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Sat 24 Nov Bishop 1st 45-15 Seaton Carew (W)

On-Fire Bishops too Hot for Seaton
Bishops secure top spot in West Mills Cracker!

In a clash which pitted 2nd placed Bishop Auckland against 3rd Place Seaton Carew, all was to play for at West Mills this week. Winning their last five games and being the only team this season to beat leaders Redcar, Seaton certainly fancied their chances and turned up full of confidence.

From the off - Bishops looked every inch a match for the power of the visitors but in the early exchanges looked for the big plays too much and conceded a number of scrums through handling errors. That was quickly rectified and what followed was a very effective 20 minute period which saw Bishops take the lead through Gareth Edwards - picking up at the base of the scrum and outpacing the defence for a score and quickly followed up with a Tombling Penalty. As the game developed, Bishops looked to increase their lead and again turned to Tombling who added two more penalties.

Before the half, Ratu Nareki was shown the yellow card during a heated exchange with the Seaton pack and with numbers reduced, Seaton narrowed the margin through a well worked Murray Stockdale try. The score sheet was not troubled again and the half time score stayed at 14-7.

The second half started much the same as the 1st had finished. Seaton had tightened up their game and with Nareki sitting out the first four minutes, they tested the Bishop defence with powerful running and slick backs play. Once back to full strength - Bishops took control. The home side chipped away at the scoreboard, adding a string of penalties and following the strict coaching instructions from the touchline by building a lead - waiting for chances rather than forcing plays.

With centre Gwyn Evans sustaining a broken nose after a collision, the stage was set for 17 year old Josh Pagan to join the game for his second outing with Bishops first team. He wasted little time in adding two enormous defensive hits, immediately imposing himself on the opposing outside centre.
From the next attacking play - he exploded into the line before handing Kieran Canovan the slightest chance... which he duly took! Stepping inside the two trailing defenders, he powered through the gap and diving full length, managed to touch down for what would be the deciding score of the game and his 20th of the season.

Bishops now changed focus to the bonus point with two scores needed. Fitness now played its part as the Bishop pack began to dominate their tiring opponents. A clever turnover by Paul Fletcher allowed for the attach to shift into the Seaton 22 area and from the break Tom Burn made space for Pagan to power through a tackle to register his first senior try.

Not finished yet - Bishops turned up the heat once more and Seaton responded by giving away two needless penalties with the final whistle in sight. The first was slotted into touch, putting Bishops in scoring range and when a second was conceded at the death - Bishops had no choice but to run the ball. A well planned and executed move sucked in the Seaton forwards and put Ratu Nareki on the front foot. He destroyed the inside centre before dragging the three trailing defenders over the line for the Bonus point score - his 11th of the season so far. The crowd erupted with delight at this stunning finale to such an entertya8ining and quality game.

Redcar travelled to North Shields and were soundly beaten - moving Bishop Auckland to the top of Durham and Northumberland Divison 2 with the prospect of a home tie against second placed Redcar before Christmas to truly establish their position at the top.

Final Score: Bishop Auckland 41 - Seaton Carew 15

Verdict: This was not the one sided game the scoreline would suggest. Seaton provided the toughest opposition this season for the home side - but this was a day when Bishop showed they have the patience and confidence to wait for their chances - and the ability to finish them in abundance.

Bishops look quality throughout - formidable forwards and young pacey backs who are creative in attack and rock solid in defence. Although there is a lot of Rugby to be played between now and the end of the season - they now have the belief that they are genuine contenders for the league title and promotion.

Man Of The Match: Paul Fletcher. The veteran put in another outstanding performance - causing chaos for Seaton's pack and inspiring his fellow players to victory.

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