Morley lost their final home match of the season 24 – 0 to 3rd place Harrogate who scored 4 tries to nil.
A Morley victory appeared likely up to the first 25 minutes. Morley dominated possession and played all the rugby in the Harrogate half and most of it in the Harrogate 22.
Wingers Turner and Hogg probed down their respective flanks for openings and came inside for variety. Flanker Sam Lawton had a speculative run in front of the stand as Morley attacked the Scatcherd Lane end. Andy Ellis, Tom Richmond and Greg Jones all used rather less finesse and opted for “route 1” to try to batter their way through, but the Harrogate defence held firm. Dante almost found a way through on 20 minutes when he skipped round a couple of forwards but was brought down when the backs arrived. He returned to the attack 2 minutes later when he tried a well-judged chip and chase but was just beaten to the ball by the vising captain Dan Matthews.
From the resulting dropout, Harrogate regained possession and showed how it should be done as in their first attack they completed a training ground backs move to slip through the centre and score by the scoreboard. Morley were suddenly 5 – 0 behind as the conversion hit the post and bounced out.
Morley nearly hit straight back as Scott Turned intercepted on his own 22 and raced away. However, he was hauled down by stand-off Luke White on the Harrogate 5m line. Morley piled in to secure the ball but gave away a penalty which saw Tom Richmond receive a yellow card.
Harrogate made their extra man pay and punished Morley severely in the scrums. After a penalty to touch, a well worked catch and drive saw replacement front row Evan Woodworth claim Harrogate’s 2nd try. Again the conversion was missed to leave Morley trailing 0 – 10 after 38 minutes.
Despite being a man down, Morley continued to press. A good run involving Turner and van der Merwe made good progress down the left wing, but when Morley knocked on there was no one in defence to stop speedy winger Harry Barnard sprinting up the wing to score Harrogate’s 3rd try. The half ended 0 – 17 with the successful conversion.
The second half possession was more equally split with defences on top. Morley looked to have done enough to deny Harrogate their bonus point try but a missed tackle in the 83rd minute allowed fullback Oliver Rosillo to glide over by the post and the successful conversion condemned Morley to a 24 – 0 defeat.
View from Rudding Park
This win against already relegated Morley and Lymm’s home defeat ensured that Harrogate will finish the League programme in third position.
Morley competed spiritedly throughout but were well contained by Harrogate’s defence. Harrogate’s four tries underlined their ability to finish clinically when it mattered.
From the onset, it was clear that Harrogate’s forward superiority would be the crucial difference between the sides. Morley’s scrum was under pressure throughout the game and Harrogate stole made an early individual break from defence and chipped ahead into the Harrogate in goal area. However Harrogate’s Danny Matthews covered well and won the race for the touch down.
Harrogate’s first try came in the 27th minute and followed quick line-out ball. Centre, Euan Miller’s break split the home defence and he ran strongly before delivering a scoring pass to the supporting Keane Naylor. This was shortly followed by Morley’s best scoring opportunity of the match. Harrogate winger, Harry Jukes made a dazzling break but his pass was intercepted by Morley winger, Scott Turner. He sprinted quickly and strongly but was overtaken and tackled by Luke White just short of the goal line.
As half time approached, a Matthews break forced the home defence to go offside and, from the subsequent penalty, Evan Woodworth drove over for his maiden Harrogate try. There was still more to come. From the restart, Harrogate won turnover ball in their own half and Harry Barnard scorched through the home defence for a try converted by White.
Both sides made tactical positional changes in the second half. Harrogate brought on Paddy Hebblethwaite at scrum with Matthews moving to stand-off. However Morley made the most telling change by bringing van der Merwe up to stand off in place of veteran stalwart, Mark Chester. This led to more threatening home attacks although they never seriously threatened Harrogate’s defence. Harrogate’s front five were consistently in control and, in the final move of the match, quick line out ball was spread to the right wing. Barnard again showed his strength and speed to burst through the cover and pass to Olli Rosillo who side-stepped his way through for a converted try.
Morley: van der Merwe, Hogg, Knowles, Ellis, Turner, Chester, Sewell, White, Chivers, Jones, Richmond, Brown, Roxby, Lawton, Smyth. Subs:- Price, Phipps, Stevenson
Harrogate: Rosillo, Barnard, Naylor, Miller, Jukes, White, Matthews, Peace, Maycock, Ward, Brady, Dodds, J Coser, Morat, Heaton. Subs:- Woodworth, Larder, Hebblethwaite
Referee: Jack Le Feuvre (Northern)
Updated 19:22 - 15 Apr 2018 by Dennis Elam