South Shields Westoe secured a fantastic win over fifth placed Horden & Peterlee to extend their unbeaten run to 10 matches and stay in the promotion hunt.
The Lookers-sponsored side were last defeated by the day’s opponents, but made sure they gained revenge with a battling performance.
The match exploded into action from the off with the two huge forward packs launching themselves against each other.
With both sides falling foul of the referees whistle, Horden were penalised several times to allow Westoe to play the touch and gain a line-out five metres out. A clean catch and drive shoved the home side back and James Sant spotted the gap to break off and dive over the line.
Westoe’s Achilles heel struck immediately, with a poorly contested restart allowing Horden to gain good ground through strong forward drives to even the score after 13 minutes at 5-5.
Both packs continues to hammer each other, defending well and sharing both possession and territory.
A Westoe surge first saw Joe MacKenzie attacking through the centre, pushing away tacklers and making good ground before passing to fellow centre Derek Worthington who smashed his way through four defenders.
Stopped just short of the line he delivered the perfect offload to Sant who finished the job for his second on 20 minutes.
Another poor restart gave Horden a penalty two minutes later and the reduced the deficit to two points.
The game remained tight for the remainder of the half, both teams showing brave defence against some ferocious running, but neither side taking complete control. Horden received a first yellow card for a late tackle, but finished strong, the last play being a missed penalty.
The second half started with Horden’s best period of the game, throwing everything at the visitors. Westoe’s defence held firm, resisting wave after wave of big Horden forwards trying to break their way through.
Horden thought they had taken the lead after 15 minutes, when centre Docherty, cut through the defence to touch down under the posts, only to be denied by the referee who adjudged the grounding as a double movement.
Westoe made them pay as Luke Moffett throwing a long pass to Daniel Irving who danced his way into the corner to give his side an 18-7 lead.
Horden responded immediately, yet another poor restart set up a series of forward drives taking them close to Westoe’s line. Quick recycled ball found Docherty who crosses for Horden’s second and back within one score.
On 30 minutes a dominant Westoe scrum led to a converted penalty taking the lead to seven points, with only 10 minutes remaining.
A penalty then put Westoe 23-13 ahead and the final 10 minutes were dominated by the visitors.
Superior fitness came to the fore, with Horden’s big pack showing fatigue and making errors at the breakdown. A final yellow and down to 13 men sealed Horden’s fate as Westoe turned up the pressure in attack. Both sides exchanged penalties and as they entered added time, Westoe had a 10-point lead at 26-16.
Knowing the clock was ticking and the win secured, Westoe unleashed everything in search of the fourth bonus-point try.
A Luke Moffett break ended with an offload in the tackle to John Younghusband who almost made it to the line, being dragged down inches from the score. The offload was delivered to a charging Andrew Kirton who crossed for the final act of the match, securing the bonus point and sealing a 33-16 win.
With five matches remaining, Westoe still well in the hunt for the second-place play-off.
Although complicated, the final matches mean that if they win their remaining games they should finish in second due to the other contenders having to play each other in the run-in.
The other three promotion contenders all secured bonus-point wins, so no changes in position.
The final five weeks are crucial to the top four, who could all feasibly win the title.