The Grangefield pitch was in surprisingly good condition after a week of snow and rain as Stockton entertained old rivals Novocastrians.
The home side managed to transgress at the first scrum, resulting in Novo’s kicking the resulting penalty to open the score.
Two minutes later and it was Stockton who were awarded a penalty, Stephen Jones converting to take the score to 3-3. Stockton were starting to dominate and on ten minutes they launched an attack from well within their own half. The attack eventually broke down with a loose pass in the visitors 22 metre area, with the Novo’s backline showing impressive pace and passing skills to go 90 metres for a try under the Stockton posts. The conversion was added and Stockton were 10-3 in arrears.
Stockton now began to apply pressure and after 16 minutes, impressive fullback Rob Carney scored an unconverted try far out on the left.
It was now mainly Stockton who were on the attack and after a period of constant forward pressure Number 8 Todd Highfield crashed over the line close to the right hand corner. Stockton 13-10 Novocastrians.
Back came the visitors with a penalty goal, before Stockton took charge of the game with two converted tries in the last five minutes of the half. On 35 minutes skipper Charlie Doherty galloped over the try line to take the score to 20-13, then with the last move of the first half, flanker Josh Wilson made a superb break from well inside his own half. He went through several tackles before passing to second row Dan Kidd who outpaced the defence to score a fine try under the posts. Half time Stockton 27-13 Novocastrians.
Stockton appeared to have the game won 10 minutes into the second half when Rob Carney made a break from in his own half. He handed on to right wing Steve Bartliff, who showed impressive pace to beat the cover defence over 55 metres to score in the right hand corner. The conversion was missed, but Stockton were now ahead 32-13.
Most Stockton supporters thought the game was now virtually over, but Novo’s had other ideas with two almost identical long distance interception tries, both of which were converted.
With five minutes of the game left and the score at 32-27, Stockton were wobbling but a penalty kick from a breakdown relieved the pressure and gave them a lineout five metres from the Novo’s try line. A Charlie Doherty catch at the lineout and a drive over the line gave Todd Highfield his second score of an entertaining game and took final score to Stockton 37-27 Novocastrians when referee Tony Rutherford blew the final whistle.
This was an entertaining game with some fine tries from both sides. Stockton, at times, showed they can be a match for any team in the league, but gifted the visitors three tries and missed several other opportunities by trying to push the final pass. A little more patience and they will be a very hard side to beat.
This bonus point win puts Stockton into fourth placed promotion slot in the league Man of the match was fullback Rob Carney for a fine attacking display and some good clearing kicks out of defence. Next week Stockton are away at Medicals.