Jug slips from Alnwick’s grasp

Berwick...16 Alnwick...15

Bill Renton Claret Jug

ALNWICK failed to wrestle the Bill Renton Claret Jug from Berwick’s grasp, as they lost by the narrowest of margins in the traditional Boxing Day fixture.

The Greensfield side threw away a 6-10 lead as their north Northumberland hosts capitalised on some lacklustre Alnwick play and rallied to take the honours by a single point.

And there was late heartache for Alnwick, who missed a crucial conversion in the game’s closing stages which would have swung the contest back in their favour. It had all looked bright and breezy for the visitors too, when Andy Shell rounded off a cracking back move to touch down under the posts and score early in the opening minutes – setting the scene for some open three-quarter play. But there was to be no such luck.

Alnwick’s indiscipline was punished time and time again as they lost hard-won ground and gifted two penalty goals.

And when they were reduced in the pack with two sin-binned for technical offences, Berwick took advantage when they drove over from a penalty-scrum to go into the lead. It was only in the final five minutes that Alnwick woke up, with their forwards driving Berwick back to their try-line.

But hammer away as hard as they did, they could not break the hosts’ defence.

Frankly, the teams served up a right mish-mash of a game, with the home side just edging the win to retain the Claret Jug.In truth, both teams struggled with the conditions with a strong crosswind making handling a bit of a lottery at times.

But things started well for Alnwick as the visitors went ahead through a penalty-goal from James Bird (0-3).

Berwick restarted and were promptly awarded a penalty, with Hill adding the points to bring the scores level (3-3).

The visitors regained the lead, though, when, after several moves in the three-quarters stuttered, Alnwick finally decided to spin the ball wide. James Bird came up into the line and sold an enormous dummy to send Andy Shell racing through for a converted try (3-10).

Alnwick brought on Biff Bell, to replace Aaron Armstrong at prop.

Berwick pressed hard and Hill punished Alnwick with another penalty (6-10).

In the second half, Berwick took advantage when Alnwick lost players to the sin-bin – a surging forward drive from a scrum saw them use the extra power to go over for a converted try (13-10).

Alnwick had to replace the injured James Bird, bringing on Rich Ord, meaning some position juggling in the backs.

But Berwick went further ahead when they scored a penalty-goal (16-10).

Alnwick’s persistence in trying the referee’s patience saw them constantly whistled up for so many basic errors – mostly handling at a ruck, but other decisions were less clear.

The late introduction of Richard Ellis and some harsh words gave the Alnwick pack a driving impetus, powering through to make the Berwick cover creak.

But creak as it might, it did not buckle, until Alnwick finally made use of Andy Shell, who again outpaced the cover to round off a capital move to touch down out wide. But the kick was unsuccessful and Alnwick lost out by one point.

Alnwick: J Bird, A Shell, T Davidson, F Hutchinson, G Potts, N O’Grady, A Gray, A Armstrong, H Sordy, P Brown, A Alexander, D Oliver, G Smith, J Hamilton, S Gray, AR Bell, D Napier, Rich Ord, R Ellis.

FIXTURES

Tomorrow: Alnwick II v Morpeth II (kick-off 6pm).

Saturday: Morpeth v Alnwick (kick-off 1pm).

TEAMS

Alnwick I (v Morpeth, away, Saturday, meet 11.15, kick-off 1pm): A Alexander, A Bell, A Shell, A Todd, A Gray, D Smith, F Hutchinson, G Smith, H Sordy, I Gray, J Cowen, J Hamilton, N O’Grady, P Brown, R Ellis, R Ord, S Bremner, T Davidson. Cry-offs: George 07842 029232.

Alnwick II (v Morpeth II, home, tomorrow, kick-off 6pm): A Gaines, A Johnson, A Ord, A Elliott, C Davies, C Grahamslaw, D Clayton, D Napier, D Stewart, H Todd, J Kelly, J Normanton, J Snaith, J Weddell, J Hunter, L Green, M Milburn, N Lundy, R Neil, R Ord, S Allen, S Bremner, T Hall. Cry-offs: George 07842 029232.