North One East
Penrith 53-Percy Park 19
Yellow Cards prove decisive
Percy Park travelled to the League leaders determined that they would but in a better performance than they showed in the final 15 minutes at home against Morpeth; yet two yellow cards in either half proved catastrophic as the away side shipped 6 tries whilst they were one man down. On reflection I think it was unlikely that Park would have won this game as Penrith despite having a numerical advantage were tactically the better side and well deserved of their league leader status. On this clinical performance it is hard to see a side in this league that will challenge Penrith at the top of the table this season.
On arrival there was a strong wind blowing down the pitch giving one side a distinct advantage and as the game commenced Percy Park kicked with the wind or should that be described as a gale !. Yet it was Penrith who attacked Park. Sensibly keeping the ball in the forwards and starving Park of any meaningful possession. Penrith spent the first 20 minutes of the game camped in Park’s half battering the try line. To Park’s credit their defence was superb. There is a real ordered discipline about how they defend. Yet when there is only one team on the front foot it is not a great surprise that the defending team attracts the attention of the referee. Numerous penalties were given for being offside and a warning was given. Although some of the calls were marginal at best, the tactics taken by Penrith were wearing the Park line down.
As it was impossible to kick for goal penalties were taken quickly with a tap and go or a kick to the corner. Either way Park were kept on the ‘back foot’. With the throw in proving ‘tricky’ Michael Langlands put in a great shift disrupting the Penrith line ensuring that Park either got possession or were able to slow Penrith momentum. With possession Park elected to move the ball out wide to facilitate a kick down field in an attempt to relieve the pressure, yet Penrith were very quickly out the line to pressure the kicker often getting a hand to the ball to create a scramble and in doing so retained possession. Then on the 20 minute mark Centre Phil Morse was able to avoid a rushing Penrith player and place the ball deep into the Penrith half and for the first time Park could put Penrith under pressure. However Penrith are masters at keeping the ball and as they worked their way out of their 22 by a series of ‘pick and goes’ and by working ‘around the corner’ Park Fly half Michael Grove was harshly adjudged to have been offside. A yellow card was produced and Park were down to 14. The penalty was taken with a ‘tap’ and Penrith moved the ball to open field stretching the Park defence. Broken play ensued and with the numerical advantage Penrith were under the posts. Despite an easy conversion the attempt was missed with the ball striking the post. The wind proving to be mightier than the boot.
For the next 9 minutes Penrith ran directly at the Park defender, off loaded to a supporting player who would bounce off tackles and move the ball out to an undefended teammate who would run in and score. It was as clinical as that. Within a 10 minute period Park were down 24-0.
Back to full strength Park regrouped and they decided to attack the Penrith midfield moving the ball through the backs probing for a gap and on the half Full back Toby Davison, who was putting in great defensive performance, broke through the Penrith defence and with pace aggressively attacked the Penrith posts. With the Penrith defence in disorder Davison was under the posts to score. With Grove converting, Park trailed 24-7 at the half.
With a glimmer of hope Park went into the huddle and what was said was motivational as Park, chasing the game into the wind, were out of the traps quickly and with ball in hand they looked dangerous and Penrith were struggling to contain that pace. Early pressure paid off with Michael Grove seizing on a loose ball but the ball out to a supporting player. Quick hands put the impressive young centre Seb Rees into some space and with the ability to lose his marker he was under the posts to score. A try Michael Grove was able to convert…24-14. With the sides equal in number and only ten points adrift the travelling Park support were hopeful of a recovery.
However as the author mentioned earlier Penrith are an able side and before the restart their captain brought them together. Subsequent lesson learnt Penrith returned to ‘keep ball’ and ‘working around the corner’ starving Park of any meaningful possession. Yet it was a sublime underarm offload from the Penrith ‘8’ that put Penrith back in command and broke Park hearts, as the pass put their winger into a ‘one to one’ contest with a Park defender. The resulting tackle putting the Penrith player in touch. Deep in their half Park were in trouble. With Michael Langlands winning the Penrith ball, Park attempted to play their way out of trouble but were unable to make any real headway. A series of set pieces followed and although Park had parity in this department a Park player broke his bind and was rightly penalised. A ‘tap and go’ took advantage of a defensive gap and Penrith were over to score. Park never managed to get out of their half.
It was that try that put the game out of reach for Park and visibly lifted Penrith. All Park could hope for was a bonus point. And to their credit they continued to play and attempt to ask questions of the Penrith team. However every foray into the Penrith terrority resulted in the ball being returned with interest down the pitch with a wind assisted kick. And it was no surprise when Penrith made that territorial advantage pay with a further try and conversion. And when winger Liam Blackburn attempted to collect a Penrith pass on his line to prevent another score a further yellow card was given. Two tries followed, as with a numerical advantage Penrith are more than clinical, always creating that overlap or providing an extra player into the midfield to exploit the numerical advantage.
Still Park have character and in a rare excursion into the Penrith half were able to put in wing Kieron Sutherland into the corner with the last play of the game.
This was a tough afternoon and there were some great individual displays from players who refused to give up. Without the yellow cards there might have been a closer game however on occasion you have to admit when you are beaten by a better side.
Every cloud does have a silver lining and the afternoon was not without some hilarity. My thanks goes to Park Full Back Toby Davison who caused that hilarity by leaving his car somewhere on the M6 motorway without petrol. The vehicle having come to a spluttering halt. Failing to restart the motor vehicle Toby had to ring a pal and ask what the red light on his petrol gauge was for. Priceless.