Middlesbrough 27 Alnwick 12
North One East
Newly-promoted Alnwick found out how difficult North One East is going to be this season. They held their own until half-time and then the home side dominated and ran out comfortable winners.
Both teams showed they were a bit rusty early on with penalties numerous, but handling errors were a lot fewer than in Alnwick’s recent cup game against Morpeth.
The early part of the game was very even, with both sides trying to move the ball, but the defences were on top for the most part.
Both sides were winning fairly clean ball from the line-outs and the scrums, although Boro’s was a bit scrappy at times.
On 20 minutes, Boro conceded a free-kick from a scrum just outside their own 22, and Warcup took a quick one, when he spotted a couple of forwards in front of him, so he went through the gap to score and it was converted by Bird, recovered from his leg injury.
But from the restart, Boro forced an error and the possession from the scrum saw them work the ball left and then right, getting quick ruck ball, with Rhys breaking a tackle and popping a lovely soft off-load for Simon Moore to collect and score.
Simon added the extras. So the response could not have been quicker or better (7-7).
Soon after this, Boro were forced into a change as Shaun Kay had to go off, bringing on Toby Tremlett, losing a bit of physicality in the pack, but bringing some additional height.
Boro had started exerting more authority on the game from this point on, with a promising attack late in the half only coming to an end with a knock on. However, from the resulting scrum, Alnwick gave away a penalty which Simon converted to leave the half-time score at 10-7, and probably a reasonable reflection of the half.
But Boro kept getting better and were starting to look more threatening in the backs with Rhys, Macca and Nolly working well together.
It was from another scrum penalty that Simon converted again to make it 13-7 and a small gap was starting to open up.
The highlight of the half came on 55 minutes when Conner, deep inside his own half, collected the ball from a ruck and spotted a bit of a gap just past the first defenders, he outpaced everyone in his 70-metre dash to score.
Again, Simon converted and it was looking more comfortable at 20-7.
Alnwick had other thoughts, and on around 66 minutes, a line-out in Boro’s 22 saw a decent catch and drive taking them over to score, but not convert, 20-12 and still more than one score between the sides.
On 75 minutes, it was Macca’s turn to set something up.
He broke from the halfway line and fended off one tackler to break the line and get in behind the defence.
A simple two-on-one with the opposing full-back saw him draw his man and pop the pass inside to Nolly who was through and away.
Yet again Simon added the extras to make it 27-12, which was how the match ended.
Two incidents of note in the second half. Captain Ed Shell, sin-binned for an alleged illegal tackle, and 18-year-old Richard Elliott made his debut coming on midway through the second half at prop and more than held his own.