Old Brodleians 35
Durham City 15
BRODS came up with the goods when it mattered on Saturday, a convincing win keeping them six points clear of the drop zone in North One East with three rounds of fixtures to go.
Their strongest pack of the season helped provide a solid platform and they were always in command of a match which coach Ian Armitage had earmarked as a must-win contest for some time.
Converted hooker Rob Jennings showed the way with a power-packed performance at blind side while props Callum Thompson and Dave Skinner stood firm in the scrums and Ollie Akroyd harvested plenty of good quality lineout ball.
Half-backs Joe Armitage and Liam Scott made jinking runs through the Durham defence while winger Aaron Fowler also caught the eye, but everyone played their part.
Mid-table Durham had romped to victory by almost the same score in the first meeting in mid-November but Brods were a different proposition this time.
Brods, playing down the slope, regained the ball from their kick-off and a lengthy spell in possession yielded a penalty just outside the 22 which young fullback Danny Wood slotted.
The home side made it 8-0 on 10 minutes following a penalty award close to half-way. From a driving maul, lock Kyle Millward surged to within 15 metres of the posts and with the referee playing a penalty advantage, Brods swung the ball right where Wood sent Fowler in for an uncoverted try wide out.
The right winger might have had a quick second but official Mick Harris from Northumberland, faced with the tightest of decisions, ruled a Durham defender had beaten Fowler to Richard Holborough’s kick into the in-goal area.
The visitors were soon pinned back again. Wood was unable to hold Louis Butler’s pass but Joe Armitage regained possession and returning No 8 Luke Scrimshaw was unstoppable from close range, Wood missing with the conversion.
When Durham did get their hands on the ball they made errors in the face of some enthusiastic defence from the home side, who broke from their own 22 through Jennings. Again there was no escape for the visitors, Millward touching down over wide on the left for another unconverted try to make it 18-0 after 25 minutes.
Durham were starting to warm to the task and danger threatened for the home side when Wood knocked on a long kick behind his own line. However, Brods scrummaged solidly and their defence was well organised, Ollie Akroyd eventually intercepting and Liam Scott helping to bring the ball away, the move being halted when a pass hit the referee.
Durham stand-off Arnie Stevenson eventually got his side on the scoreboard with a penalty on 37 minutes but there was still time before the break for Brods to bank a four-try bonus point and extend their lead to 25-3.
Tigerish chasing and tackling earned them a scrum in front of the Durham posts and after Dave Skinner had gone close, Jennings drove low and hard to make it to the line, Wood converting.
A Fowler grubber kick to touch helped ease early second half pressure before Durham scored a converted try on 50 minutes.
Following a penalty to the corner and lineout possession, open side flanker Jeff Roberts emerged from a pile of bodies over the line with the ball and Stevenson’s sweetly-struck kick sailed over from wide out.
Brods were quick to snuff out any suggestion of a comeback from the visitors.
A straight Wood penalty on 52 minutes made it 28-10 and breaks from Liam Scott and Jennings helped Brods make ground up the hill before Skinner grabbed the killer try, plunging over after an off-load from well-built young replacement Alex Dawson.
Wood converted and Skinner, Fowler and Jennings indicated in the clearest fashion that there would be no let-up when unceremoniously dumping a Durham lock into touch.
Scrimshaw and Wood made ground via the boot before a mix-up on the right between Wood and Fowler cost Brods their last good attacking platform.
It was left to Durham to have the last word, replacement forward Howard Johnson forcing his way over for an unconverted try after Brods had been trapped in the corner.
Relief was the main emotion for Armitage afterwards and he felt the five-point return was a reward for the players’ considerable efforts in recent weeks.
“It is still in our hands. We don’t have to look to anyone else for favours,” he said.