The First XV hosted Richmondshire, a strong rival as the other team who ascended into Durham and Northumberland 2 this season and the only team to beat Aycliffe last year. Despite still missing several key players, Aycliffe were able to field another strong squad.
It looked set to be a long day for the home side, when, almost straight from their kick off, the visitors regained possession, worked the ball wide and despite a ferocious defensive effort led by Luke Tinkler, crossed for the first try on two minutes.
Aycliffe knew they would have to make good on this initial error, and just three minutes later, they forced a penalty in the Richmondshire twenty-two, Captain Alex Lineton stepping up to continue his fine kicking form and taking Aycliffe back within two points. From receiving the kick off, Aycliffe set clear phases through the forward pack, with Vice-Captain Luke Harty and loose-head prop Jamie Whelan leading the way with powerful carries, before releasing the backline, allowing wing Jon McGuigan to cut back inside, crossing on nine minutes, converted by Lineton.
Aycliffe continued to press into the Richmond half, with a phenomenal attacking effort, led by openside Matthew Wiper, again the pressure told, and an infringement gave the home side the penalty, again slotted by Lineton. Following the restart, Aycliffe again forged forward, carrying hard with back rowers Warren Parsonage and Malcolm Woodward both making their presence felt. The next try came from the third of the loose trio, Matthew Wiper again hitting an excellent line to cut through, converted by Lineton to take the home side fifteen points to the good.
Following the restart, Aycliffe again put the visitors under pressure, with the centres Lewis Stephens and James Thacker linking up well with full back Luke Tinkler, putting the defence under pressure and forcing the infringement, which was again turned into three points by Lineton. Aycliffe then found themselves under unfamiliar pressure, with the visitors making good headway downfield. The defensive effort was huge, stopping the advance just short of the line, however, following movement in the ruck, Richmondshire we deemed to have crossed which was converted.
Aycliffe were quick to react, with strong work from the restart by the tight five working upfield before seeing tight-head Linden Dixon smash through three defenders to cross.
Half Time: Newton Aycliffe First XV 28 – 12 Richmondshire RFC
Aycliffe returned to the field with just one change, returning eightman Andrew Littlefair, who joined the fray, tackling and carrying from the off, and following more excellent team play, crossed on fifty-four minutes which was converted to take the home side into a healthy twenty-three point lead. The home side seemed to ease off following Littlefair’s try, and the visitors staged a strong comeback to score less than ten minutes later, working a 2 man overlap and cutting back inside to cross under the sticks, which was converted, taking them to nineteen.
It was the visitors who struck next, again breaking the defence, and despite a valiant effort, were deemed not to have been held up converted to bring them within nine points. It could have been closer, with another great ‘Shire backs move seeing their wing dive over, but fittingly a brave wrap tackle from Malcolm Woodward saw the try held up and the full time whistle blown.
Full Time: Newton Aycliffe First XV 35 – 26 Richmondshire RFC