Carlisle Colts 18 Morpeth Colts 20
WITH all the senior games being cancelled, the Colts were the only Morpeth team in league action on their long away trip to Carlisle.
Getting a win away to the Cumbrians had always proved difficult in the past, but it was made even harder with the absence of several key players.
On the very heavy second pitch, the home team got the game underway, kicking towards the clubhouse end. Morpeth’s pack dealt with the kick easily and set the platform for half-backs Telford and Tapscott to get the back-line moving.
The back-row unit of Birch, Donnelly and Lyall were quickly into the action, running off the fly-half and centres, looking to hammer holes in the defensive line, but Carlisle defended resolutely with most of the early play being restricted to the middle of the park.
For all the visitors tried to get the ball wide, they didn’t seem to make a lot of headway, then frustratingly lost the ball in contact.
Now the Cumbrians were on the attack but a loose pass that only found the heavy mud of the pitch was pounced upon by centre Tait, who hacked on and managed to cross the try-line to score. With Tapscott adding the extras, it was 7-0 to the Northumbrians on nine minutes.
The home team then upped their game and really piled on the pressure straight from the restart, taking all of three minutes to get on the scoresheet with an attack down their left-wing going over in the corner. The conversion was missed.
Morpeth went through a period when they seemed to go off the boil, with only the heroics of full-back Tom Manley keeping them out of trouble. Time and time again he cleaned up and cleared the ball, however, even he could not stop the next score.
The Cumbrians again marauded down the wing and they scored to the right of the posts to make the score 10-7 with 23 minutes gone.
The remainder of the half was a game of attrition, with the Mitford Road side matching their opponents but unable to make that telling pass to go back in front.
Morpeth got the second half under way with changes having been made in the front row. Grieve, who had replaced Lemin in the first half, moved over to tight-head for Stoker, with Lemin coming back on at loose-head, while Stansfield replaced the ever-dependable Gallagher at hooker.
The visitors looked far more purposeful in the early exchanges of the second half – the centres looked far more in tune, with Scott in particular making some big hits in defence and Tait running some great lines.
Manley was coming more into the attacking line from full-back and was making a lot of yards with his loping strides.
Five minutes into the half, Morpeth got the breakthrough their hard work deserved, with centres Scott and Tait running a lovely switch. Tait went through the gap to score just to the right of the posts to put his ahead two points ahead, although the conversion attempt was missed.
Inexplicably, Morpeth again seemed to relax and let the home team into the game, conceding needless penalties and giving Carlisle the opportunity to kick for goal from just outside the 22, which was converted.
Straight from the restart, Morpeth had their gander up and pressed for another score, going through a dozen phases.
They got within a whisker of the try-line, but, with the ball at the back of the ruck, second-row Tom Parkin showed good strength to pick up and crash over the line to score.
With Tapscott pushing the conversion wide, it was 13-17 to Morpeth.
Over the next 20 minutes, Carlisle had the lion’s share of scoring opportunities but a resolute Morpeth defence kept them out.
Lyall was having probably his best game of the season, hitting the rucks hard and supporting the backs well alongside the rest of the back row.
Grieve and Lemin were putting in a good shift at the coalface and Stansfield was making some excellent carries.
On 65 minutes, Morpeth’s young guns had got themselves up to the home 22 and, with a Carlisle player judged to be offside at a ruck, got the penalty. This time, Tapscott made no mistake, sending the ball straight through the uprights.
The game continued to go from end to end, with both teams contributing to an entertaining match, aided, it has to be said, by a referee who played a lot of advantage which allowed the game to flow.
Perhaps fittingly, it was Carlisle who had the last say, as, after a sustained period of pressure, they eventually managed to crash over for a try. However, the conversion was missed, making the final score 18-20 to Morpeth.
This was a workmanlike performance from the Mitford Road outfit, who really had to dig in at times.
There were some very good performances from the likes of centres Scott and Tait. Fly-half Tapscott played with a level head, but man-of-the-match went to Tom Manley, who time and time again was there to clear up everything that came over the top or through the line, working like a Trojan for the Morpeth cause.