Morpeth 18 Middlesbrough 13 North One East
MORPETH ended the year in style with this excellent win against the high-flying Teessiders, writes Tom Green.
It was a deserved victory in terms of commitment and endeavour over a Middlesbrough side which is enjoying a rich vein of form and currently standing second in the league table.
That the game was able to proceed at all was due in no small measure to the time and effort of groundsman John Dungait, who found, inspected, then completed the line markings for the only available pitch playable on The Common due to the frosty conditions.
The hosts took to the field with yet another group of enforced changes in the bitter conditions and produced a hard-working first-half display, culminating in a Jinks penalty.
Although Middlesbrough slotted over two penalties, Morpeth would have been satisfied with the scoreline as they were playing up against both the slope and wind.
But in the dying moments of the half, prop Leiper was sin-binned enabling Boro to kick to the corner. Using the man advantage, a driving maul resulted in a short-range try and it was converted to give the visitors a 13-3 half-time lead.
Worse was to follow for the home side when hooker Aaron Charlton was also sin-binned in the opening exchanges of the second half, yet even down to 13 men they defended resolutely and going into the last 20 minutes it was anybody’s game.
And the fully-restored Morpeth took the game by the scruff of the neck and piled on the points to take the lead.
Firstly, Phillips correctly took the right option with a dropped goal then both skipper Forsythe and flanker Bell muscled over from close range after the hosts worked the ball well into their opponents’ 22.
Jinks converted one of the tries to make it 18-13.
Boro had some attacking pressure of their own in the last few minutes, but Morpeth held on to gain an outstanding victory.