Malton & Norton facing a dogfight

Gazette & Herald: Malton & Norton flanker George Harrison, with the ball, makes a strong drive to the line, leading to his side’s opening try in their defeat to Alnwick Malton & Norton flanker George Harrison, with the ball, makes a strong drive to the line, leading to his side’s opening try in their defeat to Alnwick

FREE-FALLING Malton & Norton have been warned to prepare for a “tough fight to beat the drop” after a 29-14 defeat to Alnwick dragged them into the North One East relegation scrap.

The Ryedale side let slip a 14-0 lead at The Gannock as they went down to fellow strugglers Alnwick, a result which sees them head into the Christmas break only one point above the drop zone.

Fourth-from-bottom Malt are on 25 points with Middles-brough, with Morpeth and Northern on 24 points, 15 clear of basement side Sheffield.

Malton & Norton’s season resumes on Saturday, January 4 at Wheatley Hills and club spokesman Bill Laidler said: “During the break we must refocus and prepare for the tough fight ahead if we are to beat the drop. “There is no doubt that the talent is there but they must improve levels of concentration and effort if we are to progress.”

Alnwick were first out of the traps on Saturday and set up camp in the Malton half, denying the home side any worthwhile possession. However, the Malton defence at this stage was good and kept the visitors at bay.

Alnwick’s Achilles heel was the number of penalties they conceded at the breakdown, which enabled Malton to move out of the danger zone. Midway through the half, the hosts used a series of penalties to move up the touchline to within striking distance. From a scrum 10 metres out, fly-half Charlie Ramsay darted through a gap in the defence for a try under the posts. Ramsay also converted.

Ten minutes later, another scrum near the Alnwick line produced the ball for the threequarters. Centre Tom Newitt spotted a gap and raced through for the second try and Ramsay’s conversion made it 14-0.

From this position of strength, Malton should have consolidated and kicked on. Instead they produced some of their poorest rugby of the season. Alnwick began to dominate possession and position and former Malt forward Ben Boothman crossed for their first try. Fly-half James Warcup converted and Alnwick went into the break with renewed hope.

In the second half, Alnwick contested every ball and were amply rewarded for their efforts, while Malton appeared to sit back. After missing two early penalty attempts, the visitors took complete control. Moving the ball swiftly across their speedy threequarter line, they ran through several missed tackles before wing Geoff Potts crossed in the corner. Full-back James Bird converted a difficult effort from the touchline to level.

Alnwick forged ahead midway through the half with a try from prop Andy Johnson after some good handling in the threequarters. Three minutes later, Warcup left Malton with a mountain to climb after landing a superb drop goal. Within two minutes they were at it again. A poor lineout by Malton on their own line handed possession to the visitors. Warcup chipped over the Malton defence and any one of three Alnwick players could have touched down unopposed. Centre Joe Weddell got his hand on the ball and Bird added the extras to give Alnwick a try-scoring bonus point. Malton mounted a rally, but it was far too late to make a difference to the outcome.

Malton: I Cooke, H Newitt, T Newitt, B Woodhouse, P Angus, C Ramsay, C Birkett, A Turnbull, N Salisbury, E Gwilliam, S Emms, J Machin, A Coe, G Harrison, S Triffitt. Subs (all used): R Featherstone, T Lowry, P Fifita.

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