Rugby side hope to emulate football neighbours with title triumph

Martin Bengston faces a late fitness test on a knee injury
Martin Bengston faces a late fitness test on a knee injury

South Shields RFC face a ‘promotion or bust’ scenario tomorrow as they bid to follow in the footsteps of the town’s football team.

Shields welcome bitter rivals Hartlepool BBOB to Grosvenor Road for the final game of the season.

A defeat would see the Hedworth Hall-sponsored Shields side miss out on promotion back to Durham/Northumberland 2, while a win would secure a second-placed finish and a bonus point victory would see the club lift the Division Three title for the second time in three years.

Shields at one point were 14 points behind runaway leaders Newton Aycliffe, who were closely followed by an improved Sedgefield. However, with victories early in 2016 over both sides and other results going their way, Shields now find themselves within touching distance of the league title.

Back in September, Shields were comfortable 45-13 winners at BBOB and will be hoping for a similar result this time around.

Clayton Fox will captain the side for the final time this season with Martin Bengston hoping to be fit after picking up a knock to his knee playing for Jarrow Vikings last weekend.

Aaron Arkley returns and could partner Ian Arkley in the centres. Mark Walker is likely to start at No 9 with James Pocklington and Chad Spencer also returning to the side.

The club will be without a whole host of regulars including Eddie Sunter, Liam Newall, Matty Thornton, Matty Chaganis and the suspended Daniel Whitelaw.

Club Manager Daniel McKay, who is also selected in the 20 man match squad, said: “We are all looking forward to this game and feel we have enough strength in depth to get over the line.

“We’re all delighted that are fate is in our hands and we know what we need to do to succeed.

“As a squad we are as prepared as we can be. We have spent a lot of time with each other in the last two weeks and we know what this game means to not just us as players but also to our supporters and the town as a whole.

“The football team have managed to win their league and we aim to follow suit.”

South Shields Head Coach Tom Brooks believes his side must play the ‘perfect game’ if they wish to return to DN2.

“It’s a difficult match because BBOB are a very good team with a number of very experienced players,” he said.

“It is important for us to play the perfect game – the best performance of the season is what we have to do.”

“I am relaxed. From what I have seen over the past nine months, I feel my players deserve the title and the deserve another shot at the league above.

“Everything is set for us to perform on Saturday, we just need to believe and make sure that each player brings their A game to the table.”

Kick off is at 3pm at South Tyneside College’s Grosvenor Road.