MALTON & Norton are still looking to secure their safety in North One East after an 18-10 defeat in a mudbath at home to Driffield.

The result saw Malt leapfrogged in the standings by Cleckheaton and left them 12 points above the drop zone with five games left.

However, they still have a five-team buffer and the fact they took promotion-chasing Driffield so close, with little between the sides, suggests they have enough to consolidate a mid-table position.

Such was the mud that Malton put on a clean strip at half-time so the sides could be told apart.

Spokesman Bill Laidler said: "The Gannock resembled a paddy field. As a result, fast open rugby was at a premium and a forward-dominated slog ensued.

"However, the crowd were kept entertained with the result being in the balance up to the closing minutes."

Driffield set up camp in Malton's half early on but could not find a way through solid defence.

When Malton got into the other half, Driffield were caught offside and Zweli Sodladla goaled the penalty for a 3-0 lead.

Then followed a long period of play mainly in midfield. Some of the tackling, from both defences, was ferocious and would not have been out of place at a higher level.

The deadlock was finally broken on 20 minutes after Driffield kicked a penalty to the corner.

The initial drive from the lineout was halted but, after several phases, the ball went to the backs and good handling brought a try in the corner.

Five minutes later, Malton hit back.

Jon Vasconcelos turned over possession on half-way near the left touchline and quick hands, especially from Sodladla and Vus Dyantjies, sent the ball to the other flank.

Right-wing Ali Fothergill broke through a couple of tackles before sprinting away to score under the posts, Sodladla converting.

As half-time approached, Driffield turned the screw.

A penalty to the corner gave them a lineout five metres out. The catch and drive looked ominous and Malton were adjudged to have pulled it down illegally, with prop Liam Vaughan sin-binned.

Again the penalty was kicked to the corner and this time the maul drove over for a 10-10 interval scoreline.

The second half saw the sides again slug things out in centre-field.

On the quarter-hour, Driffield had a gilt-edged opportunity to take the lead when Malton were caught offside in their own 22. However, the kick sailed wide.

However, 15 minutes later and from a similar position, there was no mistake. Malton had been in a promising position close to the Driffield line but they lost possession at a lineout and the visitors quickly moved to the other end where the hosts were penalised at the breakdown. The penalty moved the visitors 13-10 ahead.

Malton battled hard to regain the lead but the Driffield defence repelled all attempts to breach the lines.

Instead, Driffield added to their tally in injury time. Another kick to the corner gave them the lineout and the catch and drive brought the try to seal victory.