SUPPORTERS, coaches and, if they are honest, the players themselves would agree, Saturday’s defeat at Morpeth was arguably the worst team performance by a Percy Park first XV under the tenure of coach James Ponton.
Having played well in the opening league win against Billingham, most of the squad boarded a plane for Ibiza for Tony Dunn’s stag do, not returning until Thursday evening.
And the haze under which they touched down at Newcastle was carried into the game on Saturday at Mitford Road.
The signs of under preparation were there for all to see as Park took to the field not in their accustomed black and white but in magenta strips, borrowed from the home side as the shirts had been left at Preston Avenue.
The strips did not turn up until half-time, some would say neither did the team.
Park kicked off, with the slope, and Ash Smith immediately put his side under pressure with a kick to touch.
Morpeth had much of the early play and could have opened the scoring through a Matthew Jinks penalty but the kick missed, Marcus Rutter then kicked a penalty on 11 minutes for the visitors.
Park looked lethargic and Mooney for Morpeth blasted through a weak tackle attempt by his opposite number and strolled over the line with Jinks converting on 27 minutes.
Rutter cut the gap with another penalty before Jinks responded just before half-time for a 10-6 lead.
As the game drifted towards the interval, a lapse of concentration led to a knock on which Morpeth exploited and Jinks was on hand to take a pass to dart over and convert his own try to go into the break 17-6.
Coach Ponton read the riot act at half-time, but even the hair dryer treatment was not enough to blow away the cobwebs.
Early in the second half Morpeth’s man of the match Jinks chipped a ball to the corner which the Park defence allowed to bounce, straight into the diminutive scrum-half’s hands for him to go over for the try in the left hand corner.
Uncharacteristically Jinks missed his conversion, but made amends soon after with a penalty, then a further kick effectively took the game away from Park at 28-6 on 50 minutes.
Although Jinks was drafted in at scrum-half rather than his accustomed position at No. 10, he controlled the game for the home side.
Park eventually got their act together with a good catch and drive from a lineout, with George Purdy going over for the score, and Rutter converting for 28-13.
The game looked to be petering out as Park made three changes, with Phil Morse on for Rutter, and new boy Hamish Lockwood on for Tony Dunn in the back row.
Matty Atkinson also had 15 minutes before his move to Belfast University.
Morpeth pushed hard for the bonus point try, but Park held them out but could not add to their own tally.
n At Preston Avenue, Percy Park Lions had a narrow lead at half-time over Morpeth seconds with a Spowart penalty.
A try from scrum-half Olly Gilmore and another Spowart penalty gave the Lions an 11-0 lead with ten minutes to go.
Morpeth were then allowed back into the game and for the second time in consecutive weeks the game was stolen away in the dying minutes as Morpeth Reivers notched 12 points for victory.