MALTON & Norton are staring relegation in the face but turned in possibly their best performance of the season to give themselves a lifeline.
The Ryedale side, lying bottom of North One East going into the game, overcame a very competent and high-flying Rochdale outfit 22-19 in North One East thanks to an Ian Cooke penalty 10 minutes from time - becoming only the second side to win away at the Lancashire club this year.
Malt duly lifted themselves off the foot of the table above Morpeth but they are still four points from safety with two games in which to rescue themselves from the drop - at home to mid-table Driffield this Saturday and away to new champions Cleckheaton a week later Said Malton club spokesman Bill Laidler: “Only one other side this season has travelled to Rochdale and won, which puts into perspective this achievement from Malt.
“It would be very difficult to find a stand-out player in this performance as all 18 players used put their bodies on the line to secure the victory. “Malton can now go into Saturday’s derby against Driffield at The Gannock with renewed hope.”
Malton dominated the early minutes at Rochdale with the forwards picking and driving to keep the home side pinned in their own half. However, as has happened so often this season, this pressure was not converted to points and, when Rochdale won clean scrum ball in their own 22-metre area, they broke on the blind side. With the overlap created they brushed off a couple of tackles to score in the corner.
The conversion was successful and the large Malton contingent feared the worst. However, those fears were ill-founded as the pack again took control and dominated both possession and territory for long periods - finally getting their reward at the midway point of the half. Always quicker to the breakdown, Malton turned over possession deep in home territory and set up some well-controlled pick and drives to get ever nearer the line.
Hooker Nick Salisbury, inset, was the man in possession when the mass crossed the whitewash and he was credited with the touchdown. The conversion was missed but Malton had a renewed confidence. The home side were next to strike, though, through their dangerous back line. An orthodox back movement found Malton lacking in pace and for the second time of the afternoon they crossed in the corner to go 12-5 up.
The response was not long in coming and again it was through the forwards that Malton profited. Keeping the ball from the restart, they drove the home side backwards several times and again it was Salisbury who got the ball down over the try-line, with Ian Cooke converting to level the scores at 12-12.
The forwards had taken the glory in the first half but the new-look threequarter line, with James Bulmer at scrum-half, Kenton Leiataua at fly-half and Cooke in the centres, had also shown that, while they lacked Rochdale’s pace, they more than made up for it with some smooth running. Sizwe Zondo at full-back also entered the line at speed several times to show undoubted danger.
With their tails up, Malton set about the second half with more determination than their hosts. Some excellent work at the breakdown turned over possession in Malt’s favour. Quick handling across the backs put the ball into the hands of winger Ben Woodhouse and he crossed in the corner. Cooke converted brilliantly from the touchline. Rochdale then turned the screw. Again the Malton defence was up to the job - until some sloppy play in failing to clear from a lineout gifted possession to the home side, who needed no further invitation to level the scores.
Both sides were now looking for victory but defences held firm until 10 minutes from the end.
Rochdale failed to release after a tackle and Cooke stepped up to kick what turned out to be the winning points. For those final 10 minutes the Malton defence was superb and the travelling party at last had a victory to celebrate.
Malton: S Zondo, B Woodhouse, I Cooke, P Fifita, P Angus, K Leiataua, J Bulmer, P Dobson, N Salisbury, E Gwilliam, J Rounthwaite, J Lumley, A Coe, S Triffitt, S Emms. Subs (all used): A Turnbull, C Ramsay, T Caygill.
• MALTON & Norton seconds put in a performance to be proud of as they lost 27-14 to a strong Otley team. They put together a tremendous defensive effort, led from the front by captain Scott Kneeshaw, and repelled the surges before a couple of tries were conceded.
Changes were made and debutants Carl Muscroft and Liam Vaughan provided an immediate change in momentum. Assisted by Eddie Everson, they took the game to Otley and the pressure resulted in a five metre scrum from where number eight Ben Tenge picked up and drove over to score. The try was converted by Harry Owston.
Trailing 12-7 at half-time, Malton were playing into the wind in the second half and Otley used this to their advantage. Unable to find a way through the middle, they switched to the outside and their speedy winger managed to find the occasional way past.
Malton did have the upper hand in the centre of the pitch and, with fly-half Paul Sykes marshalling his men, poacher Muscroft was on hand to grab his first try of the season.
• MALTON & Norton 3rds had only 11 men as five cried off on the day of the match, and they duly suffered a heavy defeat at Pocklington thirds, despite borrowing players from the opposition. Joe Thompson and Dave Woodhouse scored tries.