by Ian Rushworth ( Halifax Courier )
Team Selection v Morley
CROCS’ hopes of registering a notable first North One East double of the season were dashed by a promotion-gunning Morley side who are currently carrying everything before them.
Both teams are probably much improved since the second Saturday of the season, when the Broomfield men won 35-23 at Scratcherd Lane, and they provided good, uncompromising fare for around 300 spectators keen for some pre-Christmas action.
On a decent surface considering the bitter cold and heavy rains earlier in the week, there was precious little between the teams.
Crocs were left to reflect on a couple of kickable penalties missed by Leigh Thomas in the first half and a failure to win their own lineout ball deep in Morley territory late on.
All-action player-coach Chris Jones, combative No 8 Ryan Hammond and rapidly-improving scrum half Chris Vine led the home effort while stand off Mark Chester prompted well for a visiting side who showed why they have an impressive defensive record, throwing a purple blanket across the field.
The visitors, who had ex-Brods lock Tom Hanson in their pack, pressed following their kick off and Chester slotted an easy penalty after four minutes.
Winger Thomas was unable to reply with an angled attempt three minutes later but Crocs were warming to the task and skipper James Wainwright, back on the wing, made the game’s first break.
Vine and stand off Gareth Ott scrambled back to defuse a Morley threat, after Crocs had coughed up possession on half-way, but the tide was starting to flow towards the visitors’ posts and Thomas made it 3-3 with a straightforward penalty on 20 minutes.
Morley responded when Crocs were unable to get the ball out of a ruck following the restart. The hosts defended a driving maul but Morley moved the ball quickly towards the bottom touchline where open side flanker Peter Dadswell forced his way over the try line.
Chester added a good conversion to make it 3-10 after 26 minutes.
Thomas was off target to the left with a straight 30 metre penalty after a deliberate knock on from Morley following outside centre Jack Hammond’s diagonal break.
Crocs thought they had scored a try on 35 minutes when Vine broke from the base of a scrum, Jones kept the move going and the ball was moved across the field for Wainwright to dive in at the corner.
The home skipper was ruled to have put a foot in touch but the position was not wasted, fullback Joe Baker crossing on the other side of the pitch from Thomas’s inside ball. Thomas was unable to land a tricky conversion and level the scores.
It remained 8-10 until six minutes after the interval when Crocs, on the front foot thanks to Vine’s darting run and kick, edged in front with Thomas’s straight 30 metre penalty.
The lead lasted only four minutes, Morley responding impressively through hooker Jamie Frost, sent in by Chester for an unconverted try wide out.
There was no change to the score in the final 30 minutes but the play remained engrossing with neither side giving an inch.
Chester was short with a long range penalty for the visitors while Ott and Jones were inches away from the try line for Crocs.
Lost lineouts deep in Morley territory denied Crocs a chance to mount a last thrust.
With time up the relieved visitors were happy to kick the ball off the park rather than try to exploit a good field position and possibly deny their hosts a losing bonus point.