Perfect autumnal conditions greeted the sides on Saturday as a healthy crowd was treated to a thrilling game that was in doubt right up to the final whistle. Malton had registered some impressive results in recent weeks, notably scoring 50 points against league leaders Penrith, whilst Driffield had a point to prove after a disappointing result at Huddersfield last week.
The first five minutes were a window on what was to come. Driffield moved the ball well, looking as dangerous as at any point during the year. Both wings were looking to get involved and both Furbank and Dench showed a good range of passing. Malton countered this with an impressive off-loading strategy that was to make them yards all game. Both forwards and backs showed good skills and brought dangerous runners into play.
Driffield were first to register a scoring opportunity. Burns, outstanding throughout, tidied up the back of a scrum and gave George Mewburn the chance to carry wider, hitting up the centre. The ball found its way to Piercy who was upended and a penalty awarded. Dearing pushed a kickable chance wide.
Driffield kept the pressure on with Lawrence looking dangerous coming in from the wing, and Piercy finding half gaps. It was somewhat against the run of play when Malton opened the scoring. A turnover in midfield lead to a break which was ruthlessly exploited by the visiting fullback, looming up in support and uncatchable from the 22.
That seems to galvanise Malton and they came into the game, looking dangerous on the break, and it took strong Driffield defence to keep the score line at 5-0. Driffield had more than held their own in the set-piece and the introduction of Waterhouse did nothing to disrupt the momentum. It was from a midfield scrum that Driffield registered their first points. A well-worked blind-side move create space for Lawrence and he burst through two tackles to crash over in the corner. Dearing hit the post with the conversion.
There was still time for Furbank to scythe through and make 40 yards. His chip-through earned a lineout which came to nothing and brought the half to an end. A try apiece and only 10 points underlines the quality of defence during the first half as both attacks had been inventive.
The second half started with Driffield on the attack. A loose pass gave them field position with a scrum just inside the Malton half. Forward carries edged onwards and sapped the opposition’s energy. Dinsdale, on at half-time, scooted down the wing but was well-tackled by the cover. Driffield won a penalty and opted for a scrum. Burns again pushed for the line, but was held up.
Another scrum and more pressure on the Malton line. Driffield’s forwards kept battering away, but were well-repelled by the visitors eventually earning the turnover. Driffield changed tack and spread the ball with Dinsdale getting involved from the blind-side, cutting through the middle before being well-hit by the full back. The ball came open and George Mewburn carried before offloading to Piercy to cross in the corner for an unconverted try.
Malton lost a man to the bin and Driffield again applied pressure. Multiple scrums led to 3 points to stretch the lead beyond a converted try. Driffield struck again when Burns went through the middle, before the Mewburn / Piercy partnership led to 7 more points, with Piercy dummying his way over from 20 yards. It was all Driffield now and they nearly scored again when Dinsdale turned the full back inside out, but he recovered to make the tackle and win the penalty.
When it seemed the bonus point was there for the taking, Malton hit back with the try of the game. Running from deep they moved the ball down the clubhouse side of the pitch, off-loading out of the tackle and from the floor, before crossing in the corner for an unconverted try. 20-10. An enthralling second half continued with Driffield scoring next. Dench made hard yards through the middle, carried on by Burns before Dearing put Dinsdale in at the corner.
Just as the home crowd was breathing a sigh of relief, Malton again hit back with two more excellent tries. The visiting full back was at the heart of the good work, always in support from the half-break and resulting offload. With one conversion the gap was down to 3 points and last-minute heartbreak was again on the cards. Driffield regained the ball from the kick-off but a loose pass saw the ball into touch. Driffield disrupted the lineout but knocked on. A scrum in midfield gave Malton the platform to launch one last attack, but a superb effort by the Driffield eight splintered the opposition scrum and won the turnover. A Driffield put-in was safely secured and cleared to touch by Gray bringing the final whistle and five points for the home side.
This was an outstanding game to watch with both sides playing a full part. Driffield’s control of the ball, particularly in the second half, was excellent giving the backs the platform to launch their best attacking display of the year so far. Likewise, Malton’s counter attacking game was the most dangerous the Woldsmen have faced so far, with both forwards and backs displaying high skill levels.
A repeat next week in the Yorkshire Cup will be a game to look forward to.