Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

HIGH-FLYERS TOLD TO KEEP EYE ON THE BALL; Rugby Union

Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

HIGH-FLYERS TOLD TO KEEP EYE ON THE BALL; Rugby Union

Article excerpt

Byline: ADAM STEEL

DIRECTOR of rugby Stewart Evans insists a positive mental attitude is imperative when leaders Billingham head for the West Yorkshire wilderness to tackle Old Brodleians.

With nine wins from 11, the Greenwood Road side are flying high at the top of North One East and enjoy a two-point cushion on Wheatley Hills and five-point gap to Middlesbrough.

Old Brodleians are ninth in the table and big underdogs despite having home advantage, but Evans has reminded Billingham that they need to have their game faces on to avoid a slip-up in the atmospheric outskirts of Halifax.

Evans said: "They are similar to us in that hey have brought through a lot of their own players and started off reasonably well, but have struggled in the last few weeks.

"But you have to be on your game when you go there.

"It's on top of a hill and really cold, and you can get turned over if you aren't at it.

"We are expecting a tough game but we are confident."

Billingham ran in nine tries as they thrashed Northern 57-3 at home last time out, when they wore black armbands in memory of former Under-12 player Matthew Olley.

And Evans knows tomorrow's fixture is arriving in what could turn out to be a crucial phase in the season.

"Wheatley Hills, Middlesbrough and Percy Park all play each other in the next few weeks," he said.

"If we keep winning, hopefully we can go to Boro in December with a bit of a gap on them."

Billingham travel with an unchanged squad as the game comes too soon for wing Craig Shepherd, who has a hamstring strain.

Middlesbrough's task at home to Cleckheaton will be to turn possession into territorial advantage after they failed to do so in last week's 16-9 defeat at Sheffield, a costly reverse which saw them slip to third behind Wheatley Hills.

Boro saw as much of the ball as the Steel City men but were unable to make it count, while they were pressed back and outkicked positionally by more clinical opposition.

Boro know they must win their home games to have any genuine promotion aspirations and Cleckheaton represents a very winnable game as they have more attacking thrust than the visitors and boast a far superior defence.

Cleckheaton will be smarting from a home defeat to fourth-placed Percy Park however and will see Boro as a scalp, so the home side will have to improve on their Sheffield display.

Second-placed Stockton will try to keep the heat on leaders Darlington when they travel to Ashbrooke to play mid-table Sunderland in Durham and Northumberland One.

Stockton expect a tough battle, especially up front as their hosts have found a bit of form recently, coming from behind to defeat Acklam 33-31 last week.

Stockton hope to rely on the same starting squad which put paid to Ponteland. …

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