Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

BORO'S CRUNCHER; Big Showdown in Fight for Promotion Local Rugby

Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

BORO'S CRUNCHER; Big Showdown in Fight for Promotion Local Rugby

Article excerpt

Byline: ANDREW WILKINSON

MIDDLESBROUGH'S promotion bid reaches a crucial stage tomorrow when they visit Wheatley Hills.

Third-placed Boro are six points behind their second-placed hosts in the North One East table, so cannot afford to lose, especially as they face leaders Billingham at Acklam Park the following week.

They are two crunch games, and defeat tomorrow would make it difficult for Boro to overtake either of their rivals even though there is over half the season to go.

Boro recall experienced duo Paul Lee to fly half, and Simon Moore in the centre. Shaun Richardson and Adrian Rose miss out.

In the forwards Ash Kearney continues as Richard Horton is still missing with a shoulder injury. Lee Theakston returns to the second row, so Ian Bradford switches to the blind side.

Doncaster based Wheatley Hills are a club on the up. Boro won there in the cup a few years ago, but face a much improved side.

With one of the sides immediately below them certain to drop points, Billingham are seeking to stretch their lead.

They host Old Crossleyans who are third from bottom, but Billingham director of rugby Stewart Evans sounded a note of caution.

"The last time that we were in this division Crossleyans were up near the top, and they still have some of the same players.

"However it's another game we feel we can win.

"We have to try and get to Christmas without losing another game, make sure that we stay as far as possible above third place, so that we are at least guaranteed a play-off - then push for the title in the second half of the season."

Billingham, who had a breather last weekend, have trained hard.

They make just one change tomorrow, Sean Wallace coming in at hooker in place of Dave Reay, who switches to the second team.

Prolific kicker Jeremy Good returns for Stockton who host Guisborough in a Durham and North One derby - the first time the sides have met in a league game.

The home side are in second place in the table, and are looking for a win to keep the pressure on leaders Darlington. …

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