A beautiful autumnal day greeted Driffield as they made the short trip to Malton for the fourth local derby of the fledgling season. Last season’s encounters in League and Cup had been high-quality fixtures and hopes were high that would be replicated. Driffield again made changes with Sowersby making a first start at hooker, Cooper and Dinsdale pairing up in the second row and Dench and Soanes forming a new-look centre partnership. Cullen, Turner and Zavatti made up the bench with no back amongst the replacements.
Playing up the slope, Driffield made a good start, keeping hold of the ball and probing the home defence. Furbank’s kicking game helped give the Woldsmen field position, but a missed tackle allowed Malton into the game and they camped in the Driffield twenty-two, forcing the visitors to concede penalties. Dench was making his mark with several forceful hits and a turnover from a line-out gave Driffield chance to relieve the pressure. Dench was involved again shortly after when he combined with Dinsdale to break through the middle, but good scrambling defence snuffed out the attack.
Full back Lawrence injured himself with a nasty looking twist to the ankle, which brought back rower Cullen onto the wing, and forced a reshuffle in the Driffield back three. Driffield were attacking the Malton line in a dangerous position when they lost Dench to the bin, but this didn’t stop them opening the scoring soon after. From a midfield scrum, Brankley broke blind and drew the defence before popping the ball to full-back Robinson who this week wouldn’t be caught from thirty yards. Malton & Norton 0 – 5 Driffield
Driffield scored again soon after, with Cullen showing his pace to finish in the corner. This was a well-worked try with Mewburn challenging the gain line and off-loading to Brankley to get in behind the defence. Once he was brought to ground, Driffield recycled and spread the ball wide to find Cullen out wide. Both tries were too wide out to be converted. Malton & Norton 0 – 10 Driffield
Malton cut the deficit with a well-struck penalty to make it Malton & Norton 3 – 10 Driffield
But Driffield were soon back on the attack. First Dench found Robinson with an offload but he was dragged down just short, before Gray was stripped of the ball at the back of the ruck. Driffield pressed again, and just when it seemed they had worked a try-scoring opportunity in the corner, the last pass went to ground and into touch. After piling on the pressure, Driffield found themselves pinned back inside their own half after a break-out from Malton. Solid line-out defence repelled the home side, but Brankley was adjudged to have collapsed the maul and became the second Driffield player to have a spell in the sin bin. Malton kept pressing and it was to Driffield’s relief that a spilled ball brought the half time whistle. HALF TIME : Malton & Norton 3 – 10 Driffield
Driffield started the second half like the first, attacking the Malton line, but this time they came away with points. After winning a penalty, Gray went quickly. Furbank attacked the line and his off-load was well held by Soanes. Driffield kept attacking the blind side, before Zavatti came back to the open and burrowed in from short range. Furbank converted well from wide out. Malton & Norton 5 – 17 Driffield
After working so hard to claim another try, Driffield gifted Malton their first of the afternoon. A stray pass was intercepted by a Malton player, and despite Robinson’s best efforts he made the line for an unconverted try. Malton & Norton 10 – 17 Driffield
Malton doubled their try tally soon after with a well-taken try. Quick ball from the top of the line-out was carried hard into midfield. Quickly recycled ball and sharp running angles saw Malton into the corner, this time converted and the gap was reduced to two points. Malton & Norton 15 – 17 Driffield
Brankley did well to win Driffield a penalty straight from the restart, but the touch was missed and Malton had the chance to attack again. A high kick was spilled by Murray and the ball hacked through. Dervey was leading the charge back to tidy things up and as Driffield tried to play their way out of trouble, Malton appeared to be lucky to only lose a man to the sin bin given the focus on player welfare after a tip tackle.
A second man soon followed for a late tackle and Driffield had a chance to seize the initiative once again. From the resulting penalty Furbank kicked to the corner. A scrappy line-out was won at the back by Blenkinsop, who found Furbank. He spotted a gap and accelerated through to score from 20 yards. Crucially the conversion was missed. Malton & Norton 15 – 22 Driffield
Excellent defence from Robinson kept Malton out after a good break from the base of the scrum, and Sowersby and Brankley combined to turn the ball over and give Driffield some breathing space as time began to run out. Driffield tried to kept the ball close, but gave away a penalty. Malton launched a last-ditch attack with a great wide pass from the fly-half creating space down the wing. Yet again, good defence from the Woldsmen and Robinson in particular shut the move down, and brought the final whistle. FULL TIME : Malton & Norton 15 – 22 Driffield
Whilst not the free-flowing game of this time last season, this had more of a derby feel to it – fractious at times with wholehearted effort throughout. Driffield’s back row was prominent again, and Beachell will be missed as he heads off on his travels. Sowersby had a fine game at hooker, but it was the strength of character of the whole side that stood out most. Driffield will hope they can find some consistency in selection in the run to Christmas starting with a tough home game against reinvigorated Bradford and Bingley.