Summoning West End to only their 2nd loss of the season just two weeks earlier, Morpeth entered Saturday’s fixture having firmly cemented their place as title challengers knowing a win would put their fate back into their own hands. West End, not for the first time this season, were in unchartered territory at the summit of the league with the knowledge that a victory in their favour, would mark this day as one of the greatest in their 16 year tenure.
Within minutes it was clear that there was no two week hangover for the home side, asserting their authority in the contact area in what was a ferocious battle upfront all afternoon. Morpeth found themselves camped in their own 22 and spent the majority of the opening exchanges there thanks to some sublime ‘touch finders’ from the West End backs. Their exit strategy had worked well for them up until this point but the pressure told and a turnover in possession allowed West End to secure possession with vital field position. The lineout was the call from skipper Tony Kay and the West End pack rewarded their backline with a fine driving maul when Adam Healy crashed over for the opening score (5-0).
Territory was starting to have a real influence on the game and the continual pressure on the away-sides 22 was starting to take its toll. Having spent most of his life wanting to be a back, Dean Henderson took full advantage of a lack of cover in the Morpeth backline, superbly latching on to a signature Tony Kay box kick, diving onto the ball over the line to notch up his second in as many games (10-0). A question mark around offside sparked a heated exchange on the field as to whether or not the try should have stood, however this did not lead to any sanctions, mostly because the debate was between ‘Deano’ and his own team-mates. This did not seem to affect the hungry attitude of the West End players as they went hunting for more tries, smelling blood of a potential bonus point lurking in the near future. Still struggling to exit their own half, more precise kicking pinned Morpeth back into the trenches and thanks to some hard chasing, West End had the ‘put in’ to the lineout. A combination of cut-throat aggression and ‘Andrea Pirlo’ composure enabled West End to secure the ball and set-up another superb drive eventually leading to another score from hooker Joe Rowan – much to the despair of the on-looking Matt Allmond (17-0). Not satisfied with their dominant first half, on the scoreboard at least, West End found time for one last ‘meat pie’ before it was out. Having finally managed to enter the West End 22 and keep them there for a sustained period of pressure, Morpeth were just starting to gather momentum when a fumble in midfield allowed fullback Stephen Carn to whallop the ball downfield and all of a sudden the chase was on – cue Bradley Walsh. One half of the self-proclaimed, ‘Midfield of Dreams’, Matt Stevenson was able to control the ball and score to round off a clinical first half performance (22-0).
Stunned by the opening 40 minutes, Morpeth came out ‘all guns blazing’ at the start of the second – centre and other half of the ‘Midfield of Dreams’ Craig Allmond feeling the brunt of some reckless swinging arms in the tackle on a number of occasions above the neck. The whole West End team should be complemented on the way they dealt with the challenge though as some long overdue ‘fronting up’ was the backbone of their entire performance. With that out their system, Morpeth began to tire and it wasn’t long before Matt Stevenson doubled his tally after being presented a ‘gift’ from the away-side who’s heads had now dropped (27-0). And so had the centres’ after his latest exertion of energy caused another in-game spew.
Territory was still at a remarkable low for the away-side and their defence was starting to open up. Arguably the best try was saved till last when Mark Douglas ran the filthiest of lines to swan dive under the posts after some brilliant phase play from the forwards in the Morpeth 22 (34-0). The score line does flatter the result but the players are fully aware of how hard they had to work for every try. The most promising aspect from a coaching perspective (where was he?) was that West End showed a different style of play at the weekend that was every bit as effective. A tactically astute performance kept opportunities to a minimum for the travelling side and that combined with much improved discipline allowed them to run out comfortable winners on the scoresheet on the day when they needed it most. A maiden league title is always special but the manner of the victory would have made the champagne or whatever that was in the dressing room taste a lot sweeter post-match. A terrific day was had and this must now rank as one of the most successful seasons in the clubs history, dare they do the domestic double?
Try scorers – Adam Healy, Matt Stevenson (2), Mark Douglas, Dean Henderson, Joe Rowan