MORPETH Colts kicked off the County Cup Final on a very wet and windy day at Tynedale, the conditions were more akin to November, not the end of April.
Despite the conditions both teams went about the business of trying to win the cup with great enthusiasm, playing some good rugby.
Although perhaps physically the smaller of the two teams, Morpeth competed well in the contact area, out-rucking their opponents, with the forwards securing their fair share of turnover ball.
Much of the early exchanges were played in the midfield area and it was the Mitford Road side that made the first incursion into the opposition 22, where on 10 minutes they won a penalty for offences committed in the ruck by Gosforth.
Captain Andrew Telford stepped up and calmly took the three points on offer taking Morpeth into the lead.
Following the restart it was Gosforth who now took the initiative with a good phase of possession, they worked their way up to just outside the Morpeth 22 where they were awarded a penalty of their own for a Morpeth player being off his feet in the ruck, levelling the score at 3-3 on 14 minutes.
Morpeth took the restart and managed to get the ball back quickly, they slowly worked their way into the Gosforth half using their forwards before trying to get it out wide, but Gosforth defended well to snuff out an impressive run by winger Stewart, tackling him into touch.
Following the line-out, Gosforth now were on the attack getting the ball through the hands with their full-back coming into the line well, but again he was well tackled by a resolute Morpeth defence.
Around this time Morpeth lost their full-back Callum Duncan who had to go off with concussion, with Nick Donaghy coming into the fray to replace him.
The game was restarted with a Gosforth scrum just outside the Morpeth 22, from which their number eight picked up, from this Gosforth were awarded a penalty due to the Morpeth openside being adjudged to be off his feet competing for the ball, this was perhaps the only decision the referee got wrong all afternoon.
The Gosforth kicker stepped up and put his team into the lead at 6-3, this signalled the end of the half.
A change was made to personnel at half-time with Holland coming on for Parkin in the second row.
The second half started at a frantic pace, with both sides looking for that tiny margin which would give them the advantage in this enthralling closely-fought match.
The Morpeth back row were impressing with number eight Ward being in control and making some scintillating runs off the back of the scrum, Lamont at blindside was carrying and supporting well and putting some bone-jarring tackles in, Birch was a constant thorn in Gosforth’s side at the breakdown.
Five minutes into the half more changes were made with Elliott coming on at scrum-half and Robson moving to inside centre pushing Scott to outside centre and Tait onto the wing for Manley.
These replacements started to have an impact on the game and the pace seemed to lift, however, it continued to be a very tight game and it was always going to be a mistake by one side or the other that would prove the difference.
Unfortunately it was Morpeth who made the first error of judgement, following a missed penalty kick by Gosforth, Morpeth very calmly managed to run themselves out of their own 22 when Elliott got them up to the 10-metre line with a sublime scrum half’s snipe through the tight Gosforth fringe defence.
It was then that one of the Morpeth forwards decided to play scrum-half and throw a slow loopy pass out to the fly-half getting him into all sorts of trouble and allowing Gosforth to regain the ball, a couple of quick phases and Gosforth crossed the line in the corner.
With the conversion missed it was 11-3 to Gosforth, on such things games can turn.
This was a test of character and Morpeth responded to it well. They set about taking the game by the scruff of the neck, winning the ball back and going at Gosforth with renewed vigour.
It took all of three minutes for Morpeth to cross the line at the other end. With tireless work through both backs and forwards, they got to within 10 metres of the try-line when Telford took a pass from Elliott and having Tait outside him on an overlap, he dummied and went through the gap to squeeze over making the score 11-8 to Gosforth.
Morpeth continued to push for another and had to do a good share of defending as Gosforth pushed on as well.
Morpeth did have an opportunity with a penalty to level the scores but it sailed wide, and ultimately it was Gosforth’s day.
Nothing can be taken away from the Mitford Road young guns who have got to this final and given a very good account of themselves. With a squad which is two-thirds made up of U17s, things look good for the future of Colts rugby at Grange House Field.
Cup final squad: I Grieve, R Stansfield, P Reed, O Bradley, T Parkin, S Lamont, N Birch, T Ward, S Robson, A Telford, T Manley, L Scott, A Tait, B Stewart, C Duncan, J Elliott, N Donaghy, C Evans, M Holland, O Tapscott, J Lemin, P Stoker.
Newcastle University is the very proud sponsor of Morpeth Colts.