Driffield travelled to Mitford Road on Saturday knowing that they would have to be at their very best to get anything out of the game, given that their hosts are as yet unbeaten at home and looking like worthy champions. However. with the pressure off as far as the league table is concerned, and following last week’s impressive result against YMCA the Woldsmen were certainly confident of making the leaders work for their rewards.
Ben Blacker was in on the wing with Gary Stephenson returning to centre and Ryan Murray moving into the ten birth. In the forwards, Cullen returned to the back row.
The game started well for the visitors as they went through the phases slowly edging their way up field, Zavatti and Cullen carrying well and the ever-present loose cannon Brankley always in the action. The home defence was to prove difficult to break down : Morpeth have a tremendous defensive record and it was evident throughout the whole game. Just as it looked like a break-through was imminent the ball was turned over and a scorching break by Telford, the Morpeth fullback, took play deep into Driffield territory .The visitors were then penalised for holding on in the tackle but Hornby pushed his attempt wide of the posts.
From the drop-out the Woldsmen put the home side under pressure and turned the ball over from which they launched a series of drives taking play up field before Murray put up an up-and-under from which Blacker was adjudged to have been tackled in the air. From the penalty the ball was pushed deep into Morpeth territory for a good attacking position . Unfortunately the lineout was robbed and following one or two Morpeth phases Hornby put in a clever little kick down the short side for Jardine on the left wing to collect and race away. Only a brilliant last-ditch cover tackle from James Watts saved a try being scored. However, a penalty was conceded at the breakdown and this time Hornby made no mistake, Morpeth 3 – 0 Driffield with 25 minutes gone.
Driffield were finding it tough work in the forwards as the home pack piled on the pressure in the tight and when Craig the opposition 7 broke through it took desperate defence to stem the tide. Unfortunately, once again a penalty was conceded. This time, instead of opting for goal, Elliot took a quick tap and fed Dynan who crashed over for the first try of the day. Hornby was wide with the conversion attempt so the score stood at Morpeth 8 – 0 Driffield with 28 minutes gone.
Luckily for Driffield, Hornby had an off day with the boot as he pushed another penalty attempt wide but any thoughts of getting to half-time with just an 8-point deficit were dashed when, on 38 minutes after some persistent pressure, they worked the ball blind and Ward scored a good try in the corner. At half time it was Morpeth 13 – 0 Driffield.
The theme of the second half was of Morpeth pressure and Driffield resilience as the home side pushed for a bonus point. Hornby missed with a penalty then slotted one on 55 minutes to stretch the lead to 16. Not that the visitors were without their moments in attack : Sowersby had a great game at scrum half, Jackson and Blacker were looking lively and Cullen and Brankley continued to be a handful for the hosts. Indeed it was from a foray deep into the Morpeth half that the next score came as first Robinson then Mewburn carried well. Unfortunately the ball was turned over and a great break from deep allowed ward to score the final try of the day and with the conversion the final score was Morpeth 23 – 0 Driffield.
It’s never nice to be nilled and that doesn’t reflect the contribution that the Woldsmen gave to this game. Morpeth were worthy winners and are the best team in the league and should go on to be rightly-crowned champions but the visitors received warm praise from their hosts for their attractive and open style of rugby and playing the game in the right way. Tom Sowersby was rightly voted Man of the Match for another outstanding performance and the team can now look forward to next week’s final home against relegation battlers West Leeds, before finishing the season in two weeks, time away at York.