North One East
Percy Park RFC 17 v Morpeth RFC 12
Storm Deidre did her best to dampen spirits but Park prevail and vanquish ‘The Mighty Peth’.
After last week’s grim result away at Cleckheaton Percy Park knew they had to put in a good shift in to beat a high flying Morpeth side. As kick off approached Storm Deidre began to show her mettle as she blew a bitter cold tempest across the Preston Avenue pitch. An icy squall that had all shivering in their boots. With many a spectator preferring the clubhouse to hugging a friend, the players took to the pitch and to their credit produced a great exhibition of nail biting rugby that held the interest right to the final whistle.
From the off Park kicked deep into Morpeth’s half and held a high defensive line that kept ‘the mighty Peth’ inside or on their 22. Sustained pressure that brought the knock on and turn over ball. With possession won scrum half Will Haskins fed the eager Charlie Greswold who barrelled through the line to set up the overlap. With Morpeth flapping and struggling to cover the defensive ground Park moved the ‘cherry and whites’ left to right with some punishing carries before settling on an area just to the left of the visitor’s posts. And there they hammered until the Morpeth defence creaked, groaned and gave way with Mark Barry, keeping his body position low, punching over the line to score. With the try converted Percy Park were ahead by 7 points with 3 minutes played.
As the game progressed, hands became cold and balls were dropped. Morpeth’s strength is in the front row and they began to dominate that area and in doing so take advantage of the ice induced knock-ons. With the call to set the scrum square, the Morpeth tight head did his level best to come in leaving Michael Birkett a problem as he was being separated from his hooker. With messy ball at the back Park had to reset from the 8 or take a phase from a crashing centre. Yet it was from the lost ball that Park excelled, with their back row coming off the scrum quickly and creating a high defensive line. Once in that area Park are very good at generating real pressure on the team in possession. And so the game flowed across the middle of the pitch.
With the wind increasing the referee decided to give allowance to both sides at the line out. Having been given a licence to throw the ball towards his own team the wily Morpeth hooker did just that. With Morpeth looking to keep the ball in tight Percy Park took the opposite view and decided to run anything they could, often with devastating effect. It was proving to be an intriguing contest.
And then came that little bit of gold dust. With Park stripping a Morpeth forward they moved the ball to the right wing where real ground was made, allowing fly half Ash Smith to place an astute kick behind the Morpeth defence, that had them scuttling back. With the kick taking a slight defection off a Morpeth player the line out was awarded to the Tyneside team. With the throw in now a lottery, Morpeth contested and knocked on in the air. (Maybe our Captain should have thrown the ball straight to his team and avoided all the knock-ons). To the scrum we went. Although Park went backwards, Ethan Wilson picked up. Ash Smith fed Will Haskins, who showed his opponents the ball, feinted the pass and set through the gap like a true thoroughbred to score wide to the right. A great score that had the crowd stamping their feet in double time as they took the opportunity to warm their didgets. With the kick missed 12-0 Park.
With Morpeth chasing, the game became a little rough with the referee warning players re the use of their feet. When the going gets tough, up step your big guns. Austin Phillips and Charlie Greswold started to excel in the heat of the battle. Both players made real hard yards carrying the ball well and earning their side territory.
A strong break from centre Seb Rees brought a penalty advantage that had Austin Phillips and Michael Birkett working the Morpeth ‘D’ as if they were wielding a hammer and chisel. The hits were huge and Morpeth were mightily relieved when they were able to clear the ball after a Park player infringed by putting his hands in the ruck and whistling the ball out the back towards his colleagues.
As the half came to its close, Morpeth had their turn at creating that spark that can lift a team when they are under the cosh; a moment that can give you hope at half time. That instant was provided by a Percy Park player being offside at the scrum clattering the player at the back before he had his hands on the ball. Of course that would be a Morpeth point of view and one clearly disputed by the Percy Park faithful, who told all within ear shot that the Morpeth player, in picking the ball up, had knocked on. And it was only when he picked up a second time that he got clattered! With the decision made, Morpeth took the ball to the centre of the pitch and put in a sublime cross kick, which had their right wing collecting before passing inside for the supporting player to score. With the kick missed 12 points to 5 at the turn.
