North One East
Percy Park RFC 17 v Morley RFC 23
Constant penalties hurt Park
As London exchange referee Matt Constant took to the hallowed turf of Preston Avenue on a wet and bitter cold afternoon, all of his southern beliefs about the frozen North must have come to fruition. Penetrating cold, coupled with a persistent miserable drizzle, made the pitch wet and heavy. Even for the most hardened athlete the conditions were challenging. Yet both sides contested, battled and struggled, and in the doing, provided for the supporter an entertaining and captivating game of rugby. A game that ‘ebbed and flowed’ and one, either, side could have won. The difference was probably in the penalty and error count. Park committed many. Morley did not. Although Park outscored the visitors by ‘3 try’s to 2’ when they transgressed Morley ruthlessly took points and managed to keep the scoreboard ticking along and their noses in front…. So how did Percy Park contrive to lose this pulsating contest?
Michael Grove got proceedings under way as Percy Park attacked the golf course end. A hanging kick was gathered by the home side and immediately they attacked the south east corner. An astute ‘punching’ kick brought about a Percy Park line out which was……dropped and knocked on. And in the observation set the tone for the rest of the game. The ball was greasy and wet making handling difficult. From that moment the spectator knew whoever could tactically master the conditions would emerge the victor.
Park threw the ball wide, bringing big runners into the line. Morley stood their ground and absorbed the hits of Josh Hedley, Austin Phillips and Andrew Steinburg. A good collect from Ali Blair took the flyer to the maroon line before being dumped to the floor in a bruising collision. Like Driffield the week before, Morley’s defence was sound. Grove chipped and Ali Blair ran behind. The Morley full back did his job and his team mates were quicker to the breakdown than Percy Park. With Blair penalised for holding on, Park found themselves on ‘the defence’ and defending a line out just outside their 22. Ball collected. An eager Phillips drifted offside and Park were on the back foot. Although the penalty strike was short, Percy Park could not clear their half, returning the ball to the Morley back line. Another kick ‘over the top’ had Park turned and defending their line. The Pressure ramped up and eventually Park succumbed when fly half Mark Chester broke the line. Chester fended or held off a Park defender before offloading, with the other hand, to supporting runners. The try was made in the corner and a decent conversion taken. 7-0 to the Yorkshire side.
From the restart Percy Park attacked, then lost ground when penalised for being offside. The game moved to the middle. With the visitors in possession, solid work from the Park ‘pack’ kept Morley at bay. The back row of Michael Langlands, Andy Dunn and Jake Smith were at the coalface (or should that be the mud face!). One almighty hit from Michael Langlands and Ali Blair had a Morley receiver driven back home to the outskirts of Leeds. Such was the energy put into the collision. In retaining the ball the Morley player certainly earned his money. The scrummages were even and went to the placing team. The game of attrition had started and, as it did so, the pitch churned up.
To break the deadlock the game need some flair and that duly arrived from the quicksilver feet of Andrew Walker. A long kick from Morley fly half Mark Chester had Walker collecting in his 22 as his speedy, opposite, number bore down on him. A left and right shimmy left his opponent prostrate on the floor and the player was off. Caught ‘mid half’ the offload to the supporting Michael Grove was good. Morley were ragged and the home side took advantage. Grove drew his man and placed a pass into the hands of the advancing scrum half Ruairi Meharg. Returning the favour Meharg drew his man before floating a pass back to Grove, enabling the fly half to dot down over the try line. From a territory claiming kick Percy Park had broken out of the trenches with some aplomb and excitement. Unfortunately the conversion fell short. 5 -7 the score.
Morley responded taking play into the Tynesider’s half. The game went to the scrum and on this occasion Morley appeared to push Park back. Unable to hold their feet on the surface the Park team went to the floor. Much to the annoyance of second row Josh Hedley. Penalty Morley. Up stepped Mark Chester and a lengthy strike saw the ball drop on the right side (wrong side for the home team!) of the cross bar. 5 to 10 the score.
Park attacked and had decent possession. A ‘kick and chase’ had Morley unsuccessfully playing out of their 22. Yet Park went offside again….. and all that hard work was lost. The half time whistle went and Park went to the huddle. Morley had edged ‘the half’ but Park were playing well. If they could cut out the ‘Constant’ penalties there was something here for them. The number ‘5’ was bandied along the terraces; a stinging observation on the number of offside’s that had seen Park give away advantageous territory. Still it was ‘all to play for’ and the faithful were optimistic.
