Sun 11
Durham City U14's v Morpeth by Phil Spooner

Durham City U14's v Morpeth by Phil Spooner

By David Garrity
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It’s a pleasure to report upon a return to winning ways for Durham City and a match which was played in the right spirit between two teams who kept going right to the final whistle.


It’s a pleasure to report upon a return to winning ways for Durham City and a match which was played in the right spirit between two teams who kept going right to the final whistle. The independent referee officiated very well and this contributed to a free-flowing and high-scoring game. Finally, a word for Morpeth’s supporters who were exactly what you expect a rugby crowd to be….knowledgeable, fair, objective and friendly!

The match was played at Shincliffe pitch under glorious winter sunshine, but with a breeze that strengthened throughout the game and blew down the long axis of the pitch towards Maiden Castle. The pitch was wet but not excessively so and the match was played in uncomfortably chilly conditions. Durham’s squad was healthy but smaller than earlier in the season, with wear and tear clearly taking its toll!

Durham kicked-off proceedings playing against the wind and withstood a bright and probing first few minutes from Morpeth who were strong in rucks and scrums and could add speed to their attack when given the option. Play settled around midfield for seven minutes until Durham scored with their first attack. The move saw central forward play release a run from just inside Morpeth’s 22 which was well supported on the overlap by Durham players. The ball was touched down five yards to the right of Morpeth’s posts and a straightforward conversion made the score 7-0 to Durham. Three minutes later Durham were back on the attack with a crowded drive on the half way line drawing in more and more Morpeth players until Durham saw the opportunity for an overlap of their left and took it with ruthless efficiency, the ball being touched down 15 yards in from the left touchline. Well converted this gave Durham a 14-0 lead which they increased eight minutes later with a great break away try just to the right of Morpeth’s posts.

19-0 became 21-0 nil with the conversion and two minutes later arguably Durham’s best try of the day effectively ended any doubts about the outcome of the match. The try was the product of patient recycling by Durham not once but twice as they tested the breadth and depth of Morpeth’s defences. By the time the ball had travelled across the pitch from right to left and then back again, Durham spotted what they wanted – an overlap on the right wing – and they broke clear to increase the score to 26-0. Time was running out in the first period, but there was still enough left to enable Morpeth to take advantage of rare laxity on the part of Durham’s defence to force over a try on their far right hand wing. However Morpeth failed to maximise this rare opportunity, the conversion sailing wide of the posts. The half time whistle blew immediately afterwards with Durham holding a 26-5 lead at the half way stage.

The second half saw Durham on the attack from the off and pressing Morpeth back steadily towards their 22 yard line. Durham driving took them close to the posts and to the left when a quick break on the blind side went over the line for a 31-5 lead. With commendable resilience Morpeth hit back less than two minutes later seizing on poor passing by Durham in their own 22 then pushing over the line 10 yards to the right of Durham’s posts for a 31-12 score line. Stung into action, Durham’s response was typically composed. Engaging in tough midfield attrition, they pushed Morpeth back steadily until forcing an error which gave them a scrum 10 yards into Morpeth’s half and 10 yards in from the right touchline. A fast release from the scrum enabled Durham to punch through a thin defensive line for a thirty yard run in under the posts. A successful conversion gave the home side a 38-12 lead after 15 minutes of the second period.

Durham’s seventh and final try of the day – scored only two minutes later - was similar to their fourth in that it involved virtually the whole team moving the ball first left then right until, once again, they spotted a gap in Morpeth’s defence about 35 yards out which was seized upon with relish for a fine breakaway try and conversion for a 45-12 lead for Durham.

The final whistle blew a few minutes later on what had been a well fought and entertaining match. The score line reflected Durham’s dominance but Morpeth deserved credit for their determination and commitment right to the end – and for the spirit in which they contested the match.

Good luck to Durham whose next fixture is away against Sunderland. Durham will be looking to build up a good, long winning run as we head towards the latter part of the season but, as always, there’s no room for complacency!

Same again Durham!

Phil Spooner

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Match date

Sun 11, Feb 2018