DURHAM & NORTHUMBERLAND
ALNWICK finally lost their lengthy winning run against a strong, well-drilled Gateshead side who are favourites to get promoted.
It was a highly-charged game with plenty of dust rising when players were brought down on a hard pitch.
After going behind in the opening minutes, Alnwick tackled hard to stem wave after wave of attacks set up by their powerful set of forwards who finally ended up scoring three of the Gateshead tries. The fourth was by scrum-half Foster.
It was a cracking match with plenty of fast-moving action and tremendous tackling by both forwards and backs, thoroughly enjoyed by both sets of supporters.
Gateshead took advantage of an early penalty line-out to pressure Alnwick back to their five-metre line.
Alnwick lost their own scrum ball which was spun out by Gateshead scrum-half Foster to Tilley and back inside to Tate.
A slick switch pass to lock Carr saw him charge through for the opening try, Cartner’s conversion attempt hitting the post. 0-5.
Alnwick went further behind following a penalty line-out.
A well-worked catch and drive saw the Gateshead pack power their way over the try-line with Pluskal credited with the try.
This time Cartner was on target with his conversion to stretch the visitors’ lead. 0-12.
Alnwick mounted a number of promising threequarter moves but too often the runner found himself cut off by the Gateshead defensive shield with often two or three tacklers in attendance to snuff out any danger.
The Gateshead threequarters were making plenty of ground before Alnwick’s terrier-like tackling finally hauled them down.
More incisiveness would have shut down the danger early.
Further pressure from their forwards saw them camp down near the Alnwick try-line, steadily working their way ahead and, despite Alnwick’s tackling which threw the opposition back, the defence was breached when lock forward Aslet squeezed his way through for a converted try. 0-19.
Alnwick lifted their overall game, hitting hard in the tackles, breaking up the Gateshead forward power play and putting plenty of hard yards to make the ground.
The front five were powerful in their storming play while the back row were tackling everything that moved wearing Gateshead colours and making good ground with some robust play.
The second half started off with Gateshead full-back Cartner pinning Alnwick back in their 22 area with a long, raking kick which went loose from a dropped pass.
Alnwick defenders hacked it through to hassle Tate who was penalised for holding on after the tackle.
Alnwick’s penalty line-out work saw Ellis breaking through, only to be hauled down by a bunch of Gateshead forwards.
The visitors hammered a free-kick away and then worked a rolling maul from a line-out to camp on the Alnwick try-line, hammering away but not able to get through.
They were finally awarded a scrum where they drove through for a try, touched down by scrum-half Foster who had dived through a gap. 0-26.
Alnwick fought back only to lose Frank Hutchinson with a broken ankle after he had put in a powerful run.
He was replaced by Campbell Blakey with David Smith coming on into the pack.
The Alnwick threequarters were working the ball wide with Sean Hutchinson putting in the hard yards to make ground.
The play was switched out across Andy Shell but Gateshead defenders closed him down before he could work his magic running which has brought him a hatful of tries this season.
Both sets of forwards were battling hard, clouds of dust were rising when the tackles went in hard.
Charlie Davies made a break but found the support lacking. Another break right on time looked promising.
Andy Shell came through up the touchline and kicked ahead as he was tackled with the ball angling its way towards the post.
Peter Moralee came through to challenge Tilley who managed to scramble the ball out to Cartner and into touch.
It was a cracking match, full of good running.
It was a pity that Alnwick’s efforts just failed to create a touchdown.
Team: J Bird, A Shell, S Hutchinson, F Hutchinson, G Potts, H Wrangham, P Moralee, P Brown, S Allen, S Bremner, R Ellis, O Sutheran, G Smith, C Davies, C Blakey, D Smith, M Milburn, H Sordy.
Alnwick’s final league match of the season will be against Ponteland to be played at Greensfield on Easter Saturday, kick-off 3pm.