Durham & Northumberland Division One
IN the final stage of the league programme, Alnwick stretched away from Stockton who have been snapping at their heels all season.
In a fast-flowing game, Alnwick thoroughly turned the tables on a hard-tackling Medcials side by the score of four goals and a try to Medicals’ three tries and two penalties.
Alnwick’s points came from Peter Moralee, who had replaced Andy Shell on the wing with an upper leg injury, and Ali Gray, with each scoring two tries while Jim Hamilton came good with one.
It was not without hiccups on the way. After scoring two tries, Alnwick relaxed and went off the boil allowing Medicals to fight back at the end of the first half.
Alnwick had several chances to score further tries but lost out with players cutting back infield to be caught by the visitors’ defence.
There was a repeat performance in the second half with two early tries, easing off increasing the lead in mid-half then conceding two tries when Medicals used their huge tighthead prop Barclay to crash over from short range to give the Medicals’ scoreline a bit more respectability.
It was a patchwork quilt of a performance, the forwards as usual turning in a hard-working performance while the three-quarter backs, when running direct and at pace, always threatened.
Medicals opened up with a strong attack from the start. A long kick-through from outside half Richardson looked good only for the ball to go dead when James Bird managed to get the touchdown with Medicals winger Cellis breathing down his neck.
Both packs fought it out on the touchline. A half-break by Nathan O’Grady was supported by the forwards. Jim Hamilton burst away before shifting the ball out to Peter Moralee whose pace took him through and round the Medicals cover to run for a touchdown under the posts, giving James Bird the easiest of conversions, (7-0).
From a scrum following the restart, Moralee was off and away. Breaking back infield, he was caught by the Medicals defence. The Alnwick forwards piled in and took the five-metre scrum ball out to the three-quarters where Ali Gray outpaced the opposition on a mazy run to get Alnwick’s second touchdown. Again Bird goaled the conversion points, (14-0).
Medicals fought back hard. Successive penalty line-outs on the Alnwick five-metre line saw the visitors hammer away but the tackles went in hard and low, particularly when Medicals used their monster prop Barclay.
Alnwick broke Medicals’ hold and got the ball back to the centre line. A break by Richard Ellis saw him all but through, only to be felled by an ankle tap tackle.
Jim Hamilton drove through to force his way over the try-line, only to drop the ball.
Medicals kicked long on the restart. The ball came forward from an Alnwick player and was picked up by Darren Oliver who was promptly penalised for offside.
Medicals winger Brown kicked the penalty, hitting the post with another attempt a few minutes later, (14-3).
An Alnwick attack broke down, Medicals kicked through and the ball was quickly switched from forwards to backs with winger Cellis running through for a touch down near the corner flag, (14-8).
Alnwick’s midfield were caught offside following the restart. Richardson added a further penalty goal right on the whistle, bringing Medicals right back into the game, (14-11).
Medicals pinned Alnwick back in their 22-area on the restart. The attack was held with Alnwick breaking out. A drive pass to Ali Gray from James Bird saw the centre slice through the Medicals back-row cover but he came inside and was tackled out. From open play, Peter Moralee chipped through, forcing Medicals full-back Payne to clear to touch.
Alnwick won quick ball from the line-out. Crisp passing saw Ali Gray turn on the after-burners and outpace the opposition to go through for a touchdown under the posts for a converted try, (21-11).
Alnwick went further ahead when Frank Hutchinson broke through, drew his covering Medicals centre then shipped the ball out to Jim Hamilton who carried on the move with a storming run to go over for a try under the posts, again goal points being added by James Bird, (28-11).
Alnwick made a number of changes bringing on Nick Mather, Tony Dunn and Andrew Bell, maintaining their attacking momentum. Graeme Potts was held up over the visitors’ try-line.
Alnwick won scrum ball that was switched out to Peter Moralee, again his pace saw him race through for a try, this time the conversion attempt struck an upright, (33-11).
Medicals kicked deep to force play near the Alnwick five-metre area. A knock-on gave the Medicals pack a chance to power through, with the monster tighthead prop rolling over for a try, (33-16).
Medicals drove back deep into the Alnwick half where the home side were hammered and under pressure, clearing the ball upfield only to see the visiting three-quarters bring the ball back.
Alnwick’s defence held firm and it was only in the final minutes of the game that the Medicals forwards again battered their way through with Barclay smashing his way over from very short range for an unconverted try, (33-21).
Alnwick tightened up on the restart and powered play into the Medicals’ midfield with the final whistle going shortly afterwards.
A hard-fought match with Alnwick coming away with not only the win points but also the try bonus points.
Team: J Bird, P Moralee, A Gray, F Hutchinson, G Potts, N O’Grady, I Gray, D Hamblin, H Sordy, P Brown, A Alexander, D Oliver, G Smith, J Hamilton, R Ellis, A Bell, T Dunn, N Mather.
At the end of the match Andrew Bell was presented with his 50 league match tie by club president Brian Fergie.