SHELL-SHOCKED Malton & Norton RUFC are staring at North One East relegation after losing 27-24 at home to Middlesbrough.
They dragged defeat from the jaws of victory in this clash between two struggling sides - a last-gasp try from the Teessiders keeping the Ryedale outfit entrenched in the drop zone and meaning they simply must win their next game in 10 days’ time at bottom-of-the-table Sheffield.
However, of their remaining four games, only one - a derby against Driffield - is at home.
Club spokesman Bill Laidler said: “It was not all doom and gloom, although the result was disappointing.
“There were some heroic efforts in the pack with Ali Coe again the stand-out player and newcomer Sizwe Zondo adding zip to the backs.
“Veteran scrum-half Jon Newsome cajoled and directed his pack as in days of yore and Duncan Foster stole a number of Middlesbrough line-outs.
“We have a free week on Saturday before travelling to basement side Sheffield the following week where a win is now a must.”
Last Saturday’s result was all themore heartbreaking given the fast start Malton made. They tore into Middlesbrough with venom and kept them pinned in their own half for the first ten minutes. However, Malt could not find the cutting edge to get through the defence.
Eventually, Middlesbrough broke the shackles and a harmless-looking break in midfield was turned into a crucial try-scoring move as Malton’s defence creaked and the visitors crossed through wing Adam Nolson.
It was the trigger they needed to lift their game and they looked a more direct side than Malton.Their direct style produced the next score when some poor tackling in the Malton defence produced a try for prop forward Richard Lonsdale, which was converted by fly-half Matthew Todd.
It was time for Malton to front up and they showed what they were made of when setting up a series of drives on the Middlesbrough line.
As the pack moved menacingly forward, flanker Coe took control and crashed over the line under the posts.
Charlie Ramsay converted to narrow the deficit.
Middlesbrough, though, refused to submit. Direct running in the backs set up the forwards and centre Richard Metcalfe crossed, Todd converting to give the visitors a 19-7 lead at the break.
It was a mountain to climb and the second half started just as poorly when Todd put through a penalty, after Malton were penalised for holding on.
A yellow card followed for Middlesbrough and it gave the home side hope. Kenton Leiataua streaked away to score under the posts after a good break from defence, Ramsay converted, and, three minutes later, it was Leiataua again.
A Middlesbrough kick was charged down on half-way and a hack forward was chased down by the centre for his second try of the afternoon.
Ramsay’s conversion brought Malton within a point and, four minutes after that, they were in the lead when a penalty was struck after the visitors failed to release the ball following a tackle.
There was precious time left to right any errors but Middlesbrough set up camp in the corner of the Malton 22.
Having an opportunity to clear, though, Malton elected to set up a ruck to secure safer ball only for Middlesbrough to turn over possession.
Stout defence kept them out but, when the ball was eventually passed wide, Malton numbers were depleted and Middlesbrough skipper Rob Bellerby crossed for the game winning try.
The conversion failed but the final whistle blew and the visitors were ecstatic.
Malton: Zondo, Cooke, Fifita, Leiataua, Woodhouse, Ramsay, Newsome, Turnbull, Thompson, Gwilliam, Foster, Emms, Caygill, Coe, Triffitt. Subs (all used): Dobson, Angus, Rounthwaite.
It was a whole-hearted effort at Sheffield but Malton RUFC second XV lost 65-0 in South Yorkshire.
Veteran Rob Hicks and Alan Tatesmith showed no lack of heart and experienced forwards Nick Salisbury, John Lumley and Rob Featherstone all took the ball forward, well supported by Lewis Welch, Joe Tenge, Alex Machen and the returning Bozzie Barker.
Dave Cole found gaps to exploit and, with Harry Owston running things from scrum-half, fly-half Tom Boyle was able to get centres Scott Kneeshaw and Mike McCourt into the game.
Wings Sean Angus, George Lumley and full back Guy Welch performed well under pressure with Welch particularly making some crucial tackles and proving a real threat with ball in hand.
Sheffield had the benefit of an experienced and substantially bigger side and the scoreline did not reflect the game.
Malton spent good periods of the game in the Sheffield 22 and around half of their points came from turnovers, which were moved to Sheffield speedsters to break out and score.