Wheatley Hills 7 Alnwick 31
North One East
At the end of training on Thursday, James Hamilton gave an impassioned plea to play smart, trust each other and a double over their Yorkshire opponents could be achieved, writes Nick Willings.
Saturday arrived and the weather was going to be a factor, with a strong wind blowing from end to end.
Alnwick played with the wind in the first half. The feeling was it might be worth 20 points and a short kick-off enabled Wheatley to have the ball. They were bigger than Alnwick upfront, but slower and their game plan unfolded with pick-and-gos, gaining some ground, but slowly and to no great effect.
Alnwick gained possession and, after a good driving maul, were awarded a penalty.
Peter Moralee took it quickly and executed one of his trademark mazy runs, taking him first right, then left as he evaded all grasping hands to score in the corner, Bird adding a superb conversion (0-7).
Alnwick committed some errors from the kick-off, with a knock-on at the base of the scrum and some aimless kicking to the opposition. They were finding the conditions difficult. This was eased when they were awarded a penalty on the Wheatley 10-metre line and Bird was high and handsome with the kick (0-10).
James Warcup began to take control and kicked Alnwick down to the Wheatley 22, but they did not take advantage. Wheatley came back and a good drive was held up, but from the reset they were awarded a penalty.
They went for a line-out catch-and-drive and Peter Brown came in from the side, was yellow-carded and from the resultant scrum Wheatley were awarded a penalty try, converted by Woodcock (7-10).
Alnwick went straight back down the field and from broken play, James Warcup engineered a lovely break to score yet another wonderful individual try under the posts, with Bird adding the extras to take the half-time score to 7-17.
After the break, Alnwick began well, keeping the ball, with backs driving as well as forwards and the Wheatley pack were visibly tiring against Alnwick’s speed of execution. Moralee was probing all the time and Alnwick were indeed playing smart rugby.
A good break by Gothorpe put Alnwick on the front foot, a good ruck and pick-up on the short side took play to the Wheatley 22. A penalty to the corner kept the momentum going. The ball was relayed through the backs where Bird burst through the middle, was brought down, but good rucking enabled Hamilton to score under the posts, converted by Bird (7-24).
Wheatley attacked on the resumption, but Alnwick’s defence was sound, as it was throughout the whole game, and Wheatley’s number eight was yellow-carded.
The last 10 minutes were frantic for Wheatley, but Alnwick’s composure was resolute and, from deep in Alnwick’s half, good ball was transferred to Bird who rounded off an excellent performance with a scintillating break through the middle and dashed a full 60 metres for a superb try under the posts, which he converted himself.
It gave Alnwick a magnificent 31-7 win and a vital bonus point in difficult conditions.
Alnwick: J Bird, G Potts, S Hutchinson, F Hutchinson, A Shell (C), J Warcup, P Moralee, P Brown, H Sordy, R Elliott, A Alexander, M Gray, G Smith, J Hamilton, B Gothorpe. Subs: J Weddell, T McEwan, R Thompson (all used). Next match: Home to West Hartlepool, kick-off 2.15pm.