Gritty encounter as Alnwick take draw on road at Dinnington

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Dinnington 6-6 Alnwick RFC

Alnwick were forced to settle for a draw when they travelled to take on Dinnington at the weekend.

Lying fourth in the league going into this match, Alnwick were well aware that their next three fixtures, Morpeth away, league leaders Pocklington at home and then away to second placed West Hartlepool, were all going to be tough matches and they needed to take as many points as possible from Dinnington in order to maintain their bid for advancement.

Dinnington, meanwhile, eight places below Alnwick, were engaged in a seven-sided scrap with the teams above them to escape the third relegation spot.

However, disparity in league placings is an unreliable guide to possible outcomes and experience has shown how difficult it is to come away from a visit to Yorkshire with much in the way of profit.

Alnwick may feel they could have done better on this occasion but on reflection should be quite pleased to have escaped with the draw whilst Dinnington could consider themselves a bit unlucky to only have two points to show for their efforts especially having played most of the game with only fourteen men.

The grey cloud and cold rain which had accompanied Alnwick’s team coach down the A1 persisted throughout the game and proved something of a leveller as the home side adapted better to the conditions. The close cropped pitch stood up remarkably well in the circumstances but although a cold cross-field breeze helped neither team, the wet and muddy conditions inevitably led to numerous handling errors which interrupted the flow of the game.

With the backs getting little opportunity to show their skills this was very much a forwards contest. Alnwick were well served by their boiler-room duo of Ollie Sutheran and Matty Gray doing impressive work in the loose as well as the set pieces and ably supported by the rest of the pack with laudable performances from the experienced flanker Gordon Smith and Duracell hooker Hamish Burn.

Alnwick’s kick off led to early pressure on Dinnington who conceded a penalty near half-way, yielding a further 10 metres for dissent. The resulting line-out some 15 metres from Dinnington’s line ended with a solid, well-controlled scrum to Alnwick and when Dinnington were again penalised Warcup slotted the kick for 0 – 3 after four minutes.

Dinnington replied with a fumbled tap-&-go penalty in front of Alnwick’s posts and although Alnwick were quick to counter, a further penalty led to a catch-&-drive from a 5 metre line-out. Alnwick held this short of the line and a Dinnington prop got a red card for punching allowing Alnwick to clear their lines. A well-placed kick from West into the corner kept the pressure on but Alnwick managed to see off the threat and finally get clear through a further penalty.

Alnwick now progressed into Dinnington’s half where attempted tacklers bounced off the ample shape of prop Phillips as he pounded up-field with the elegant poise of a charging buffalo, making spectacular yardage before gaining a penalty when stopped by a high tackle.

Alnwick were held as they opted for a catch-&-drive from the ensuing 5 metre line-out but on 36 minutes Warcup nailed a smartly taken drop-goal for 0 – 6 and although Alnwick continued to press there was no further score before half-time.

Some well-placed Alnwick kicks to the left corner at the start of the second half built some pressure but attempted drives were held and any attempts by Alnwick’s backs to move the ball wide failed to break the home side’s solid defence.

Both sides enjoyed their fair share of possession but despite a few errors, Dinnington moved up-field and were rewarded when West slotted a penalty for 3 – 6 with 20 minutes remaining.

Alnwick now came under continuous pressure as poor defensive kicks were cleanly taken by Dinnington who were ready to run the ball back at pace. Alnwick did well to defend a catch-&-drive from 5 metre line-out following a penalty but West made it 6 – 6 from a further penalty.

With 10 minutes left, Dinnington’s fourteen men now looked increasingly dangerous and Alnwick’s wingers, as they had throughout the game, found difficulty dealing with some awkward kicks on the skiddy surface.

It now required some gritty tackling from Alnwick to keep Dinnington at bay and there was some relief when an attempted drop-goal went wide with only minutes left.

Dinnington’s forwards kept up the pressure through a series of pick-&-go drives and even though the mud and murk made player identification difficult, referee White was still able to spot an Alnwick misdemeanour to give Dinnington a penalty in an eminently kickable position. Hopes of a home victory were dashed as West put his kick wide and the referee’s final whistle to end the afternoon’s mudfest a few seconds early was a merciful release to both players and spectators alike,

Alnwick: R Mallaburn, D Smith, R Cuthbert, F Hutchinson (Capt), P Robinson, J Warcup, P Moralee, C Phillips, H Burn, D Smith, O Sutheran, M Gray, G Smith, O Hamilton, B Gothorpe. Subs: D Clayton, B Courty, J Oliver.

Referee: Sean White (Yorkshire Federation).

Next Match: Morpeth (Away) on Saturday, February. Please note the earlier kick off time of 2pm.