Leading up to this top versus bottom clash, Hoppers’ Head Coach Paul Arnold expressed his concerns about a possible ‘banana skin’ and, initially, his fears seemed justified as Morley started the game at a breakneck pace and were ahead as early as the second minute as home full back Dante van der Merwe exploited a lapse in defence to touch down and Mark Chester converted.
Words by Ken Moore, photo by Mike Craig
But Hoppers composed themselves and responded immediately as a kick through and some interplay by the backs saw Scott Jordan go over and Jake Squirrel’s kick levelled the scores. However, Morley kept the pressure on and Chester’s penalty regained the lead.
The visitors then began to settle down, well on top in the tight, and a lineout drive by Ally Murray set up an attack and Matt Lamprey swatted off some weak tackling to score under the sticks on 16 minutes and the kick was good.
The home pack were conceding kickable penalties which Hoppers used to work the touchline and keep the action in the opposing 22 and a desperate clearance kick was fielded on half way by Jordan and his break and dummy put in Tyler Spence and the conversion extended the lead to 21-10.
Further forward pressure from Hoppers produced some near misses until, just before half time, Lamprey was in for his second from a 5-metre scrum pick up and the 4-try bonus point was in the bag at the break.
Morley again started strongly at the restart and some scrambling defence was needed to keep them out but a score looked imminent and duly followed – but at the other end. A long clearing kick from Jordan and an inevitable penalty led to an attacking lineout and J P Millea claimed the touchdown, Squirrell converting.
The result was now beyond doubt but Hoppers kept the pressure on and on 66 minutes man of the match Lamprey completed his hat-trick to make the final score 38-10.
Coach Arnold said: “It was a scrappy game due to the heavy conditions and we missed a few scoring opportunities but all credit to Morley – they never gave up and played right to the end. We had a poor start which is something we need to address.”
Fellow leadership contenders, Lymm, got back to winning ways at Harrogate but in a low scoring, 10-3 game failed to get a bonus point so Hoppers increase their lead at the top to 6 points.