Durham & Northumberland, Division One
FOR probably the first time this season, the Alnwick forwards dominated their opposition throughout with a powerful display in the tight when they revelled in freezing conditions and on a pitch which at the start was snow covered.
The Alnwick forwards were a solid unit throughout with hookers Sordy and later Dunn winning ball after ball against the head. Darren Oliver dominated the home line-out and, for a change, was able to claim the occasional opposition throw-in.
But it was the back-row which again excelled, with Gordon Smith putting in an another full shift, Paul Dobson crashing through tackles and James Hamilton proving that number seven could be his best position.
One of the problems this season is that Alnwick have never had a settled set of backs from scrum-half through to full-back, but no matter who comes in, they play well.
Throughout the match, the ball was difficult to control as passes went astray or were knocked on by frozen hands.
The home side dominated territory in the first few minutes but it took nearly 15 to find the breakthrough. The ball, after being won by the forwards, was slipped along the line for Davidson coming up at speed to score in the corner.
Novos surged back but were penalised for off-side. Davidson kicked to touch and Novos won the line-out ball but a deep kick was well tidied up by Bird.
There have not been many games this season in which captain Andrew Shell has not scored at least one try. He had his chance midway through the half when Potts gained a lot of ground. His pass to full-back Bird gave Shell the chance but unfortunately, he knocked on.
But as Alnwick kept up the pressure, their reward came from a penalty, which Bird put over (8-0).
With the Alnwick forwards in control, they were awarded a scrum close to the visitors’ line. Down went the heads, Alnwick won the ball and drove over for Gordon Smith to claim the touch-down (13-0).
Novos lost a player to the sin-bin as the pressure told but there was no addition to the score on the half-time whistle.
The second half saw Alnwick start positively. Andrew Shell made one of those mazy runs of his, but was stopped close to the 22 metre line. Darren Oliver was on hand to get the ball and gave an excellent pass to Hamilton, who scored. Bird added two more points with an excellent conversion (20-0).
Alnwick were finding the cracks in the Novos defence as the half wore on.
The visiting pack was penalised three times before the referee awarded a penalty-try which also ensured an extra bonus points counting towards the four tries required. Bird had his easiest kick of the afternoon in front of the posts.
For the second time in the match, a Novos player was sin-binned.
With the game won, on came Tony Dunn for Sordy at hooker and Stewart on for Smith in the back-row. The changes made no difference as Alnwick continued to dominate.
The final try was a simple affair. Alnwick had a scrum five yards out. The pack drove Novos backwards once again and, as the ball crossed the line, Dobson dropped on it for the points. Bird added the conversion to make it an easy win (34-0).
On a dry day, Alnwick would have been expected to run in a lot more tries but frozen fingers made handling very difficult.
The result puts Alnwick back into third place in the Northumberland and Durham Division One League while the opponents are firmly anchored in bottom spot.
Alnwick moved into third place following the surprise defeat of Hartlepool Rovers away to Acklam.
Alnwick: J Bird, A Shell, F Hutchinson, T Davidson, G Potts, H Wrangham, N O’Grady, D Hamblin, H Sordy (sub T Dunn), B Bootham, D Oliver, A Alexander, G Smith (sub D Stewart) D, P Dobson, J Hamilton.