Morpeth RFC 24-20 Penrith
This was a highly entertaining match played out by the current top two teams in the league before a good crowd at Mitford Road.
The fact that Morpeth came out winners cut the visitors lead at the top two points.
There is no doubting the game could have gone either way and in terms of possession Penrith would have won by some distance, yet that is not giving enough credit to a home side who defended exceptionally well and took chances when offered.
The conditions were ideal as Penrith took the game to Morpeth. In a breathtaking first 12 minutes amazingly there were no set pieces with Penrith dominating possession against a highly organised and committed home defence.
Against the run of play Morpeth took the lead on 15 minutes when Sam Hornby made ground with an incursion from his wing,the ball was recycled causing Penrith to concede a penalty that brother Ben converted.
Mention needs to be made of Ben Hornby’s place kicking: in a match where both sides are evenly matched and on your side you have a kicker who contributes a 100% success rate, that side will almost certainly come out on top.
Penrith came straight back with a deserved unconverted try following a kick ahead behind a stretched and on rushing home defence.
After 30 minutes back came Morpeth, after a Ward mazy run forced a penalty, then opting for an attacking scrum Morpeth created pressure from a series of rucks, scrum half Elliott cleverly changed the focus of attack using the blindside to send Ward over in the corner. Hornby converted majestically from the touchline to make it 10-5.
Amazingly Morpeth scored again almost from the restart, firstly the ball went back to Elliott who saw the robust flanker Josh Williams take the ball on breaking through a series of tackles, as several players contributed as the ball moved upfield it was Elliott again handing onto Williams, who made a bullocking run making it to the line for an excellent score, ably converted again by Ben Hornby for 17-5.
This excellent half was to have a finale to match when on this occasion Morpeth’s defence let them down when poor tackling allowed Penrith to score wide out for a converted try making the score 17-12.
The second half proved more even in terms of possession and Morpeth were indebted to some robust and committed performances to see them through to the final whistle.
Off the field, injured captain Carl Hill proved only slightly quieter when not playing than when he is playing, albeit marginally!
Penrith opened the scoring in the second half with a simple penalty to reduce the deficit to two points at 17-15.
It was then that man of the match Jack Elliott , consistently the best home performer over the last month, provided a dynamic influence to the game. Firstly a sniping Elliott break,then an brilliant Campbell offload,who is proving week in week out how important he is to the side,saw Ben Hornby go agonizingly close.An ensuing attacking scrum,Elliott again offloading to allow the consistent Dawson to romp over making the score 24-15.
The final score went to the visitors when from a stray kick ahead an excellent counter attack against tired defenders gave the Cumbrian side a losing bonus point.