Alnwick in rude health

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DURHAM & Northumberland League, Division One, Medicals...15 Alnwick...29

ON ground that steadily cut up, Alnwick worked hard to record another win to keep them securely in third place in the league.

Tries came from Andy Shell (two), Gordon Smith (one) and Graeme Potts (one), with James Bird wading in with three goals and penalty.

The Medicals’ scores came from tries by Scott and McDonald.

The opening minutes saw some end-to-end play, mostly from kick-and-chase tactics, with Alnwick finally pressuring Medicals into conceding a penalty in front of the posts, Bird putting over the goal.

Medicals stormed back and, following scrabbly play, worked into the Alnwick 22 area. Quick ruck ball was spun out along their three-quarters, only for centre Martin to ignore a three-man overlap, choosing to kick through for Alnwick to make the ball dead.

The visitors pushed their way into the Medicals half when Peter Moralee fastened onto a loose ball to follow up his kick ahead – good passing went begging following a kick through that went over the dead-ball area.

Medicals took the scrum on the centre, spun the ball out along their three-quarters to winger Scott, who found his way through for a try at the corner flag (5-3).

Good following up from the restart drop-out saw Medicals kick deep to Bird. He swooped into the Medicals half and a quick pass out to Andy Shell freed him up the touch-line to round off the move with a touchdown under the posts for a converted try to edge Alnwick ahead (5-10).

Alnwick drove play back through a charging run by Richard Ellis. In came forward support but in the scrap for the ball, Medicals came out on top, with Richardson clearing the ball back to the Alnwick 22.

Grainger took the line-out ball and worked it back to Richardson then out to Woodford, who put in a cross-kick behind the Alnwick defence. Wing McDonald squeezed through for the try, converted by Martin for Medicals to regain the lead (12-10).

The Medicals lead was very short-lived.

Alnwick’s reply was sharp and incisive, with Shell following up the restart drop-out to catch Medicals full-back Haynes in possession. He was turned over for Smith to power over for a try, again Bird adding the goal points (12-17).

Alnwick very quickly added to their tally when they again scored directly from the Medicals restart. Good possession saw a sharp break through the Medicals defence. Play was held on the try-line before Shell picked up to go over for the easiest of tries. Again conversion points were added for Alnwick to finish off the opening half sitting on a comfortable platform of 12-24.

The second half saw both teams battling hard on a now heavily cut-up pitch. Passes went adrift, probing runs petered out and a bit of stalemate came into the game. Following a period of Medicals pressure, Alnwick conceded a penalty inside their 22 area for Bearn to add three points to the Medicals score (15-24).

Alnwick replaced Peter Moralee with Ed Shell coming on while Ian Gray moved to scrum-half.

Some very loose line-out play, with the ball bobbling around, ended when Gordon Smith cleared the danger.

Medicals drove back and took a penalty line-out on the Alnwick five-metre line. A quick break-through by Medicals flanker Murray saw him penalised for offside.

The clearance never made touch, but Medicals made a hash of running the ball wide.

Alnwick won the ball back through a Bird/Shell move which took play into the Medicals 22.

Alnwick’s forward drive was held before they finally worked the ball across the backs where Graeme Potts finished off the move with a try. This was not converted but took Alnwick further into the comfort zone (15-29).

Alnwick came back after the restart, but a half-break from Ellis and Smith was held up and a surging run from Ed Shell was only just held by the Medicals cover. The match ended with Alnwick hammering away into the Medicals 22.

Alnwick: J Bird, A Shell, S Hutchinson, I Gray, G Potts, W Massey, P Moralee, Aa Armstrong, H Sordy, S Bremner, D Whitehead, J Burgess, G Smith, C Blakey, R Ellis, Ed Shell, D Napier, M Milburn.

The man-of-the-match award went to Stephen Bremner.

Saturday’s league game is against, Gosforth at Greensfield kick-off 3pm, the replay of a match that was a victim of the pre-Christmas snow.