South Shields Westoe’s promotion dreams came to an end at the weekend when they were narrowly edged out 19-14 against West Leeds.
Lookers sponsored Westoe went into the play-off in a confident mood after last week’s win against Barnard Castle.
With a side consisting of home-grown players, Westoe have shown it is possible to compete against the current trend of ‘buying-in’ talent, by developing from within and building on the strong bonds of a true community club ethos.
From the first whistle, the young Westoe side showed their passion and commitment. Their juggernaut of a pack took control of the scrums and sterling work in the air from Sean Ramsay and John Younghusband, constantly disrupted Leeds’ line-outs.
Scrum half Michael Booth showed some fine box-kicking to keep the visitors pinned in their half, with the back-line showing great line speed to thwart any attacks made.
Early runs from Derek Worthington and Raymie Elliott gave early promise against well-drilled opponents.
Fifteen minutes into the match saw Mak Reeder receive a yellow card for a high tackle and the Leeds side showed composure in manipulating the extra space allowing their winger to score in the corner.
Their confidence high, the visitors put together a period of attacking play, which would normally see better results.
However, the Westoe defence kept them to a penalty goal on 28 minutes.
With ascendancy in the line-outs, Westoe played the line and attacked from five metres out.
A clean take from John Younghusband, they set up a maul, which was pulled down and playing the advantage hit several close-in drives, Rob Scorer eventually crossing the line to end the half.
The second half found the Westoe pack hounding the opposition, slowly working their way up-field.
Fifteen minutes in saw a carbon-copy score, their line-out being collapsed and ensuing drives saw Ryan Lamb cross for the score.
Leeds closed the gap to 14-13 after 20 minutes, setting up an exciting final quarter for everything to play for.
Both teams showed their intent and only magnificent shifts in defence prevented further tries.
Westoe continued to play the line and passed up potential three point attempts, looking to finish off their opponents with another try.
With 10 minutes to play, Leeds’ number 14 received a yellow after flanker Sean Ramsay was bitten and a flurry of punches thrown.
With the man advantage, Westoe threw wave after wave of attacks against a determined opposition.
As the game neared the final whistle, both teams lost composure, Westoe’s Sam Gaff receiving a yellow for punching.
Leeds converted the penalty to take the lead, followed by a second just minutes later.
The home support hoped to see a repeat of last week’s final minute steal, but despite ferocious attacks, the visitors held firm, denying Westoe of the fairy-tale end to the season.
Despite the loss, Westoe have had a magnificent season, showing they are a force to reckon with and should be favourites to win promotion as league champions next year.
Graeme Smith and Chris Judson have moulded together a locally sourced side, proving that a club does not have to buy-in talent and success.
With the West Nautical sponsored Development team winning the County Bowl final and the re-emergence of the Senators, Westoe should only improve in the future.
Links between the senior and junior sections have been firmed up under the tenure of exiting Chairman Ian Etchells, and Westoe can look to the conveyor-belt of new players coming through the ranks.