IN a dress rehearsal for this season’s county cup final, two well-matched teams battled hard to try to gain a psychological advantage.

And despite a late flurry, Tynedale Centurions went down 29-17 to Novos third team in the County River Aln League encounter, at Corbridge, on Saturday.

Playing with the breeze in the first half, Tynedale held a territorial advantage, but the visitors were always a threat.

Novos took the lead when the ball was whipped wide in a flowing move from halfway for their quick winger to touch down wide out left, before the Centurions lost inspirational full back and captain Jake Sloan to injury.

Periods of intense forward pressure saw forwards Mark Smales, Ed Weir, Jonny Pape and George Hendry go close, but good defending kept them at bay.

Tynedale’s efforts were eventually rewarded when Rob Earnshaw drove forward and Brogan Miller, in one of several tanking bursts, managed to break through for a try converted by Dan Kerr. This gave the home side a narrow half time lead of 7-5.

The game was more open after the break with both sides making changes.

Callum Foxcroft and Ian Charlton won all their own line-out ball and the introduction of Rory Craney and Phil Scandle got the home side on the front foot in the scrum. But it was Novos who began to get on top in the loose and, for a period of 30 minutes, this possession was well-used by their three-quarters, who ran in three well worked tries from long range.

Oliver Hillary powered over from close range to reduce the deficit to 22-12, but the lead was quickly restored by Novos.

A strong run from Martyn Hutton was supported by Joe Matthews who was held up. Rhys Main made good yards to be stopped short, before Dan Heppell got into a try scoring position. Eventually, Jason Armstrong drove over and touched down but the referee correctly spotted a double movement.

In the last play of the game, Andy Harvey broke away, fed Scandle on a drifting run and a soft handed pass put fly half Kerr through a gap for a well-taken try.

This late flurry was too little too late and Novos were rewarded for their impressive second half performance. The sides will meet again in the cup final on April 4.