With Newton Aycliffe 1st XV taking a league break, the club managed to rally The Newtonians to play at home against Stocktonians. It’s been over 2 years since the Newtonians last played. It was a delight to see several old boys come to play a fixture in decent conditions during the calm before storm Ciara was to arrive. It turned out when the rallying call went out a plethora of players became available. Once more the Aycliffe rugby fans turned out in numbers and gave great support to both teams throughout this friendly fixture.

Stockton were the first to score an unconverted try 0-5 (5 mins) whilst Aycliffe were still trying to settle themselves into the game. It was the large Aycliffe pack who decided to settle first and started to dominate the scrums. A surging forwards attack saw them awarded a scrum 5 metres from the try line. Aycliffe powerfully pushed over the line for No 8 Craig Holmes to touch down. Despite reasonably calm conditions the conversion was missed. 5-5 (18 mins). This try lifted Aycliffe and from the restart, second row Adam Winterburn collected the ball from kick off and with his trademark leggy run of 55 meters went over virtually unchallenged due to his speed to score under the posts. This made the conversion easy for Euan Kitching. 12-5 (20 mins). From the next restart the ball was spun out to winger Kitching who did not hesitate to kick over the Stockton defence and chase his own kick to score from this masterly piece of enterprise. Unfortunately, he missed his own conversion. 17-5 (22 mins). From that moment Stockton tightened up their defence and their back row started to harass Aycliffe’s defence. This hard work paid off allowing Stockton to score twice 17-10 (27 mins) and with a converted try on (38 mins) 17- 17 remained the score at half time.

Stocktonians were showing themselves to be tough opponents. It was clear some of the Aycliffe old boys had put on a bit of poundage since they last played rugby and substitutions were inevitable. While Aycliffe were trying to blend in the replacements Stockton took advantage and scored their 4th try unconverted soon after the second half restart. 17-22 (42 mins). A period of stalemate ensued as both teams settled into a ping pong battle of great tackling to snuff out each other’s surging attacking moves. Aycliffe back row Chris Knight was seen all over the pitch cutting the opposition down like a Knight through butter. Aycliffe eventually broke the deadlock and once again the pirouetting techniques of No 8 Holmes allowed him to storm over to touch down, and Kitching converted. 24-22 (54 mins). Aycliffe, now back in the lead, spurred the team to attack at every opportunity. Winterburn used his pace once again to score his brace. The try unconverted. 29-22 (57 mins). Aycliffe’s biggest man on the pitch decided to get in on the act and launched his large voluptuous frame up the pitch on his own. He managed a good 30 odd yards to be scythed down by the smallest man on the pitch. A great effort by the huge prop Daniel Chamberlain but it took him some time to recover on the floor due to the lack of oxygen available from the side-line. He went on to finish the match I’m glad to report. Stockton countered from this and went on to put themselves back in contention with another unconverted try. 29-27 (62 mins). Sensing danger centre James Thacker took it upon himself to ghost thought the Stockton defence like a shimmering wind down the left touchline and mesmerised the visitors and the fans with a 75-metre solo effort. Conversion missed. 34-27 (66 mins). As the game was nearing the end Stockton caused concern amongst the Aycliffe fans as they launched what was to be their final successful attack to try and level the score. They managed the try but missed the conversion. 34-32 (75 mins). Aycliffe held out to win this enthralling match, well done to both teams. A great day of rugby unless you are a Scotland fan, as most went back to the club house to watch England beat Scotland in the 6 Nations afterwards.

Aycliffe thank club sponsors Carmel Safety Training Services Ltd for their continued support. Aycliffe return to League duty this Saturday 15th February at home, kick off 2.15pm. The opponents are Wallsend who are currently 2nd in the table behind Redcar. A match to relish by all rugby fans in Newton Aycliffe who will be made most welcome at Newton Aycliffe Sports Club on Moore Lane.