Malton and Norton 20
On a bright sunny spring afternoon, Morpeth entertained their Yorkshire rivals in their last home league game of the season, writes Colin Green.
With both sides having secured league status in what has been a tremendously competitive competition, spectators and players alike were looking forward to another close and entertaining encounter.
Albeit the game was close, sadly the match was disappointing, both sides guilty of handling errors, resulting in a disjointed spectacle.
There can be no doubt that Malton deserved the win, particularly in the second half where for prolonged periods they dominated possession. At centre, fly-half and full-back, they possessed a threat which came to the fore in the latter stages of the match.
Malton took the lead after three minutes when Ward was adjudged to have deliberately knocked on, giving the visitors an easy penalty.
Hornby had a very good chance to equalise for the home side but he dragged the penalty wide of the uprights.
Morpeth then held sway and, from an attack taking play into the visitors 22, Ward, with some quick thinking took a tap-penalty to race over to give Morpeth a 5-3 lead after 24 minutes.
Malton then retook the lead with another penalty, before Hornby received a harsh sin-binning, again for a deliberate knock-on, when it appeared the player attempted to catch the ball with two hands.
Half-time score: 6-5 to the visitors.
The second half began with Elliott making a smart break with a quickly taken penalty, only for Malton to infringe. However, Phillips was unable to convert another fairly simple opportunity.
Malton increased their lead when, from a ruck some 22 metres out, a pick-and-drive saw the flanker go through the centre of a ruck, exploiting poor defending then showing good pace to scamper over (13-5 Malton).
Thanks to some hard running from Craigs, sniping breaks from Elliott and graft from both Dawson and Williams, Morpeth came back with a score of their own and, from some good ball retention, Josh Williams touched down.
Morpeth then took the lead when Craigs crashed over from an attacking line-out, with Hornby adding the conversion with an excellent kick (17-13 Morpeth).
In the aftermath, Malton had a player red-carded for dissent.
Despite having a player down, Malton then played their best rugby, stepping up the pace with the home side struggling to stay with them. After constant pressure, they scored a converted try, giving them a lead which they never looked like relinquishing.
Unfortunately, this excellent spell of Malton pressure, which was by the far the best rugby seen in the match, was overshadowed by some over-vociferous Malton supporters, who took it upon themselves to berate the referee at almost every decision.
Nevertheless, this was a deserved victory for Malton, leaving Morpeth to look forward to the County Cup final next Saturday with a mouth-watering clash against Alnwick.
It was a difficult call to award man-of-the-match, but on the basis on being the club’s most consistent performer throughout the campaign and yet again with another performance of high energy and commitment, it went to Michael Craigs.