North One East
Percy Park 26 - Morpeth 29
In a game that went from ‘end to end’ it was a wicked bounce of the match ball that eventually separated the two sides. Yet it was Park who should have walked off the hallowed turf five points to the good rather than an elated Morpeth side who were looking to the skies giving thanks. Sport can be cruel and in many cases the best team does not always win.
Percy Park are a young and exciting side who are always looking to create that little bit of magic and score crowd pleasing tries. As the side gets younger the supporters grow that much older and as the spectator base ages the ailments that attend age become evident. The most pressing ailment about the Park faithful is definatly blood pressure and all we can ask is that Park team learn to ‘shut up shop’ and ‘keep the ball’ especially when we are winning with ten minutes to go…..then and only then will the blood pressure subside because at this rate the Percy Park Match Day officer is going to be on ‘speed dial’ with the local A&E department.
On a grey breezy Saturday afternoon the two forward packs went at each other with gusto and true to form as soon as the Park backs got the ball in hand the game exploded into life with a miss-pass putting centre Seb Rees into space. And from his own 22 Rees attacked that space scything through the Morpeth defence with Michael Grove in support. With only the full back to beat the young centre delayed the scoring pass and in doing so placed the ball behind the supporting player and the opportunity to score was lost.
The game ebbed and flowed with Park guilty of trying to force the game wide and failing to deliver that final pass and in doing so gave opportunities to Morpeth to exploit open spaces and as a consequence it was Morpeth who drew first blood. With Park pressing Morpeth in their half a loss of possession allowed the Morpeth fly half to get his hands on the ball and seeing that Park hadn’t organised their defence attacked the space that was offered. With the aid of a missed tackle he was away and through a series of deft passes, alluding the Park scramble defence, the Morpeth scrum half was in and under the posts. A try that was duly converted.
And that set the pattern of the half….Park would press and test the Morpeth defence then lose the ball through a poor or a risky pass allowing Morpeth possession. A scamper or a boot down the field would see Morpeth attempting to put their strike runner and ‘former’ Park wing Jonny Ward into scoring opportunities. At times Park were stretched and opposite wing Kieran Sutherland was putting in a good defensive shift by denying Ward the space he was after. The only score in this period was a well taken penalty from Morpeth after a similar pattern of play saw Park scramble back toward their half and being penalised for holding on.
Then on the half hour Seb Rees had the crowd on the feet with another scything break and as he went to ground the ball was popped up for the supporting Park runners and in the scramble that followed Morpeth came out with the ball and were able to clear. Yet Rees had asked questions of a Morpeth defence that did not like to be taken wide and it was no surprise that when Park retrieved the cleared ball and moved the ball to the wing a Morpeth hand was seen to deliberately knock the ball forward and deny a possible score in the corner. A yellow card followed and down to 14 Morpeth were in trouble. Two minutes after the card Park were awarded a penalty try as a Morpeth player was adjudged to tackled high in the players attempt to prevent Park from scoring.
Then it was all Park. Reduced in numbers Morpeth had their ‘backs to the wall’ and were defending in their 22, albeit intelligently by keeping possession and winding down the time. A fierce tackle by Sutherland broke the deadlock and saw Morpeth spill the ball. Park pounced, gathering the loose ball. A well-timed miss pass put flanker Josh Lake through the Morpeth defence and a well-deserved try under the posts. With Grove converting Park were ahead at the turn by 14 points to 10.
The second half started at a fast pace and Park were unlucky not to score when the unfortunate Michael Birkett was unable to keep hold of the try scoring pass. With Morpeth still reduced in number Park were looking to take advantage. With one way out of their predicament Morpeth had to keep hold of the ball and wind down the clock. Despite Coach Lome Faatau’s audible encouragement from his full back position to press forward Park seemed to be hanging back and accepting the tackle allowing Morpeth to inch forward and importantly retain the ball. Park needed to listen to their coach by getting into the line quickly and force or pressure a mistake. And in that hesitancy the Morpeth scrum half had a good look at where Park were positioned and with a high kick a head he chased after the ball. Now it was one onto one. With Faatau being the last man the ball struck the ground and bounced over the head of the chasing Park full back and nestled nicely into the arms of the also chasing Morpeth scrum half . Despite a desperate tackle from Faatau the Morpeth player was able to pop the ball up to a supporting colleague to score. The score was certainly against the play, certainly cruel as Park did not deserve to give the score away yet credit to the Morpeth scrum half who saw the possibility and created his own luck. With the conversion missed Morpeth were ahead by one.
With numbers even the game ebbed and flowed. Yet Park had their opportunities to score, but a misplaced pass would kill the opportunity. That loss of opportunity seemed catching as Morpeth were also guilty of the same. Exciting stuff for the neutral. As always with this local derby the game was on a knife edge. Park introduced Andy McGrath and Keppa Latu into the fray. With Michael Langlands having a fine game that little bit of addittional experience on the field of play enabled him to be able to pick up at ’ 8 ‘and make valuable yards and from one outstanding ‘’pick and drive’ he was able to link up with McGrath and put Keppa Latu into the corner for a fine forwards try. With the try converted Park were ahead by 21 points to 15.
All appeared well…or so it seemed…despite being well in control of the game and with time running out… Park had to look for that bit of magic….an audacious chip ahead for a chasing player coming through traffic was collected and with the ball in broken play the inevitable Morpeth score was made. Morpeth were back ahead by one. Then Park did it again from a very poor short line out they lost the possession to Morpeth who worked the ball from ‘left to right’ and their centre was over for another score. The try converted.
For those of an age and can remember a programme called M.A.S.H they might have been humming a tune!!....but from a spectators point of view there was nothing painless about it at all.
However the last score went to Park, and as the clock was winding down, Michael Grove found some space and with ‘fleet of foot’ arched his way over the Morpeth line to score. Unfortunatly the conversion was missed.
With Park behind by three and Morpeth tiring the sizeable crowd were hopeful that Park might snatch the win…yet poor decision making kept handing the ball back to Morpeth who were very glad to see time ebb away from Park.
A good game for the neutral spectator however this was a game Park should have won.
Final score: Percy Park 26- Morpeth 29