Champions-elect Bishop Auckland were made to fight all the way for their 17-3 victory over a stubborn Seaham side in Durham and Northumberland Division Two on Saturday.
The game got off to a flying start with both sides looking to spread the ball wide.
Seaham drew first blood when pressure from their forwards caused Bishops to concede a penalty in their 22.
Brad Green attempted to take a quick tap, but was hampered by the visitors’ number 8. Full-back Glen Hardie stepped up and slotted the ball neatly through the posts for a 3-0 lead.
Seaham had an opportunity to double their lead in the 19th minute, when the visitors were penalised for holding on at the breakdown. Hardie once again struck the ball sweetly, but his attempt struck the upright.
The visitors opened their shortly after when they took advantage of a Seaham error.
With the ball kicked over his try line, Seaham’s Graeme Steel took a safe catch and ran over the dead ball line; thinking he had earned his team a 22-metre restart.
However, the referee awarded an attacking scrum to the visitors due to Steel failing to touch the ball down.
Bishops attempted a pushover try, but were held firm. The ball was then spun to the opposite flank and their left wing finished off the move with a try in the corner for a 5-3 advantage.
Within six minutes, Bishops had secured a second try when their right wing scythed through a gap to touch down near the posts. This time the conversion was successful and Bishop Auckland found themselves 12-3 ahead.
Both sides maintained a similar tempo following the break. Although they had their work cut out in the set scrums, Seaham props Jonny Martin and Gary Lynn made some strong runs with ball in hand.
The home lineout functioned much better than it had in previous weeks with Mick Bland and skipper Ben Bell providing a steady stream of possession against top quality opposition. A clever kick by Bishops’ fly-half took play deep into Seaham’s half and was cleared into touch.
A quick lineout was taken and the hosts were caught flat-footed as the visitors’ scrum half ran 40 metres to touch down for a third try.
The hosts maintained a good tempo as the game entered its final 15 minutes. Strong drives by James Ramshaw, Ryan Pink and Grant Dixon took them close to the Bishops’ line, but they were held at bay by a resolute defence.
H Horden moved up to sixth place in Durham and Northumberland One after beating promotion challengers Guisborough 39-27.
Craig Gilmour grabbed two pushover tries on the way to a memorable hat-trick, backed by Richie Thirkell, who scored after a clean take by Dan Palmer, and a penalty try. Andrew Turner added two penalties and four conversions.
Sunderland lost 61-14 at Ponteland to remain bottom.
H Houghton maintained their impressive form in Division Three by winning 43-12 at Newton Aycliffe, while Washington were beaten 54-5 at South Tyneside College.
H Durham City endured a nightmare 106-5 loss at Beverley in North One East.