Morpeth 14 Malton & Norton 11 North One East play-off
Morpeth achieved promotion in a thrilling encounter at Mitford Road on Saturday in front of a huge crowd, writes Tom Green.
In a game that could not have been closer, Morpeth hung on to secure the play-off victory that takes them up.
Did Morpeth deserve to win this match? Possibly not. Did they deserve to win promotion? Absolutely yes, but more of that to come later.
It was a bright spring afternoon that welcomed the two sides with Malton kicking towards the clubhouse.
Two early penalty chances went begging for the visitors, one hitting the post, before Morpeth, with almost their first incursion into opposition territory, put pace and width on the ball from an attacking scrum, which saw Birch and Brown handling well to send Manley over wide out.
This score was cancelled out with two Malton penalties.
Morpeth then missed a chance of their own, Brown nudged over three precious points to regain the Morpeth momentum on 30 minutes giving the home side an 8-6 lead, which was increased to 11-6 when the cool-headed Brown converted another penalty.
In a season when Morpeth have repeatedly scorned penalty opportunities, these correctly-taken options had a significant impact on the final result.
A Michie sin-bin, reducing the home side to 14 men surprisingly gave them momentum, and they were unlucky not to increase their lead with another Manley try, with some miscommunication between referee and linesman denying the home side another score.
At half-time, the score remained 11-6 in Morpeth’s favour.
Territorially, most of the second half belonged to Malton who laid siege to the Morpeth line.
Five minutes after the interval, they drew level, driving over from close range after an attacking scrum.
Shortly after that Brown, again, converted another penalty to take the home side into a 14-11 lead as excitement grew.
Malton, committing men to the breakdown, were successful at recycling and making inroads into the home defence, who at times failed to recognise where the problems were coming from.
The Yorkshiremen were held up over the Morpeth line on two separate occasions.
Malton’s right-wing, by far the game’s most impactive runner, ran some 40 yards, beating player after player, then spurned an overlap opportunity and was taken out by an outstanding Defty try-saving tackle.
This was just one example of Morpeth’s heroic defending in this half.
Scrum-half Elliott, small in stature but large in heart, stood out with absolute commitment to the cause either making last-ditch tackles or turning possession at the death. Denton, whose physicality as an emerging teenager, led by example.
Brown another teenager, coolly slotted the penalties which ultimately proved to be match-winning.
Yet, it would be wrong to single out individuals as this was a win due to spirit as much as skill, with the line-out creaking and again, some poor game management, which made life harder.
Morpeth hung on to what is a famous victory, while Malton must be wondering how they lost a game which they really should and could have won.
Immense credit then to all concerned.
Hill’s ebullient leadership has brought him a hugely-impressive try-scoring record. The commitment of both coaches, their tireless efforts have brought entertainment and improvement to a young side, particularly over the last three months when there has been some outstanding performances.