Sheffield 18 Alnwick 12
North One East
Alnwick may have approached this game with some optimism as their hosts were win-less and bottom of the league.
However, it was noted that they had performed far more credibly against league leaders Cleckheaton than Alnwick had done the week before and the wet, swirly Yorkshire weather was going to be a great leveller.
Sheffield had the wind and rain at their backs and used them well to pressurise Alnwick from the kick-off and as such pressure often results in offences, so the visitors were penalised after five minutes and Pearson goaled for Sheffield (3-0).
Pearson was to score again in this half but not until the 45th minute when he goaled his third penalty attempt. This says a great deal about the play in between the scores. Both sides defended well and both sides spilled plenty of possession when on the attack.
Alnwick did start to make an impression after the 20-minute mark when they pushed into the Sheffield half. However, too often they lost control of the ball and the home side used the elements to kick deep and put Alnwick on the back foot, but wingers Shell and Moralee coped well under pressure, as did Bird at full-back.
Tackling by both sides was uncompromising and referee Baker was slow to get a grip on some of the more dubious challenges until he yellow-carded Sheffield’s Howliston, the first of three cards for the Yorkshiremen, on 38 minutes.
Alnwick did not exploit the advantage and conceded the penalty to give Pearson his second score and the half ended 6-0 to the hosts.
Alnwick were swift to exploit the elements and launched a series of attacks.
Warcup kicked well and was very close to finding Moralee on the right with a deft cross-kick.
However, Alnwick’s enthusiasm for throwing the ball about cost them dearly when Twomey intercepted and went 75 metres to score by the posts.
Pearson converted (13-0).
Pearson was not to remain on the field for long as he was carded for a high tackle on James Hamilton after he had made a good run into the Sheffield 25.
Bird put the visitors on the scoreboard on 48 minutes (13-3).
Alnwick maintained this pressure and, as Sheffield had done in the first half, they constantly turned when they made counter-attacks.
Joe Southeran replaced Warcup and he kept up the pressure, forcing the home side to offend on two occasions, both of which Bird converted to points.
On the hour, the referee considered a conversation with a Sheffield player unwanted (13-6) and three minutes later Sheffield pulled down the Alnwick scrum (13-9).
This passage of play spurred the home side into putting together their best play of the half.
Aided by a knock-on in defence, Sheffield had the put-in within the Alnwick 25. Although under pressure in the tight, they won their ball and moved it left for centre Tillyer to break the Alnwick line and score.
Pearson’s kick failed (18-9).
Alnwick were determined to make amends for this rare error in defence and attacked with vigour but again they could not convert pressure to points, even when winger Womack was carded with five minutes to go.
Some fine handling in the backs went unrewarded but the pressure forced the home side to offend at the ruck and Bird kicked his fourth penalty (18-12) to give Alnwick a losing bonus point.
With the clock already over time, the restart resulted in a knock-on and the referee blew. There was little to choose between the sides, both of whom defended well and both of whom tried to play good rugby in treacherous conditions.
Team: J Bird, P Moralee, R Mallaburn, F Hutchinson, A Shell (C), J Warcup (J Southeran 52), I Gray, A Johnson (D Clayton 60),T McEwan B Boothman,T Burgess (M Grey 44), O Sutheran, G Smith,R Thompson, J Hamilton. Official: Mr A Baker (Central Yorkshire Society).