Staffordshire travelled north to play County Durham on Saturday at Hollow drift, home of Durham City RUFC, but couldn’t sustain a winning run, losing out to a talented Durham side that has now won both its group games with one more to play.
A couple of changes saw Staffs bring in players from Walsall (George Perkins) and Lichfield (Tom Gibbs) adding to the 10 from Burton, 4 from Stoke, 2 each from Derby and Wolverhampton and 1 each from Leek and Ashbourne.
On a warm afternoon, Staffs started brightly and scored their opening try on 8 minutes when Alex Nesbitt charged down a clearance kicked, gathered the ball and sprinted into the left corner. Jamie Dutton added the conversion and Staffs led 0-7.
The next 30 minutes however proved crucial to the game’s outcome as Durham scored 6 tries and 36 points without reply as missed tackles and 2 yellows proved the visitors’ undoing.
On 13 minutes, the outside centre went over as he powered through the Staffs defence followed 4 minutes later with a forward drive to the line by the posts. Staffs players were getting frustrated as they made a couple of mistakes and a 3rd try by the fly half on 19 minutes put the score at 19-7.
Staffs then got hold of the ball and were forcing Durham to defend near to their own line when Staffs were penalised. Chaz Bunting was yellow carded on 23 minutes for back chat and Durham then put a move together which saw the left-wing score on 25 minutes. At the conversion, John Kirwan was yellow carded for something said to the assistant referee and the misery was compounded by two further tries for Durham on 33 and 39 minutes to leave the visitors reeling and trailing as the half completed at 36-7.
Coach, Tom Hughes worked his magic at half time and Staffs won the 2nd half scoring 3 further tries to Durham’s 2.
First, wing Will Sant sprinted in with 3 minutes played of the 2nd half after good work by the backs on the right. Dutton converted to close the lead to 36-14 and then on 50 minutes Tommy Collingwood was a try scorer as Staffs mauled their way over the line following a lineout. Dutton converted again and at 36-21, the home side may have felt uncomfortable for a time. The next score was crucial, and it went to the home side on 57 minutes. 41-21, but Staffs hit back with their 4th and bonus point try on 69 minutes when Tommy Collingwood went over again in a carbon copy of his first try at the back of a well organised maul. Dutton kicked his 4th conversion, and it was 41-28 with 10 minutes to go.
Staffs couldn’t quite dominate enough of the ball to create enough chances and the final score went to Durham on 75 minutes as the No.8 powered over. The conversion was good, and the game finished with Staffs in the Durham 22 but unable to convert territory into points.
Final score Durham 48-28 Staffordshire
Durham’s win means they have 10 points from their 2 home games and travel to Aspatria on Saturday to face Cumbria who won at Morpeth 29-31 against Northumberland. Cumbria and Staffs sit on 6 points each, separated by points difference only and so 2nd place is up for grabs and a potential best runner up spot of the 3 groups at Division 2 level, which could mean a semi-final place.
All to play for then on Saturday May 20th with Staffs hosting Northumberland at Stoke RUFC. Kick-off is at 3pm. Entry is free, and we hope you can get along to support your county team.