers 13- Sunderland II's- 10.
Special mention must be made of Kain Appleby - Rutter at nine who was instrumental in keeping the high tempo intensity coach Gray wanted the side to have by taking quick tap penalties when the opportunity arose and exploring space around the fringes of the breakdown. He also led the tackle count and for the smallest player on the field was the most effective tackler, simply because he targets the legs of bigger players and gets them to ground quickly.
Thanks also to Big Dave- who sold one dummy on the Sunderland left winger that was even bought by people on the clubhouse balcony two hundred metres away- who had worked exceptionally hard before having to leave the field of play after an hour due to back issues, meaning that the scrums had to go uncontested.
Of the student/ Army contingent, new boy Faham played a huge role around the breakdown, carrying well and tackling effectively and Patrick Keetley playing at 12 and Vince Lung at 10 also both had accomplished games and the forwards went toe to toe with a gnarly old Sunderland outfit throughout the eighty.
Overall though, this was an outstanding team effort from a young side that showed enough grit, resolve and determination not to buckle in the face of strong onslaught from a powerful Sunderland team and hold on for a very good win.
Bolstered by a large influx of 1st year students from Northumbria University, Northern Panthers were able to take the field of play on Saturday against a strong Alnwick III's team with a full team and five subs. Although the Panthers were well beaten with a final score of 7 points to 50, coaches Gray and Sealby (a big thank you to Tom for stepping so easily into a forwards coaching / managing role on the day) were enormously heartened by the positive attitude shown by Panthers Captain Rob Thomson and regular Panthers players Dan Coates, Olly Dykes, Dave Lockhart, Dom Agnew and Jacob Barr (who brought two army mates along as well) and the way they integrated with the Northumbria boys. There is a huge amount of potential going forward with these young University players -who are all far better behaved and polite than I was at their age!
Given Alnwick's greater physicality and cohesion as a squad of players this game was always going to be a difficult one- but it would certainly have been closer but for some unfortunate refereeing decisions which deprived the Panthers of two tries. Firstly, the referee calling play back for an injury to an Alnwick player - who didn't need treatment-when the Panthers had worked a five on two overlap deep in the Alnwick 22 and the try line was beckoning invitingly, and then later in the second half when Dan Coates had driven hard to within two metres of the whitewash, an Alnwick player wasn't pinged for not rolling away and Alnwick turned the ball over to go the length of the pitch to score under the posts - the two incidents combining to effect a 19 points plus turnover.
The try Northern scored was a blind-side move from depth, well executed and quite magnificently finished with a swan dive even Chris Ashton would have been proud of (see photos on Northern Panthers F/book page) and showed what this young team could do with ball in hand when the opportunity arose.
As most of the players are new to each other (and the coaches) it will take a little time for this team to gel together effectively, learning the patterns and structures necessary to win games, as well as coming to terms with the physicality that this level of club rugby entails, but the omens are good that the building blocks are firmly in place to start those processes.
Panthers won 34 - 5 at home to Bainbridge RFC tourists from Ulster - Match report thanks to Richard Moffat.
Thank you to all those players that turned out for the hybrid Wanderers/Panthers team yesterday against Banbridge RFC, a touring side from Ireland, who all fell over from the k.o. to allow Neil Graham to run in an easy try and convert, but once they decided to play rugby, were NO mugs.
It was a beautiful day for rugby.
The attitude and commitment shown in defence throughout the game was exemplary. We were under immense pressure near to our own line on several occasions but managed to break away and score twice through James Pattison (JP) and James Turvill. So to concede only one try was very impressive, and bodes well for the season ahead, if that attitude is maintained.
I am loathe to mention 'names' as it was essentially a fantastic team performance with everyone playing for each other.
Having said that, Nathan Williams led by example in defence closely followed by captain Rob Richardson both of whom pulled off some fantastic tackles (and scored 2nd half tries), and the former stopping a seemingly certain try against us by 'steeling' ( get it - spelling mistake on purpose ) the ball as Banbridge was about to score.
I was also hugely impressed with the new guys Kane Appleby-Rutter, Josh on the wing who bagged a try late in a reduced 2nd half (with pace), James at 13 and Chris Malleyon the other wing.
When we did attack we did so well with good hands at outside centre, when under a bit of pressure and in our own half - good rugby putting our pace men away. We can really work on this!!
Things to work on - Line-outs and Scrums - so not much there then…..but we were a scratch side, so I can allow that…. for now.
Having said that the pack did put in a very good shift, particularly in defence - and it was a fantastic workout.
Also, the offload was on, on more than one occasion and we went into contact instead (you know who you are) - but as I say it is early days and we won.
A few lessons were learned - taking ball back to touch down behind own line - no names here…. just initials JP - but a lesson learned.
Congratulations to “Big Dave” for being nominated by the Irish lads as Man of the Match. Well done Dave Lockheart.
Things will be different next week no doubt for the Panther’s first league game, but with a few players to return if the same attitude is shown, players will actually be playing for their places.