Crocs complete Lazarus act with fifth win in row

Morpeth 10 Old Crossleyans 13

OLD Crossleyans confirmed their status as masters of the great escape by getting the win they needed in their final game to earn another season in North One East.

Chris Jones’s side looked dead and buried little more than a month ago but a superb mental and physical effort has produced successive wins over Team Northumbria, Wheatley Hills, Durham, Billingham and now Morpeth.

This was a serious pressure game that Crocs had to win to be sure of maintaining the two point advantage they had gained over neighbours Old Brodleians the previous week.

The match pitch was declared unplayable, so the game was switched to a field down a country lane, the line markings made by removing the grass to reveal the mud beneath.

Crocs made a magnificent start when, after two minutes, the backs spread the ball across field, centre Jack Hammond cut inside, and full back Joe Baker took the scoring pass to touch down at the posts. Scrum half Ed Cockroft converted.

Morpeth’s big pack charged into Crocs’ half. Centre Neil Richardson sent them back with a long punt and back row Manny Riaz and captain James Wainwright regained possession, left wing Leigh Thomas scooting to the home 22. Cockroft then darted through and kicked ahead, the ball hitting an opponent and bounced into touch.

Morpeth ran the ball upfield but Crocs withstood the barrage and Ott’s boot relieved pressure. A Cockroft penalty was then short.

Winger Billy Hammond broke tackles before being bundled into touch and when play went to the other end, No 10 Hornby, replacing their injured master kicker Matty Jinks, pulled a penalty just wide.

Morpeth started to dominate in open play and drew level when blind side Max Smith touched down, Hornby easily converting to make it 7-7 after 25 minutes.

Morpeth returned to Crocs’ line but this time the defensive wall held and another big Richardson boot relieved pressure to halfway. No 6 Manny Riaz took the return kick and charged up the right wing, breaking tackles to 40 metres out, and Gareth Ott’s great cut-out pass let Jack Hammond release left wing Thomas but he was bundled into touch.

Cockroft nudged Crocs in front with a penalty after 30 minutes before Billy Hammond ran to the corner but his inside pass went forward.

The nerves of the large band of travelling supporters were severly tested following sustained pick and drive progress by Morpeth’s pack but a couple of knock-ons brought relief.

Ryan Hammond’s typical charges were well policed by Morpeth but he constantly caused problems for the defence. Richard Wheale broke through to halfway and Manny Riaz and Jack Hammond paved the way for Thomas to cut inside and cross the try line, only to be held up.

Kev McGill and Chris Seymour provided fresh legs but more home pressure won a straight penalty 30 metres out. However, Hornby’s kick fell just short.

Cockroft and Dave Moloney made important tackles but Crocs strayed offside on their 22 metre line and Hornby made it 10-10 with five long minutes left.

Crossleyans were not done. Wainwright, again leading from the front, made a great midfield break, taken on by Ryan Hammond. His wide pass was juggled by McGill, who fed Thomas. The winger cut inside on Morpeth’s 22 metre line, the referee awarding Crocs a penalty close to touch.

Cockroft struck a high, hanging kick which all the visiting supporters willed through the sticks for a 13-10 lead and nerves were further calmed when news of Brods’ defeat came through.