ANY hopes Malton & Norton had of escaping the drop from North One East almost totally disappeared with a crushing 29-5 defeat by basement side Sheffield. The hosts’ bonus-point win meant the two sides swapped places at the foot of the table, with Malton now propping up the lot.

They have three games in which to save themselves but are eight points from safety and face teams near the top - meaning they need a sporting miracle. They go to fourth-placed Rochdale this Saturday.

Malton made things difficult for themselves right from the kick-off against Sheffield.

In the third minute at their own lineout, five metres from their own try-line, they decided to throw long rather than take the safety first option of using the front jumper. Sheffield duly stole the ball and exerted pressure on the Malton line for a lengthy period. The defence was solid but the incessant battering was sure to take its toll. Inevitably, a penalty was conceded for offside and Sheffield kicked the three points.

With a strong wind at their backs, Sheffield again set up camp in the Malton half of the field with some probing kicks to the corner. To their credit, Malt prevented any further score until the 39th minute when the hosts caught them napping with a quickly taken penalty to cross for the first try of the game. With a half-time score of 10-0 and with a strong wind at their backs in the second period, the Malton following still had hope.

However, despite the gale, Malt still continually attempted to run the ball from all positions rather than mirror the hosts’ kick-for-position tactics. Against the wind, Sheffield showed them how to do it. A break from defence was kicked ahead and the speedy right wing won the foot race. The conversion, from the touchline, sailed between the posts.

Briefly Malton came to life and rekindled hopes.

From a scrum in centre-field, the ball went to the backs for full-back Sizwe Zondo to make a break. The move was carried on by Kenton Leiataua and Pat Fifita for Leiataua to race over under the posts. Inexplicably, the conversion was charged down. From that point on it was all Sheffield.

Again a quickly taken free kick caught Malton on the hop and Sheffield had their third try to stretch the scoreline to 24-5. On the half hour a good move in the Sheffield threequarters produced the best try of the game to seal Maltons fate. The conversion struck an upright and rebounded to safety - in stark contrast to Malt’s perilous position.

Malton: S Zondo, I Cooke, P Fifita, K Leiataua, B Woodhouse, C Ramsay, C Birkett, P Dobson, S Thompson, A Turnbull, D Foster, S Emms, A Coe, S Triffitt, M Bradshaw. Subs (all used): R Featherstone, P Angus, J Rounthwaite.