Second string make history

Morpeth Colts in action against Billingham.
Morpeth Colts in action against Billingham.

Billingham Colts 24 Morpeth Colts II 0

IT was a momentous week for Morpeth Colts, with 11 of them getting the opportunity to visit Loughborough on Tuesday, February 28, along with several members of the senior team, to watch England train and then be put through their paces in a training session taken by Graham Rowntree.

Then Saturday saw a first in the history of Morpeth Colts as they fielded two teams on the same day in two separate competitions.

A home team played at Mitford Road against Hawick Wanderers in the Scottish Borders Cup made up of first and second-year Colts, while an away team, made up of first-year Colts and four U16 players, travelled to Billingham to play in the league.

With several key players unavailable, this really demonstrated the depth of the squad Morpeth have at their disposal this season.

The match at Billingham kicked off in near-perfect conditions with only a stiff breeze blowing across the pitch to contend with.

Billingham are currently sitting at the top of the league and it was easy to see why. They are an accomplished outfit who try to play expansive rugby, getting the ball wide at every opportunity from a platform provided by their impressive pack.

Morpeth, with four of the U16s in their 16-man squad, started the game brightly surprising the hosts with the ferocity of their rucking and tackling, making the early exchanges brutal.

Much of the early part of the game was played in the midfield area with the bigger Billingham players being frustrated by Morpeth’s stout defence.

On 20 minutes, Billingham made the breakthrough, moving the ball wide toward their right-wing and then switching the direction of attack quickly to their left-wing they squeezed over in the corner. With the conversion missed, it was 5-0.

Billingham had further chances but were thwarted at every turn. One such chance again came down their left-wing but was snuffed out by the tackle of the match from full-back Tom Manley, who, as last man, made a perfectly-timed tackle, putting the Teesside winger into touch. That is how the score remained for the rest of the first half, leaving Billingham very frustrated and at a loss as to what they had to do to break this Morpeth defence down.

Morpeth kicked the second half off and continued to thwart everything Billingham threw at them, but, with Billingham’s seemingly unending supply of fresh legs, the pace of the game was starting to take its toll on some of the Morpeth players and, it seemed, the home players too, who had several forced changes to make due to injuries.

Six minutes into the second half, Billingham crossed the line again down the right-wing. This time the conversion found its mark for 12-0 to the Teessiders.

In the next 15 minutes, Billingham ran in two further tries to put the game out of sight for the visitors, making the score 24-0.

For the final quarter of the match, Morpeth seemed to get a second wind. U16 fly-half Kieran Brown, on his debut in a Colts match, was tackling way above his weight and kicking with confidence and an intelligence way beyond his years.

In the latter stages of the game, Billingham again thought their winger was in but he was hit by a determined Chase Evans, who continued to drive pushing the larger Billingham player back out of the away 22. With help arriving, the ball was turned over and spun out to fly-half Brown, who made a break through the gap. He chipped the on-rushing centre with great confidence, collected his own kick and side-stepped the other centre and sprinted on, getting caught just short of the home 22 – an exquisite piece of individual skill.

It was not over, however. Showing good strength, he managed to hold up the ball for the support which duly arrived in the form of Liam Scott.

Morpeth were now into the home 22 and pressing for a score with only seconds left on the clock. Unfortunately, the ball was knocked on in a ruck, effectively ending the game.

For all this was Morpeth’s heaviest defeat of the season so far, head coach Dungait came away very happy with the team performance and the attitude of the players.

Where perhaps a weaker team would have laid down against a very good Billingham team, the Mitford Road youngsters showed a lot of character and never gave up. Bearing in mind this was, in effect, a mixed U16/17 team, the future for Morpeth Colts is certainly very bright.

Newcastle University are the proud sponsors of Morpeth Colts.