Slow performance hits Park’s hopes

Percy Park's stand in captain Andy Dunn is wrapped up in a tackle by several Old Crossleyans players.
Percy Park's stand in captain Andy Dunn is wrapped up in a tackle by several Old Crossleyans players.

ANY hopes Percy Park harboured of promotion were dashed in a slow motion performance against Halifax side Old Crossleyans on Saturday.

Crocs had won only three games so far this season and were on the wrong end of a 45-18 drubbing earlier in the season at Preston Avenue.

Park’s spirits were high having started the year well with a comprehensive win against fellow Yorkshiremen Old Brods the previous week.

The first and second XVs left North Shields not knowing if the games would be played or not, as overnight sub zero temperatures had frozen the pitches, but the signs were good for a rise in temperature as the sun came out and the first XV game went ahead – just, although the Lions game did not.

Park fielded much the same team as last week with Tony Dunn coming into the back row for Sean Williamson.

The scrum was pretty even, and although Park had some brief early possession Old Crossleyans looked more up for the challenge and could have scored inside three minutes but for a forward pass on the Park five-metre line.

Park were penalised for boring in at the scrum and Ed Cockcroft kicked his side into a three-point lead.

The visitors had the chance to draw level with a long range Marcus Rutter penalty moments later, but the kick was scuffed and fell well short.

Cockcroft then kicked two further penalties for a 9-0 lead as Park still had not got the bus journey out of their system.

Park did have ample first half possession, but the ball coming from the rucks was so slow and predictable the home side drove them back with quick line speed in defence.

Old Crossleyans could have scored a try shortly before Cockcroft kicked his third penalty, but back row Rob Oliver chose to cut inside with a two man overlap outside him and Park stopped the attack short of the line, at the cost of Andy Dunn going to the sin bin.

With Park down to 14 men and the half petering out, they attacked the Crossleyans ten-metre line but lively scrum-half Cockcroft somehow managed to strip the ball and sped off down the right hand flank.

The Park defenders gave chase but he outpaced them all for the try which he converted.

To add to the visitors woes Marcus Rutter had to leave the field injuring himself in his tap tackle attempt.

Park started the second half a little better with Thomas Turnbull charging down a clearance kick from Old Crocs and then diving on the ball for a try.

The Yorkshiremen then picked up their game and battered the Park defences and eventually from quick recycled ball after several phases of play, player coach Chris Jones threw a long miss-pass to his left taking out the scarce Park defenders and full-back Leigh Thomas went over for the try in the corner, but the conversion was wide.

Simon Greatham pulled back three points from a penalty, and then Cockcroft hit the cross bar with a long range penalty.

Park picked up their game, although the ball to the back line was so painfully slow that it was difficult for the three-quarters to play on the front foot despite some half breaks by Ali Blair and Ash Smith.

Park’s two wingers at this stage appeared to be suffering from frost-bite, having hardly seen the ball all game.

Old Crossleyans were defending manfully and the Park forwards piled on the pressure and with three consecutive penalties conceded the Manchester exchange referee Andrew Daniels had no option but to sin bin Crocs skipper Chris Jones.

Time was running out for Park, but they continued to pressure the Crocs line looking for a converted try which would at least salvage a losing bonus point.

Just as Jones was about to return to the field, replacement prop Sembi was sent to the sin bin for slowing down the ball.

Eventually after several phases Park crossed the line with Ponton going over for the try, and Simon Greatham held his composure to kick the conversion to lose 21-15.

Park have a week off to lick their wounds before travelling to the Fell to take on relegation placed Gateshead.