Acklam Colts 19 Morpeth Colts 24
THE first Saturday in September saw Morpeth Colts travel down the road to play the U18 League new boys Acklam for the first time in many a long year.
Morpeth received the kick from their hosts with a strong breeze at their backs. Straight away Morpeth’s young guns looked nervous, losing possession at the first ruck with the larger home pack piling over.
The home side made large in-roads into the visitor’s 22 but aggressive tackling kept them out, then a knock-on handed the put in at the scrum to the Northumbrians.
The ball came out and was passed down the line but some nervous hands resulted in the ball going to ground. Luckily Morpeth kept possession but still hadn’t crossed the home halfway line.
Ten minutes in and the Morpeth back-line suddenly came to life, with centre Parsons starting to take command. Good hands were shown and the visitors made their first threatening foray into the home 22, with forwards supporting the backs well.
The end result saw Will Aynsley crashing over between the uprights for his first try in a Colts shirt.
With Brown adding the extras, it was 0-7 to Morpeth. Acklam took the kick-off and the ball was caught clean. This time the Mitford Road crew kept it. Some slick passing saw the ball find Manley on the wing and, showing good pace, he tore up the wing, cutting inside to outpace the centres and full-back to run between the posts to score.
Brown made no mistake with the conversion. In the space of one minute Morpeth’s young guns had stunned the Teessiders.
They continued on the front-foot. The pack were working tirelessly, none more so than the trio of Birch, Aynsley and Lamont in the back row.
The nine, 10 and 12 combination of Elliott, Brown and Parsons was dominant and outside, captain Tait and the back three of Manley, Brennan and Donaghy were causing all sorts of problems for the opposition with their pace and lines of running.
The next try came 10 minutes later with Parsons receiving the ball and, executing a clever kick, he went through the gap, collected the ball and outpaced the defence. The full-back managed to get a hand on him about five metres from the try-line but he had the strength to crash over between the posts. Up stepped the metronome to make the score (0-21).
The visitors pressed for another score and near to the end of the half were awarded a penalty following hands in the ruck. Brown stepped up and the ball sailed through the uprights making the half-time score 0-24 for a dream start.
To quote an old cliché this was a game of two halves. If the first half had been a lesson in attacking play, the second half was a lesson in defensive play.
Changes were made, with Grieve coming on for the workhorse-like Lemin at loose-head and Venters-Wood on for Reed at tight-head.
Also making his Colts debut was Max Robinson going on the wing for Brennan.
Acklam started the second half like they’d had a fire lit underneath them, throwing everything at Morpeth and using the wind advantage well, kicking for territory at every opportunity. Their big forwards battered away and put the pressure on the visitors. Five minutes into the half, their industry paid off with one of the forwards crashing over for a try from a tapped-penalty. With the conversion missed, it was 5-24.
Acklam continued in the same vein, with some help, it has to be said from the visitors who seemed set on playing themselves into trouble. If not for the resolute defence, there could have been more tries scored, as it took almost another 15 minutes for the home side to cross the whitewash again and this time, with the try converted, it was 12-24.
More changes were made to the visiting side, with Pritchard on for Fenwick and Whitworth going on the wing and Manley replacing Donaghy at full-back.
This seemed to have little impact as Morpeth kept handing possession to the boys from the Boro’. With a little over five minutes of the game left, they crashed over again through the forwards and converted to make it 19-24. They were now within a converted try of winning the match.
Morpeth again conspired to lose possession and with the hosts in the visitors’ 22, they gave away a penalty, with barely five minutes left.
Acklam took the tap, but the Morpeth defence held firm. What followed was several minutes of Acklam battering away but no avail, the door was kept well and truly shut.
They then tried to move it wide but they got no change from that either, with Morpeth’s boys growing into men with every bone-jarring tackle they made. The sight of the diminutive Jack Elliott tackling and driving back a second-row twice his size in length and girth was an inspiration to everyone of his team-mates.
Much to the relief of the visitors and their supporters after what seemed like an eternity, the referee blew his whistle for the end of the match.
Credit has to be given to Acklam for the character they showed in fighting their way back into this fixture, but the last word must go to Morpeth Colts who showed character by the bucketful in those final five minutes to keep a strong Acklam team out.
Man-of-the-match for Morpeth Colts was number eight Sam Lamont who popped up all over the pitch to make crucial tackles, took his fair share of turn-over ball and supported the backs superbly.
Newcastle University together with Walton Marquees are the proud sponsors of Morpeth Colts.