Having been behind for most of the match a Will Hilditch try 5 minutes from time put us in the lead and we held on to claim the four points. The second half had been played out in increasingly wet conditions which made handling difficult but even before then we had looked off the pace and committed far too many handling errors.
Two early knock-ons gifted City field position and when we failed to clear the ball from the base of our own scrum the visitors took full advantage. A simple pass from fly-half Arnie Stevenson sent Bradley Pears away and he slipped a tackle to score.
Our response was immediate as we put together what would probably be our best passage of play in the match. We retained the ball through numerous phases and worked slowly upfield. The pressure finally told when Gav Painter ghosted through the City defensive line to score under the posts, converting himself.
We continued to dominate possession without really threatening to score and our best chance would ultimately lead to City going back in front. We worked some space on the left but the final pass was intercepted and only a good chase back from Eldon Myers prevented a length of the field try. Myers did have to concede a five metre scrum in the right corner and from it City moved the ball through the backs where opposite winger Garry Izomor got over the line despite the attention of two defenders.
An injury to Durham second row Alex Whitfield held up the game for a few minutes but referee Tom Hurdley was obviously enjoying his first trip to Brinkburn as 51 minutes rolled onto the watch before he blew the half time whistle. During that added time Izomor earned himself a yellow card for a dangerous tackle as we broke through.
As the rain arrived to make a mistake-ridden afternoon even tougher we didn’t make best use of the strong wind, blowing unusually up the pitch away from the clubhouse end. Our kicking was poor and when we did keep the ball in hand it was only a handful of phases before it went to ground.
Our best chance came midway through the half when carries from Sam Miller and Peter Youll got us deep into the 22 and with an overlap on the short side the ball was moved to Joe Willis who was taken out by a high tackle from the covering Izomor, right by the corner flag. It left referee Hurdley with decisions to make – without the high tackle a try was inevitable and Izomor had already had ten minutes in the sin-bin for a less dangerous tackle. In the end the Northumberland referee opted for just a penalty and we couldn’t take advantage, City clearing when we were penalised at the rolling maul.
With time running out we got the little bit of luck we needed to get back in the game. Aaron Myers, on as a half-time replacement, popped up in the centre and chipped through towards the goal line. Youll slid in with two defenders but none were able to collect and Hilditch was on hand to ground the loose ball, Painter adding the conversion.
City had a chance to respond in the closing minutes with a penalty kicked into the 22 but the resulting lineout was lost and with it went any hopes of salvaging the game. In an odd conclusion the visitors decided to settle for the losing bonus point and kicked the ball off the field when time expired.
The fact we were still able to win despite such a miserable afternoon is testament to the confidence the players have from this winning run but to keep it going we will have to play much better at Alnwick next week, although whatever happens we will remain top as the Northumbrians lost 22-20 at Pocklington.
West: Southern, Hilditch, E Myers, Youll, Willis, G Painter, R Painter, Hogan, Rollins, Coates, Boatman, Bunter, Barker, Maddison, Miller.
Reps: Edwards, Wood, A Myers
Tries: G Painter, Hilditch
Cons: G Painter 2
Durham City: Scott, Izomor, Pears, Buchan, White, Stevenson, Armstrong, Hay, Mackay, Lyall, Showler, Whitfield, Wilkinson, Dominick, Dent.
Reps: Holden, Hogg, Pratt
Try: Pears, Izomor
Referee: Tom Hurdley [Northumberland]