PONTELAND maintained their unbeaten run in 2020 with an impressive victory away to Bishop Auckland.

The vital 26-21 win saw the Maroons maintain their title chase in Northern Division Two, but they were made to work for the five points during a physical encounter against mid-table Auckland.

The visitors broke the deadlock on 11 minutes, when quick turnover ball put Ponteland on the front foot. Patrick Holliday shrugged off tackles before offloading to Josh Beswick who raced around the full back to score.

Owen Reed battled the strong wind throughout the day while taking on kicking responsibilities and slotted the first ball between the posts.

Just five minutes later, the Maroons were in again, this time through number eight Sam Long. Fly half Joe Nicholson made the initial break after selling an outrageous dummy pass, before passing to James Mould.

The ball was flashed out wide to Long, who held his nerve to touch down. Taking on a difficult kick once again, Reed converted.

In the 21st minute, effective offloading and fast paced rugby earned Ponteland their third try. Winger Will Herford sliced his way through the midfield on a kick return, and charged 50 metres before being taken down.

He managed an offload to Courtney West whose good support was rewarded with an easy run in. Reed converted again.

The travelling Ponteland fans had to wait until moments before half time to see the bonus point try.

A set piece play led by Long saw top try scorer Beswick gifted a walk in at the right corner. This time Reed couldn’t quite manage the conversion.

On the stroke of half time, the referee showed the first yellow card of the day to Ben Stewart, ensuring Ponteland were a man down at half time, despite a healthy 26-0 advantage.

Bishop Auckland were handed a way back into the game courtesy of a Ponteland loose pass. A long kick through by Bishop Auckland resulted in a foot race which led to a home try.

Just nine minutes later, the hosts were in again after a five metre line-out rolled its way across the Ponteland line.

Maintaining the majority of possession, and with their confidence growing, Bishop Auckland narrowed the lead further after a number of short-range drives led to another try, which was followed up with a successful conversion.

Bishop Auckland were now within five points, and a converted try was all that was needed to steal the win.

But the referee awarded Bishop Auckland two yellow cards, as well as one for Ponteland, all within the space of five minutes.

Lowering the numbers increased the intensity and excitement for final 20 minutes.

The hosts weren’t settling for the losing bonus point as big Bishop carries attempted to puncture holes through the visiting defence.

However, Ponteland’s Chris Searle came off the bench and made an immediate impact with a much-needed turnover ball.

Eventually, Bishop were able to break the line, but Nicholson bravely made a crucial save as he managed to wrap the ball up just as it was being grounded.

With two minutes to go, Bishop received their third yellow card of the half. Ponteland controlled possession in the dying moments of the game.

The Maroons remain hot on the heels of Sunderland who currently occupy the league’s number one spot.