A ruthless second half performance, posting forty unanswered points, saw Hoppers celebrate in style before the North Premier Trophy was presented after the game. But it took some time for the champions to hit their straps and the first 20 minutes were pretty even.
Words by Ken Moore, photo by Mike Craig
In fact Morley were first to attack, kept out by some last-ditch defence, before Mark Chester opened the scoring with a simple penalty to give the visitors the lead in the 12th minute.
Hoppers started to get a share of possession and a long penalty to touch gained field position, setting up a series of drives for the line before a long pass from Alex Ward found Pete Altham on the wing and the prop was in at the corner after 14 minutes but the kick failed.
The lead was extended 5 minutes later when a long run from Niall Crosley was carried on by Sam Gale before the ball was spread from the ensuing ruck and the winger finished off the move with the touchdown but Jake Squirrell had left his kicking boots at home.
Some untidy play followed with penalties conceded by both sides compounded by handling errors before Hoppers backs at last got their act together and Ward’s delayed pass put James Fitzpatrick through the gap and the centre’s perfectly-timed off load allowed Gale to score at the posts and replacement kicker Ward converted.
On the cusp of half time, Tyler Spence showed his pace with a run from his own line but was hauled down just short of the line and the score remained at 17-3 at the break, hardly a commanding lead for Hoppers.
But at the restart, they started to demonstrate their championship credentials as a blind side break from Ward found Alex Hurst in support who in turn put Spence in for the bonus point try and this time Sam Stott stepped up to kick the extras.
Then a long clearance kick to touch from Ward and half-break again found Hurst who this time put Scott Jordan, switched from full back to scrum half, in for an unconverted try, making the score 29-3.
Hoppers were now on a roll and had an element of luck as a dropped ball was hacked through and Hurst won the race to touch down and this time Stott was on target with 55 minutes on the clock.
For the next 10 minutes, home pressure failed to produce further points until a break from a line out by Ally Murray and a drive for the line from Ollie Trippier was finished by replacement Paul Arnold and Stott’s kick was good.
To their credit, despite facing a heavy defeat, Morley were still mounting attacks with some hard running again needing some strong home defence. But from a lineout in the home 22, Chris Roddy who was a continual nuisance to the opposition, broke free and, showing impressive pace, made some 30 metres before chipping ahead. A favourable bounce to hand would have led to a popular try for the lock but it was not to be and his hack through crossed the dead ball line.
More good hands from the home backs again saw Fitzpatrick break the line and this time Trippier was the beneficiary and Stott’s conversion brought up the half century.
Desperate to get over the line, Morley threw caution to the wind and an ambitious pass was intercepted by Hurst to run in from his own 22 for his second try and Stott again added the extras to make the final tally 57-3.
After the presentation of the trophy and not a little celebration, jubilant Head Coach Paul Arnold said: “For the first 20 minutes, I think that we were ‘hung over’ from securing the title last week! It was a great occasion for the club and richly deserved. The players all stood up today but I thought Chris Roddy was outstanding and has refound his self-belief, Alex Ward called the shots at 10 and it was great to see Tyler Spence score. I was tempted to give some upcoming players a start today but decided that the nucleus of the team should enjoy the occasion and it would have been disrespectful to Morley who stuck to their guns and were not 50 points worse than us. We can now enjoy the last two weeks but need to keep our concentration and make sure we finish the season on a high!”
Here’s how the league looks now
Here’s how the other results went