Breathless clash is no stroll in the Park

Rugby.
Rugby.

PERCY PARK 26 MORPETH 29

Morpeth returned to winning ways with this thrilling victory at near rivals Percy Park,who fully played in their part in this enthralling contest,which just about sums up the highly competitive league.

While it was a close encounter and the match could have gone either way, there can be very few who would not think that Morpeth thoroughly deserved their victory, which in no small part is due to the excellent spirit which currently exists within the team.

The match started in fine weather, which had completely changed by the last quarter. There was a stiff, gusting breeze blowing almost directly across the pitch, making it difficult for both sides.

It was Park who took the initiative, when moving the ball from their own 22, and Morpeth had to thank full-back Stephenson for halting the attack with an excellent tackle when a score looked highly likely.

Soon after, Morpeth had to reshuffle when skipper Hill left the field with a rib injury which he had obviously been carrying from kick-off.

Then on 15 minutes, Morpeth took the lead when a good, attacking scrum saw fly-half Ben Hornby, who was a threat throughout, make a crucial break, almost making the line. The ball was then recycled for scrum-half Elliott to dive over. Hornby converted and then was on the mark with an excellent penalty giving Morpeth a 10-point lead as half-time approached.

With Elliott winning turn-overs and Dawson timing pick-ups and linking well from number 8, Morpeth appeared relatively comfortable.

The first half ended quite remarkably as Park applied sustained pressure and, as the ball went wide, Ward was adjudged to have deliberately knocked on – a penalty and sin-bin.

From the ensuing attack, Stephenson and winger Sam Hornby tackled the diving Park winger as he went over the try-line and was held up. A high tackle, penalty try and sin-bin for Stephenson saw Morpeth down to 13 men as Park upped the ante with a further converted try as the half concluded.

Half-time: 14-10 in Park’s favour, a breathless end to the first 40 minutes.

At the beginning of the second half, Park maintained the pressure as Morpeth sought to keep ball and run out the two sin-bins. Then Elliott, the catalyst of the excellent play this Morpeth side is capable of, made a stunning break, chipped head, regathered and was caught just before the try-line, but the ball was recycled for Tait. Still with a bit to do, he dived over for an unconverted try.

Park came straight back with a try converted from wide out, before Morpeth really took hold of the game.

Stephenson, who provided previously missing solidity at full-back, crashed over after Phillips then Ward had made crucial incursions. Hornby, faced with the difficult cross-wind, converted well.

With 10 minutes remaining, Tait finished an excellent team score, when first Hornby put the team where they needed to be with an excellent kick to the corner, good pressure, recycled possession with the forwards taking it on, with Sandall and Williams among others making headway, but, crucially, there was no panic whatsoever and when the ball went wide at the right moment Tait dived over. Again Hornby made sure with a crucial conversion, ensuring that Park needed two scores to win, which was just as well as Park came back again to score wide out with the game ending 29-26 in Morpeth’s favour.

Man-of-the-match: Jack Elliott.