Durham 2nd XV vs Manchester 1st XV – 31-24

By Eamonn O'Muiri

 

Durham 2nd XV kicked off their season with a thriller against Manchester 1st XV, winning 31-24 despite going into the break 19 points down.

Having won the first contest for the ball at kick off, two quick phases from the pack and some wonderful handling in the backs sent George Trick over in the corner in the first play of the game. A missed conversion from fly half Henry Slater kept the score at 5-0 to the home side. It would get no better in a first half that was littered with wayward passing. On top of that, defensive lapses gifted the away side three tries. The first came from an intercepted pass inside the Manchester 22. The second saw some quick thinking as, whilst the pack prepared for an expected 5-meter scrum, the Manchester wing tapped at the 22-drop out and ran the length of the pitch past a bewildered Durham defence. A third try stretched Manchester’s lead to 24-6 at half-time, leaving Durham 2nd XV with plenty of work to do.

In the 2nd half, no doubt riled by their first half display, Durham fought back with tenacity and increased precision. Slater pinned Manchester inside their 22 with an exhibition in kicking from the hands. This pressure, combined with powerful driving runs from Tom Grant and Will Percival, carried Durham forward until Elliot Blenkhorn saw Durham surge over to begin the comeback.

Quick footwork from centres Fraser Mosley and Tom McClean built further momentum against an organized Manchester defence, with Mosley eventually breaking through to continue a rousing second half performance. More good work from Slater and scrum-half Jake Squirrel had the pack working hard until Harri Thomas finished off the comeback, touching down in the left corner.

The drama was far from over as Durham looked to hold onto their hard-earned lead. In a tense final ten minutes, Manchester dominated possession and fought hard for an opportunity. However, captain Elliott Husband rallied the Durham troops and with added impetus from fresh substitutions, the home side remained resilient and secured victory at the Racecourse in their first fixture of the season.

Photograph: Eamonn O’Muiri

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