Despite heavy overnight rain the pitch was in superb condition and the game started in bright sunshine, but with Stockton playing into a strong wind.
The visitors put themselves under early pressure with a couple of handling errors and two penalties conceded. From the second penalty Novo’s took an early 3-0 lead after 4 minutes.
Stockton were slowly getting into the game and appeared much more eager to move the ball than their hosts. They were starting to up their intensity at the ruck and when the referee gave them three penalty advantages in a row they quickly gained a foothold in the home 22 from where skipper Charlie Doherty broke the defensive line and powered over for a try wide out on the right. In the stiff wind the conversion was missed, but Stockton were ahead 5-3.
A couple of minutes later Novo’s put in a long kick out of defence that was collected by Stockton fullback Johnny Horner inside his own 22. He set off at speed, sliced through the defence and then outpaced the opposition for a magnificent try. Stephen Jones converted and Stockton were 12-3 ahead.
In spite of the strong wind in their faces Stockton were now dominant and the constant pressure paid off in the last minute of the half when they won a penalty close to the home try line and elected to take an attacking scrum instead of a simple penalty kick. Things paid off as Fly Half Stephen Jones waltzed over the try line and added a simple conversion as the teams went to the break with the score Novo’s 3, Stockton 19.
Stockton now had the strong wind at their backs and 5 minutes into the half the game was as good as over at 24-3, as Jones dummied his way over the line from 20 metres for an unconverted try, ensuring a try scoring bonus point.
Fifty two minutes of the game were gone as hooker Ben Cordiner powered over the line, Jones again converted to make the score 31-3.
Novo’s now had a short period of domination and managed a penalty just on 60 minutes after their fullback broke through, kicked ahead and then collected his kick, only to be caught by a careless high tackle. The referee decided that this prevented a score and gave a penalty try. Novo’s 10, Stockton 31.
Three minutes later normal service was resumed as Stephen Jones crossed under the posts for his hat trick try, in doing so he suffered either a slight muscle pull or a spot of cramp, so Rob Green slotted the conversion. After treatment Jones stayed on the pitch.
On 65 minutes Stockton Prop Rhys McHugh saw yellow for preventing a quick penalty being taken, and shortly after this Novo’s attempted an attacking kick to pressurise the Stockton try line. What they had forgotten from the first half is that it can be very risky to kick to Johnny Horner in open play, as once again he took a high ball, broke through the defence and outpaced all opposition over 90 metres for a try that was even better than his first. Jones added another conversion. Novo’s 10, Stockton 43.
In the last few minutes Novo’s were having trouble making any headway out of their 22, and with two minutes left they tried a long line out throw which avoided everyone except Stockton Number 8 Scott Powell who caught the ball in space and crossed the tryline unopposed for probably the easiest try he has ever scored.
Final score, Novo’s 10, Stockton 48.
This was a good all round performance against a team who, despite being overpowered and outplayed, never gave up. Stockton’s reward was 8 tries, some of which were of an excellent quality. Next week it’s Friday Night Lights, as we entertain old friends Middlesbrough.