Park improve at 'The Bear Pit'

North One East
Moortown RUFC 29 v Percy Park RFC 23
Park improve at 'The Bear Pit’
A vast improvement in the set piece, especially around the scrum, was the corner stone of a mettlesome display from an under strength Percy Park side. We travelled with three props on the bench and a little light in the back!  Yet late call ups and some rejigging about did not diminish an encouraging performance in a game played within the confines of a hostile and often negative environment. Noted that the ill deposed and averse atmosphere was not directed toward the visitor but the referee made it all the more unwelcoming. When you play away you do expect some lively banter! Not only was the referee’s regional identity challenged but his ability to adjudicate a game of rugby was constantly questioned. Apologies from the gentlemen of Moortown (and they were excellent hosts) to their guests really should have been directed to the man in the middle. If our coach driver commented that the home crowd was more ‘football than rugby union’ you can probably get the idea….so how did Percy Park fare? And how did fly half Michael Grove keep his nerve whilst being distracted by a cacophony of sounds designed to put him off?
Percy Park started the game really well and had Moortown hunkered down in their 22. A big hit from the impressive Josh Hedley had a Moortown ‘break out’ rattling back to their try line. Only a dose of eagerness from wing Ross Young to break the deadlock, with a chip ahead, gave Moortown possession. Wise words followed, as Ross was encouraged ‘to keep the ball in hand’. 
The first scrum went down ‘flat as a table top’ and in total contrast to the ‘humpy back whale’ we got last week. The front row of the returning Michael Birkett (who had a fine game), Adam Hay and Marc Cook (restored to his more comfortable position) provided a platform that Park could play off.
For the first 15 minutes Moortown could not venture into Park’s half. We really needed to make our territorial dominance pay. And at the moment, where ‘the thought’ was translated to words, a confident break from full back Mattie Boustead (a break that had plenty of swish and pizzazz) put him ‘one onto one’ with his opposite number. With Michael Grove on his right shoulder Boustead drew his man and offloaded to the fly half, leaving an unopposed run to the line. With an easy conversion taken; 7 nil to the away side.
Moortown were stung into action but they kept butchering the pass with the ball finding itself heading to the deck rather to the hand. As frustration in the crowd crept in, the referee began ‘to get the jibe’. And as Moortown were penalised for offending, he got it even more.
On or about Percy Park’s 22 Michael Grove kicked a penalty to the line. The ball looked to be sailing out of play until Moortown centre Tomlinson leapt high to tap the ball backwards and ensure his team took possession. It proved to be a costly miss for Park as Moortown countered. Some rather lax midfield tackling from the ‘black and whites’ allowed Moortown wing Aaronson to score in the right hand corner. A rather impressive conversion evened the score.
Following some robust ‘on the ground’ back slapping from Josh Hedley, the forward gave Park momentum and a fine and powerful run from Captain Seb Reece saw Park score under the posts. Easy conversion and Park were back in front.
Some harsh words from the Moortown bench had the home team showing some bite. They punched a few holes and only a try saving tackle from the impressive Boustead kept them at bay. Yet Moortown were ‘in a moment’ and it was not long before they scored. This time in the left hand corner. The conversion was missed. 12-14.
Moortown’s ‘calamity passing’ had their mascot ‘Cyril the Squirrel’ climbing a tree and the vociferous crowd bayed longer and louder. Park were playing well and pressuring the Leeds side into mistakes. Failing to release the ball gave Park a shot at goal. Despite the off field condemnation Michael Grove made the kick and we went to the turnaround 12-17 to the good. The only downside was the loss of Mattie Boustead to a (possible) concussion following an accidental collision which also resulted in a chipped tooth.
Moortown started the brighter, forcing the Tyneside outfit to give a penalty away for ‘not rolling away’. A lapse of judgement that cost the ‘black and whites’ 3 points. 2 points in the game.
Another lapse of judgement, this time from the Moortown centre, who deliberately struck the ball from scrum half ‘Rory’ Meharg’s hands whilst defending in his 22. More protestations from player and crowd alike. For me he got caught. Yellow given. The home team down to 14.
Percy Park could not make the extra man count, despite running Moortown wide. Unable to break the defence down, Park became a little impatient and allowed Moortown to kick the ball away downfield. We didn’t deal with the kick at all, allowing the Moortown second row possession. A deft offload and the home side were in between the posts to score a try. And it has to be said against the run of play. Try converted. Moortown were in front 22-17. 
A decision by the referee to award Percy Park a penalty for hands in the ruck had ‘Cyril the Squirrel’ and his merry dray spilling their beer. You would have thought a grey had entered a red scurry. Squirrels are normally solitary animals but not today. A great kick by Michael Grove. He had his shooting boots on. 3 points and a silent ‘Yes’ from the author. 22-20. Game on.
The game was entertaining often exciting. A kick through had Meharg ‘back tracking’ in a ‘one to one’ foot race with a Moortown flyer. Both dived for the ball as it crossed the line. Who got there first is anybody’s guess and…you’ve guessed it… the referee didn’t award, as he hadn’t seen who had touched it down. Another roar of derision and the crowd screamed for VAR!
Park kicked on. More pressure exerted on the home team promised much. A super tackle released Moortown possession and Michael Grove took advantage. With Moortown struggling in broken play they offended once more, allowing Grove another kick at goal. Duly taken. Park were back in front by 1.
By now the home side coaching team were having a ‘seizure’. Provoking one of their own players to ask them to calm down. They were not helping their side. A gesture appreciated by the away support. The ‘Penzance princess’ was not impressed!
Yet that seizure provoked a reaction. Whether or not they thought that they were being ‘hard done to’, it generated a positive response. This time Percy Park were under the cosh. It was tense and in truth ‘a tad’ exciting. A Moortown line out, followed by a ‘catch and roll’, put the home side over for a try. An easy conversion that had them in front by 29 points to 23.
As if the tension could not be further stretched, the referee yellow carded Moortown’s Crossland on or about the home side 22 for launching Park centre Howard Stock in the back and out of the play. Yep more howls of protest! Park went to the corner. Line out won, they drove and rolled. Moortown defended with gusto, bringing Park to the stop and importently winning possession.
Moortown penalty after Moortown penalty followed. Park needed to be quicker in their decision making to ensure maximum use of a winding down clock. Park attacked, Moortown defended. Time ebbed. And if there was not enough drama, a further Moortown player was sent to the bin for a deliberate knock on. If there had of been a roof over the ground it would have been lifted high to the heavens!!
Seconds ticked. Home team down to 13.And as if to reinforce how important the scrum is to any performance, we made a mess of our put in and with ignominy Moortown pushed us off. Gaining possession the ball was sent skyward and out of play. Game over. Park had lost 29-23 and we ‘were gutted’.
Yet It was a pulsating contest and on the field of play hard and fair. The game had its moments of drama and will be one that will live in the memory for a while for both good and bad reasons.
Next week Park are at home to West Hartlepool with a 3pm kick off…let’s hope we are able to take this performance into that game and produce that eye catching ‘all round game’, that I know we are more than capable of producing. Come on Park!!
Many thanks to our volunteers who assisted at the Percy Park and Northumberland Friendly festival on Sunday. A team led by the vivacious and energetic Nicola Smith. With food vendors, Coffee stalls and cars aplenty, teams of young players from all over Northumberland showcased their talents in a well organised tournament. Thank you Nicola.
However the final word goes to the ‘battle of the vendor stalls’ between our own Toby Davison on coffee and the ebullient Leo Caulfield on the burrito stand…as the photos suggest there was only one winner…that had to be Toby with loads of customers and Leo with….unfortunatly…...none!!!!!
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