By Nick Friend
In arguably the day’s most exciting contest, Castle and Derwent went head-to-head in an almighty tussle for glory on the Old Crumb. While the howling winds did not allow either side to show off their best fast flowing rugby, there was no questioning the commitment or enterprise of either side.
Castle started poorly, with countless handling errors putting needless pressure upon themselves. With that in mind, it was no surprise when Derwent’s big second rower bulldozed his way through two Durham tackles before offloading to his winger to touch down in the corner. A successful conversion sent the travelling York fans on the sidelines into raptures.
Despite being the recipients of numerous favourable penalty decisions, Castle were unable to take advantage. Ed Thomas struggled to find touch with his punts as the wind continued to make a nuisance of itself. However, as the first half continued, Castle began to improve. Only a superb last-ditch tackle sending Callum Bain into touch prevented an equalising try. Without seven regular starters, the Durham side were beginning to build up ahead of steam.
Indeed, the sustained pressure finally paid off as captain Barney Jeffcoat Dick overpowered Derwent’s weak centre to burst through and score. Parity was short-lived, however, as Derwent’s backs showed off a rare moment of quality in a rugged and scrappy first half. A dummy from the outside-centre was followed by a subtle offload into an inside runner whose pace took him beyond Castle’s defensive line. The conversion was shanked horribly by Derwent’s increasingly sloppy goal-kicker.
The York side seemed to put the game out of Castle’s reach with the very next attack. Having soaked up ten minutes of Durham pressure, the dangerous left wing broke clear in the last minute of the half. He touched down under the posts to shock the hosts. The damage would have been worse but for another poor conversion – the kicker not the only player to be affected by the gale-like breeze.
The second half saw more of the same as Derwent appeared content to sit on their lead and rely on their resolute defence. However, hooker Gus Woolley drove over to reduce the deficit to just three points. And minutes later, Callum Bain completed the turnaround with a carbon copy of Woolley’s try. This time, though, Thomas couldn’t add the extra two points.
With the clock ticking down, there was still time for more drama in this terrific match. Woolley, whose try had sparked the comeback, was sinbinned during the final ten minutes, leaving Castle to defy huge York pressure.
The referee’s whistle sparked jubilation on the touchline as Castle celebrated a hard-fought win against a very impressive Derwent outfit.
Photographs: James Boobier