Durham & Northumberland Division One
ALNWICK held off a spirited Ryton, who are in a desperate state at the bottom of the league, in a cracking first half, then opened up a big lead in the second.
They held on to a 3-0 lead right to the end of first period when Gordon Smith swept over on the stroke of time to give Alnwick breathing space at 8-0.
Ryton showed their mettle in matching Alnwick at scrum and line-out but their running in the three-quarters too often was lateral and easily snuffed out by the visiting backs.
Alnwick defended strongly, absorbing all that a rejuvenated Ryton team threw at them and then putting in some dangerous attacks that promised much, but those tries would not come.
Alnwick initially pressured play into the Ryton 22 – a run by James Bird was carried on by Ali Gray and Graeme Potts. The maul was halted, with both Ryton centres Gabel and Barr caught drifting offside, but the penalty was pushed wide.
Ryton broke upfield with strong forward driving and two penalty line-outs stretched Alnwick’s defence. The forwards took control, driving the Ryton pack from their attacking position, but conceded another penalty, only for McCarten’s attempt to go just under the bar.
Ryton continued to pressure – a five metre scrum had Alnwick under pressure. Good scrum ball was cleared.
Alnwick won the line-out ball to put the visiting three-quarters on the front foot. A scything run by Gray saw Ryton desperately back-pedalling in defence, but an ankle-tap by Gabel brought himdown inside the home 22 area.
Alnwick then robbed Ryton at a loose forward battle. Home flanker Owens was caught offside and Bird goaled the penalty to give Alnwick the lead (0-3).
Ryton quickly followed up the restart drop-out, Alnwick were caught offside, but McCarten was off target.
The visitors hammered the restart drop-out up to the centre line where they won good line-out ball through Richard Ellis.
Slick passing by the backs took play one way then a change in direction saw another Gray break. He was tackled and in drove the forwards to work their way steadily towards the home try-line.Smith powered his way over for an unconverted try right on the whistle (0-8).
Alnwick took the restart drop-out and spun it wide across the pitch, with the final pass to Andy Shell, who exploited a gap and zoomed away on a mazy run, leaving the Ryton players standing. He rounded off his exhilarating run 70 metres later by touching down under the Ryton posts – a superbly worked try with the conversion added by Bird (0-15).
Alnwick continued to hammer away at the opposition. Flanker Jim Hamilton was forced into touch on the Ryton 10 metre line after a fine run.
But disaster struck when a sloppy pass was intercepted by winger Moore, who streaked away down the touch-line for a real poacher’s try, which went unconverted (5-15).
Both packs battled away in the loose, neither one on top, but it was Alnwick who went further ahead following Shell’s run and angled kick through.
The home full-back Hamilton was caught in possession and Alnwick’s forwards drove in agonisingly close to the Ryton try-line. Finally, the ball was shifted wide by Angus Todd for Frank Hutchinson to steam through for a converted try, an excellent conclusion to Alnwick’s power play.
The visitors made several positional changes with Dave Hamblin, Stuart Gray and Toby Davison coming on as replacements. By now, they were comfortably in the ascendancy, the three-quarters were moving slickly to take advantage of quick ball.
Ryton were not short of power plays, a break by number eight Hayden Smith caught Alnwick napping and only a strong tackle by Bird stopped the try.
Alnwick’s reply came from Angus Todd, who put in a crackling touch-line run.
Ryton fought back and winger McCarten swept downfield, threatening to score, only to be brought down just short of the Alnwick try-line.
The danger was cleared and Alnwick worked their way steadily upfield. Potts put in a raking run followed by Stuart Gray, who bounced his way through the Ryton defence before sending Davison through for a try, conversion points being added by Bird (5-29).
Ryton were now exhausted after having to defend a stream of Alnwick attacks and it was no surprise when the visitors scored again. A loose, bouncing ball was grabbed by Alnwick. Away went Graeme Potts who out paced a labouring Ryton defence to round off an excellent period of 15-man rugby, touching down near the posts. Bird’s kick struck the upright (5-34).
The final whistle sounded just after the restart.
Forwards and backs working smoothly to gain an excellent result.
Alnwick: J Bird, A Shell, F Hutchinson, A Gray, G Potts, N O’Grady, A Todd, B Boothman, H Sordy, P Brown, Aa Armstrong, D Oliver, G Smith, J Hamilton, R Ellis, D Hamblin, S Gray, T Davison.
Saturday’s league match is at Ponteland, kick-off 2.15pm.