Ashington 12 Whitley Bay Rockcliff 67
By Gavin Donnelly
Revenge is a dish best served with a good thrashing
Rockcliff got their Durham and Northumberland Division 2 campaign off to a great start with a ten try romp at Ashington in coach Darren Cunningham's first league game in charge. Craig Hamilton and Connor Madden also made their league debuts on the pitch.
An early wayward pass lead to an interception try and conversion to give Ashington a 7-0 lead, but a quick response saw winger Ryan Rapello cross for his first of a hat trick of tries and 7-5. Moments later a great line break from flanker Matthew Bradley created the space for Rapello to score his second, converted, to put Rockcliff 12-7 up.
Rapello was on fire and another great break saw him bounce through three tackles to put centre Dan O'Sullivan through to score, again converted for a twelve point lead at 19-7. It was one way traffic, with the Red and Golds camped in the home 22, eventually leading to Rapello scoring his hat trick try, again converted, and a penalty, slotted home by number 10 Michael Hansen, for 29-7 at the break.
The second half started with Ashington taking advantage of a Rockcliff knock on to score a simple, unconverted, try, but after that Rockcliff resumed the pressure, and winger Connor Madden scored a debut try in the corner, taking the score to 34-12. Lock Craig Hamilton then stormed through the home defence, sending scrum half David Neasham in for 39-12. Hooker Mal Donald then charged up the middle of the park, offloading to Harry Ramage who stepped the full back to score, converted by Hansen and 46-12 . Backs and forwards then combined as winger Charlie Muzzlewhite broke away, feeding the ball in to scrum half Neasham, who popped the ball on to back row Rob Hamilton who scored, again converted by Hansen, to take Rockcliff's score over the 50 point mark.
O'Sullivan then scored his second try of the game, jinking though from twenty metres out, converted by Hansen for 60-12. O'Sullivan then set up the final try of the game, sending Madden through into the corner for his second of the match, converted by Rhys Johnstone for 67-12.
This was a good all round performance from Rockcliff, with a mobile pack supporting a creative, attacking back line. Despite the score, the most pleasing factor for the coaches was the penalty count, with Rockcliff only conceding five penalties all game.
Next week Rockcliff face Winlaton at home at Hillheads, kick off 3.00pm.