Northumberland Ladies vs Durham Ladies at Percy Park RFC on Sunday 1st May 2016
Durham Women made to settle for thrilling draw against Northumberland
Durham County Women could not hold on to a 10-point half time lead as they drew 24-24 against Northumberland in a thrilling encounter at Percy Park RFC.
First half tries from Ursula Hardy, Ali Bell and Tara Breslin had given Durham a 17-7 half time lead, despite trailing 7-5 at one stage when Emily Yarrow dived over for the hosts.
However Northumberland came out fighting in the second half, and drew level when firstly Jess Richie and then Emma Warrington scored to level the scoreline at 17-17.
But back came Durham, and they deservedly went back ahead through Jess Cheesman, with Breslin adding her second conversion of the day on the hour mark.
However they could not hold on as Elle Bloor’s converted score with five minutes to go levelled the tie once more.
And they could have potentially gone on to win the game, but a spirited Durham defence late on kept the home side at bay and meant both sides had to settle for a draw.
With the brand new players and coaches kit supplied by TotalSport-NE within the space of a week, Durham made a terrific start to the game, camping inside the Northumberland 22 for the majority of the first half.
The strong-running Breslin was causing the hosts all sorts of problems early on, and Durham thought they had scored with just five minutes on the clock.
After a Breslin run was halted 10 metres from the line, Northumberland did incredibly well to slow the ball down on many occasions without being penalised by the Northumberland referee.
But this did not stop the ball going out wide to Durham winger Rachelle Cooley, who thought she had got the visitors opening try, only to be called back by the referee for a forward pass earlier in the build-up.
Durham did deservedly go ahead 10 minutes later though. A good break from Lyndsay Burn drew in three Northumberland defenders and her offload released winger Hardy to dive over in the left corner for a 5-0 lead.
It had been one-way traffic in the opening 20 minutes. But Northumberland responded to falling behind well and got themselves ahead in the match after 26 minutes.
After Durham had tried to run the ball from deep from a scrum, a knock on provided the opportunity for Northumberland to take full advantage. And when a stern Durham defence had initially kept Matilda Butler and Lydia Cowell out, a string of penalties close to the Durham line saw prop Yarrow tap and go quickly to score under the posts, with fly half Warrington adding the extras.
The game was being played at a brilliant tempo, with neither side willing to let the opposition through without a big tackle being put in. And with eight minutes to go before the break, Durham got themselves back ahead when moments after being held up, number eight Ali Bell was not to be denied on a second occasion, driving over after picking from the base of a five metre scrum.
And they quickly extended their advantage with a third try of the afternoon when following a great run from Hardy, the platform was set for Breslin to crash through and score under the posts, with her conversion giving Durham a deserved 17-7 half time lead.
There could have been an argument that for all their dominance in the first half, Durham could, and perhaps should, have been further ahead at the break.
And it was eventually to come back to haunt them as buoyed by their half time team talk, Northumberland came flying out the traps in the second period and got themselves back within five points of the visitors four minutes after the restart.
Continuing to work towards the left touchline with a series of phases, good offload play saw a scrambling Durham defence have to work hard to keep the hosts out.
But in the end it proved to be one phase too many as second row Richie spotted a gap in the left corner to bundle over and bring Northumberland back within a score.
And eight minutes later, the game turned on its head as Northumberland got themselves level courtesy of an interception score.
As Durham looked threatening deep in the hosts 22, a pass from Burn to Breslin was well read and cut out by Warrington, who sprinted the entire length of the pitch to score, despite a last-ditch tackle from Hardy almost catching the fly-half.
With the score at 17-17 heading into the last 20 minutes of the match, Northumberland were beginning to move onto the front foot with a few Durham players beginning to tire. However the visitors dug deep and re-took the lead soon after being pegged back level.
Following a string of penalties, flanker Cheesman quickly-tapped from five metres in front of the posts before driving over to give Durham a seven-point lead once more after Breslin’s successful conversion.
But just as it looked like Durham would hold out for a hard-fought win, Northumberland threw everything they had at the tiring visitors and eventually with five minutes left scored their fourth try of the afternoon through Bloor.
After an initial break from Butler, the Durham defence left a gap for Bloor to race through close to the posts, leaving Washington the easiest of conversions to level the score line once more.
And despite late Northumberland pressure, they could not force a winning try as both sides were made to settle for an entertaining 24-24 draw.
Durham will look to build on this performance when they welcome Cumbria to Hartlepool RFC next Sunday (2pm kick off).
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