Derwent came agonisingly close to victory in a very tight match against Durham’s Castle College; a single conversion proved the difference in the end. The blustery conditions meant that kicking proved very difficult and resulted in a cagey match, dominated by the two packs, with the odd flash of brilliance from two talented back lines.
Derwent started the brighter of the two teams and were instantly on the attack. The pack were dominant, and used their driving maul from the lineout particularly effectively. It was this set piece move that resulted in Derwent’s first try, with Ben Bulbry crashing over from close range after five minutes.
However, despite this promising start, it was Castle that had the best of the next 35 minutes, gradually ramping up the pressure on the Derwent defence and forcing the visitors into drastic last ditch tackles. Robert Van Boornewaard, with perhaps the tackle of the match, prevented a certain try when he managed to just about drag the Castle Outside Centre into touch when he seemed all but home. This committed defending was typical, however, Derwent were largely helped by a Castle team that was very wasteful of the opportunities that were created. The defence was finally breached when Castle’s number 8 finished off a lengthy attack, and the following conversion brought the sides level.
Derwent hit back in the perfect fashion, scoring another two tries before half time, with free flowing backs moves. The first was spectacular; a 30 metre break from Van Boornewaard set up a solid platform for an outstanding interchange that saw Rory Mason and Josh Salter showcase some intricate handling in order to put Luca Illing through into the corner.
The second, though more simple, was just as decisive, with the Derwent midfield showing Castle how effective it is to do the simple things right. Tight running lines from the Derwent centres created space for Josh Salter to steam through from Full Back and dive for the line; a burst of pace and momentum that gave the Castle covering defenders no chance.
Whatever was said to the Castle boys at half time certainly invigorated them, resulting in far more focused and effective attacking play. Where in the first half their temperament was poor, they managed to keep ball in hand and profit from the tiring Derwent defence and a very favourable wind.
Derwent painstakingly tried to keep Castle from crossing the try line, with 1 to 15 all contributing powerful tackles and putting their bodies on the line. However, as the penalties mounted up against them for break down infringements they became more and more ragged. Two tries came in quick succession and decisively one was scored under the posts, providing an easy conversion, to make the score 19-17.
The final quarter of the match was scrappy, with Derwent so desperate to retaliate and reclaim their lead that the basic handling and rucking that they had managed to do so well in the first half fell by the wayside.
A ray of hope appeared when Castle were reduced to 14 men after their overly enthusiastic hooker hit Fly Half, Harry Walbaum, with a high and dangerous tackle, yet it proved inconsequential.
It was a sterling effort from the Derwent lads; a sentiment shared by captain Lawrence Walsh, who after the match was very proud of the effort his team put in, and was gracious enough to acknowledge the quality of the opposition.