SEAHAM maintained top spot in Durham and Northumberland Division Three with a 27-10 derby win at Houghton.
From the start, both sides negated each other’s attacking efforts with some bone-crunching tackling.
Seaham’s forwards attempted to bulldoze their way to the try line but were held at bay, and sometimes driven back, by some heavy hits.
Houghton countered well with some excellent kicking earning them good territory.
The hosts’ pressure paid off in the fourth minute when they formed a ruck just outside of the Seaham 22 and one of the Reds’ front row failed to roll away.
The penalty was slotted and Houghton took an early 3-0 lead.
The hosts enjoyed a prolonged period of possession and worked the phases well. They won another penalty after a Seaham forward was spotted handling in a ruck, but this time the kick drifted wide.
Seaham tied the scores on 16 minutes when one of the Houghton forwards handled in a ruck 30 metres in front of the posts, and full-back Glen Hardie slotted home.
Houghton had a chance to retake the lead within two minutes after prop Jonny Martin went over the top at a ruck and conceded a penalty. Luckily for the visitors, the kick was missed.
Seaham took the lead on 26 minutes when Jack McCallum took a Brad Green pass in midfield and tore through a gap. With a big tackle looming, he cleverly kicked into the Houghton 22 and followed up, supported by Graham Aldus.
One of the home defenders managed to fumble the ball and young McCallum deftly fly-hacked over the line and pounced for his fifth try of the season. Hardie missed the conversion.
The visitors’ joy was turned to misery within two minutes of going ahead when winger Joey Jones aggravated an old ankle injury and was forced to leave the field. He was replaced by Andy Short.
Houghton piled the pressure on leading up to the interval and worked their way into Seaham’s half.
They earned a penalty when Seaham strayed offside and attempted to take a quick tap. Having made little attempt to retreat 10 metres, John Dawson interfered with play and was shown a yellow card before the half-time whistle.
Seaham managed to weather the storm in Dawson’s absence, with Grant Dixon showing his versatility by slotting into the front row between Jonny Martin and Gary Lynn.
Houghton maintained a high tempo and their lively three-quarters were always a threat. Their efforts were rewarded on 52 minutes when their forwards and backs interchanged well to cross for a try near the posts. The conversion was added and they regained the lead at 10-8.
Seaham’s coaching staff decided to make a tactical change and Barry Siddle entered the front row at Lynn’s expense. In spite of the changes, it was business as usual for the Harbour front five and they shunted Houghton off their own scrum five metres out.
Ryan Pink broke away and drove over the line, with Hardie’s conversion taking Seaham 15-10 ahead with 55 minutes played.
Four minutes later, Seaham stretched their lead when they turned the ball over in midfield.
The ball was spun right and big winger Andy Short raced 40 metres to touch down. Hardie missed a difficult conversion attempt but the visitors now had the luxury of a ten-point lead at 20-10.
Player-coach Jon Dye left the field on 65 minutes and Graeme Steel replaced him. The replacement made several excellent clearances under pressure but almost came a cropper when he swung a kick at a loose ball and missed completely.
Fortunately for Seaham, McCallum and Chris Bland were able to relieve the pressure and clear safely into touch.
The hosts were reduced to14 men on 72 minutes. McCallum broke downfield and a ruck was formed. Seaham’s pack attempted to win the ball but one of the Houghton second row prevented fair release and paid the ultimate penalty.
With victory all but in the bag, Seaham went in search of a try bonus point.
Their pressure forced Houghton into conceding a five-metre scrum and the Harbour pack once again drove them back at a rate of knots.
Pink looked set to score a pushover try but one of the Houghton back row kicked the ball from the base of the scrum. The referee awarded a penalty try and Seaham had their bonus point.
Hardie’s conversion then stretched the margin of victory to 17 points.