Hartlepool Rovers...17 Alnwick...10
Durham and Northumberland Division One
ALNWICK’S run of success came to an end at Hartlepool losing by a try and four penalty goals to a converted try and penalty goal.
A disjointed performance in which Alnwick failed to take their chances, speedy wings hardly ever employed, a tendency to bring play back into the forwards which suited the Hartlepool style of play and too much back-chat cost Alnwick dear getting on the wrong side of the referee cost goal points.
Alnwick pushed forward in the early stages, a surging run by Ed Shell took him into the Hartlepool 22 where home centre Austwicke was penalised at the tackle, Nick Mather goaled the penalty to put Alnwick into the lead (0-3).
Hartlepool drove back. A powerful run by number eight Grazier saw Hartlepool camp in the Alnwick 22. A series of driving plays threatened to breach the Alnwick defence. A missed penalty by Hartlepool full-back Sainty saw Alnwick follow up the restart but a poor take allowed prop Pincher to bring play back to the 22.
Alnwick managed to win scrum-ball back to Nick Mather, whose relieving kick came back infield for Durrans to break play wide.
Alnwick’s defence was right and held Hartlepool back.
An offside decision saw Angus Todd tap and run, making ground but, without any support, was smothered by the Hartlepool cover. They won scrum-ball, which was moved out to Graeme Potts, whose run saw him well covered by the Hartlepool three-quarters.
Alnwick had to replace Stephen Bremner at prop with Jonty Johnson.
They pushed forward, Hartlepool cleared their lines, with Evens kicking deep to Peter Moralee, whose run took him up the touchline.
Alnwick won good line-out ball allowing the three-quarters a break across the pitch.
Hartlepool defended well and held firm.
Alnwick won good scrum-ball but were penalised when the midfield players were caught offside. Sainty brought the scores level with a penalty goal (3-3).
Both teams were guilty of giving away penalties, ground was won and then lost as the balance of play moved up and down the pitch.
A promising move saw Ed Shell run wide only for Andy Shell to find himself pinned tight to the touchline.
Hartlepool finally worked deep into the Alnwick 22, following a number of penalty line-outs, then went for a kick at goal but Sainty was wide. Peter Moralee was alert to the on-rushing winger, Grand, who was blatantly five metres in front of the kicker, to touch down behind the try-line as the first half ended with the scorers level at 3-3.
Alnwick’s early pressure failed to make a dent in the Hartlepool defence inside the home 22, losing valuable and hard-won ground through several penalty decisions.
This saw Hartlepool drive to the Alnwick five-metre line, where the pack battered their way over for push-over try (8-3).
Alnwick, stung by this reverse, brought play deep into the Hartlepool half and, after an exchange of kicks, worked the ball out to Graeme Potts, whose run took him to the Hartlepool 22.
A weak clearance by home full-back Sainty was picked off by Peter Moralee, who quickly linked up with Andy Shell. He was held but, with the Alnwick forwards charging in, out broke Darren Oliver. He made the hard yards to put away Harry Sordy for a try under the post, giving Nick Mather an easy conversion (8-10).
Hartlepool were immediately awarded a penalty following the restart to ease themselves ahead, adding two more from in front of the posts after the Alnwick defence failed to tighten up, which saw Hartlepool ease further head. Basic errors made it 17-10.
Alnwick came back hard. Moralee was spear-tackled in front of the referee, but there was no red card as required by the Rugby Board.
The visitors won a scrum ball, tried to run it out from their 22 area but mishandling saw the ball knocked forward and the final chance was lost.
Alnwick should and could have won, a much more determined effort will be required this Saturday when they play against Yorkshire side Keighley in the league promotion play-off game at Greensfield.
Alnwick: P Moralee, G Potts, Ed Shell, F Hutchinson, Andy Shell (c), N Mather, A Todd, S Bremner, H Sordy, D Hamblin, Aa Armstrong, D Oliver, P Brown, G Smith, R Ellis, I Gray, A Ord, Aa Johnson.