That optimism appeared well founded as the Tynesider’s started brightly. Michael Grove sent a ‘Hypersonic Missile’ down the pitch and almost on the Morley 5 metre line. It was a great kick and Park were in control….only for possession to be given away as we were penalised for holding on. Andrew Walker returned the kick with some assurance on the outside of his boot. Park were encouraging open play. And when the ball returned Meharg gathered and he, like Walker, deftly buffeted the ball with the outside of his foot, placing the ball in play and over the dead ball line.
With a line out on the 5 metre line Percy Park went for it. Marc Cook, resplendent in his clean shirt, was at the forefront making up for lost time on his return from injury. Only a foot in touch (which brought a glare from Andrew Walker directed at our linesman!) and a dropped ball let Morley off the hook. Still it was promising. And that promise was fulfilled when great work from Josh Hedley won the ‘black and whites’ a penalty. Michael Grove put the home side ‘down the line’ in dangerous areas for the defending side. The resulting ‘catch and drive’ was ‘sacked’ and Park turned the screw. Back to the line out. Taken cleanly, Josh Hedley literally hauled his team mates over the line to score a fine try. Conversion taken. Park were in the lead and promise had borne fruit. 12-10 the score.
As a faithful supporter of Percy Park it pays not to get too far ahead of yourself. Park made a right hash of defending the restart. Ball knocked on and bounced around on the floor before being gathered by a Morley centre. Now we were defending. A Morley ‘knock on’ took Park to the scrum and we should have cleared. Instead the scrum wheeled as Park went back. Andy Dunn picked the ball out of the back and as he did so was hammered. With ball spinning out of control Morley seized their moment, gathering and then grinding Park down before scoring underneath the posts. Conversion taken. 12-17.
At the score Percy Park lost the momentum of the game. Handling errors, kicking ‘straight out’ and ‘failing to make touch’ gave the visiting team a ‘head of steam’. One decision had the kicking player’s mother looking for our linesman after the game…it was a close call. Yet the errors let Morley back in as Park surrendered ground. Percy Park were making them; Morley weren’t.
Morley kept the ball going through the phases. Adapting to the conditions they ground down the Park defence, happily taking inches as long as they kept the ball, before releasing a player off the back. One such move was prevented by a brilliant covering tackle from Captain Seb Reece. Yet the ball remained in Parks 22 and Park ‘tackled and tackled’ before digging out the ball and clearing ‘up field’. Defensively it was fantastic stuff but we needed to get to the other end. Yet the ball seemed to be on elastic with its anchor on the Park 22 line. As soon as we got rid of it the ball returned.
Under such constant pummeling something had to give. And ‘the give’ arrived through the whistle of Mr. Constant. I think he penalised Park for being offside as the home side tried to get off their line quickly. Right or wrong the decision was made and annoyingly right in front of our posts. That decision brought a response from Ms. Wrigley ‘’well he might slip’’. Mark Chester didn’t…12-20 the score….and only 10 to go.
Coach Patton freshened the lineup. On came Sean Williamson and a more than welcome return to Kieran Sutherland. And it was Sutherland who got the faithful back on their feet. Phillips and Cook made the ground before Meharg released Sutherland into the line. The powerful winger broke the tackles getting behind the line. A desperate grab for his shirt prompted the pass to Jake Smith. The flanker showed some pace drawing the covering defender before releasing Mattie Boustead to deliver the ‘coup de grace’. Michael Groves’s conversion looked good in the gloom. Unluckily for the player the ball struck the bar, bouncing and the falling down on the wrong side. 17-20 the score.
Percy Park needed one more spell with the ball…momentum had swung to the home side in the final minutes. Morley have always been a tactically good side and they sensed it. The ball went ‘up the jumper’ and they went through the phases, strangling the breath out of the game. Happily making yards into the Park half. It was impressive stuff. In an attempt to dislodge the ball Percy Park went in from the side. One look at the referee…time was up and with the last kick Mark Chester didn’t miss. Final score 17 points to 23.
This was a game decided by the number of errors made and penalties against. If Park had managed to control that number we could have won. I guess this is an area Coach Patten will look at. Overall the team put in a fantastic effort under difficult conditions and both teams are to be congratulated for producing a cracking game of rugby for the spectator to watch.
There is no first team game next week with the boys having a well-earned rest before making the trip to Pocklington. The Lions are fixtured at home against Hartlepool with a 2:15 kick off…. let’s show our support.
The last word is another congratulatly one and this time goes to ‘our own’ Jamie Wrigley who is playing in the Dubai 7’s tournament. We wish him well and hope his mum and dad have a great holiday in support. Even if Ms. Wrigley reckons she will be a right ‘alkaliba’ as she is not allowed to Vape!!!!...we wish you ‘good luck’ with that one Chris.