South Shields Westoe travelled to Durham’s Hollow Drift for their biggest test of the New Year.
Durham fielded the opening kick-off and secured the ball, with Westoe conceding their first penalty, Durham went to the posts, but the kick drifted wide.
Retaking the drop-out, Durham drove the ball close, sucking in the Westoe defence and creating space out wide.
A simple transfer of the ball along the line was completed with a long pass for Bushnell to open the score (converted).
Westoe came back with an attack of their own, but were met by a staunch defence that withstood the early onslaught.
Westoe struggled to maintain possession, kicking away good ball and falling foul of the referee’s interpretations, conceding 10 penalties in the half.
Westoe set up an attack and went wide towards an overlap, but with the ball in the air, Pears read the play and intercepted, passing to Izomor for their second score.
Durham maintained the majority of possession, but Westoe’s defence held firm for the remainder of the half.
At half-time, Durham looked every bit the league leaders, yet Westoe were still in the game and capable of pulling off the win.
Durham again started the quicker, upping the tempo and forcing Westoe towards their line.
A poor clearance kick was fielded by Johnson, who charged his way into Westoe’s 22, setting up a ruck and giving Durham quick ball, again finding Bushnell how touched down.
A poor clearance was pounced on by Durham, securing the bonus-point fourth try by Deighton.
With Westoe shaking off the penalty bug, they were allowed to start building the phases and mounting their own attacks.
Awarded a penalty, they went quickly and tried to breach the home side’s defensive line, and following a series of pick & goes, Joe McKenzie found a way through to score under the posts (converted).
Durham received a blow after White was penalised for kicking the ball from a ruck, the resulting yellow being his second of the day and turning to red, leaving the home side down to 14 with 30 minutes to play.
This was where Westoe needed to take control; however the home side had their own agenda and a clever chip kick to the corner led to a scrum five which was driven forward leading to a converted score.
Westoe went all out from this point and launched attacks from all areas of the pitch and after a sustained barrage of an unforgiving defence, earned a penalty five metres out.
Luke Moffett spotted a gap and almost made the line after the quick tap; strong drives from Andy Kirton and Paul Evans, created just enough space for Moffett to cross the line on his second attempt (converted).
Westoe struck again with five minutes to play, with an Andy Kirton drive, following a Durham penalty, keeping the upset alive and the spectators engrossed (converted).
Durham capped off a fine performance with two minutes to play, with a school-boy try from the line-out, straight along the back-line for Bushnell to seal his hat-trick and end any hope of the late comeback.
Westoe went for one last push and after several short drives, Sam Gaff found the space and drove through, scoring the bonus-point try and adding some respectability to the final score.
Westoe need now to focus on their battle with Stockton and Novos for the remainder of the season and try to get as close to the top three as possible.
They have a break from league rugby next weekend when they face Old Rishworthians in the cup.