Morpeth started the stronger. With Park still cuddling the half time tea pot, the kick off was allowed to drop. Missed tackles put Morpeth on the try line. Parks ‘D’ was impressive, following the Morpeth side as they attempted to stretch Park and find the space to score. In an attempt to break the deadlock a wide pass put the Morpeth wing in possession. Forced back inside, the shadowing player brought him to the floor. With the tackle adjudged to be high and penalty advantage given, the Morpeth scrum half appeared to dummy a pass as he ran away from the back of the ruck before stopping and squeezing through the narrowest of gaps to score. The kick was dispatched and the scores levelled 12 all.
As the game progressed the Morpeth 8 started to make his presence felt with some really strong runs. Park were having trouble containing him. It was apparent that Percy Park had discussed the scrummage during the half time break as the contest was more even. Although the steady scrum was allowing the Morpeth 8 to pick up and run between the Park 9 and 10 with some effect.
There was a moment of anxiety for the home support when player coach Ash Smith allowed a rolling ball to creep towards his try line before dadding it down beyond the line. The following Morpeth player called for the 5 metre scrum, as he believed Smith had taken the ball over the line before placing it on the floor. Only when the referee adjudicated that the ball was on the whitewash, and it was a 22 drop out, did the home support breathe. Mind the drop out was rubbish because the ball came straight back clutched in a Morpeth arm. From the resulting play Park gave away a kickable penalty. Thankfully old Deidre managed to blow the ball to the right of the posts. Breathe again.
With conditions worsening the line out became anybody’s and balls were being dropped in crucial areas. A little bit of luck flowed Parks way. With Haskins in control he spayed the ball to the right. Seb Rees appeared to drop the ball as Morpeth pounced and duly kicked possession away to a Park player. The play moved to the left with Michael Langlands in a pivotal position to create a pass that put man of the match Charlie Greswold in to score wide to the right. With the wind swirling any kick would be difficult and so it proved with the conversion missed. 17-12 Park.
The game ‘see sawed’ from one end to the other. Both sides were guilty of some poor tactical kicking. Kicks that handed back possession to the other side. As the weather deteriorated the old forwards in the crowd made comment that if they were playing, it would have been hands and ball up the jumper with little regard for the poor winger. To the credit of both teams they continued to play a flowing game. With Michael Langlands replacing Ethan Wilson at 8 the former captain made an immediate impact by attacking from the back of the scrum before putting the charging Greswold at the Morpeth line. The defending tackle was robust. As the referee called it ‘good’ ,Park were in at the ruck attracting a penalty kick, as the referee saw fit to punish a Morpeth hand that was trying to slow the ball down. With the wind swirling the attempt was missed. It really wasn’t a day for kicking a ball.
The game became physical with players being warned and a few off the ball incidents as players looked to tie each other in to the rucks and mauls. Morpeth thought they were over as virtually all their team flooded in in an attempt to push the payer with ball in hand over the line. As the player fell the referee was on hand to see that the Morpeth player had knocked on.
The referee was having to work for his expenses as both sides were definitely going for it. Austin Phillips was penalised for a late tackle that had his opposite number and the Morpeth captain floundering on his back like a caught fish. With warning given, the Park team were on the back foot. As the final whistle approached, the game became more aggressive and the referee more vocal. Decisions were contested, verbal spats continued, Captains spoken to, time requested.
Morpeth deep in their 22 had to find something if they were to overtake the Park score. As they ran the ball out Park kept knocking them back. The ball on the floor hotly disputed. The referee was going hoarse shouting his command ‘ball on the floor’ ‘hands away’ and ‘Leave it’. Morpeth became desperate. In their anxiety they put the ball in the middle and knocked on. As Park went for the ball a shout ‘is it time sir’ the reply ‘Its time on my watch’ at which point Will Haskins picked the ball up and, with his best kick of the game ,dispatched the thing high to the right and out of play. 17-12 Park in what was a pulsating contest.
A superb game of rugby in very difficult conditions and as all the players trudged off to a warm shower they were warmly congratulated by both the home and away support.
For Park next up is 'Derby Day' and the chance to turn Whitley Bay Rocliff's Lovaine Avenue ground into a sea of 'black and white'. I believe kick off is at 3pm this year as Percy Park Colts are playing Rock in an appetiser. See you all there. Come on Park!