DURHAM & NORTHUMBERLAND DIVISION ONE
THE match was a cracker from start to finish, with swift end-to-end play and both sets of three-quarters revelling on the excellent surface of the only artificial pitch in the north.
The forwards battled hard to get on top, Gosforth tried to batter their way through, only to be foiled by the Alnwick back-row trio of Gordon Smith, Tony Dunn and Paul Dobson. And if they did manage to burst through, they were swallowed up by the front-line, who worked hard to contain the opposition.
Alnwick’s points came from Ali Gray, two tries, and Andy Shell, one try, with the ever-steady boot of James Bird adding three conversions and two penalties. Gosforth tries came late in the game through Anderson and Morris.
After a nip-and-tuck opening, Gray angled his kick through into the Gosforth 22, where the home three-quarters tried to run the ball back but got well turned over with Dobson breaking away from the resulting scrum. He made ground pulling in a number of defenders before releasing it out to the three-quarters and along the line to Bird and Graeme Potts, whose pace took him up the touch-line.
Gosforth scrambled for the ball, players were caught offside giving Bird a penalty goal for 0-3.
The Gosforth forwards worked hard at the restart, powering their way up to the Alnwick 22, only to lose the battle for possession. O’Grady put in a lengthy clearance to the centre-line. Gosforth offended and Bird was on target to add a further three points (0-6).
Alnwick then produced a purple patch and surged away from Gosforth.
Firstly, the restart ball was taken cleanly and Dobson steamed through.
Alnwick won the maul ball and spun it out along the three-quarters stretching the Gosforth defence wide. Potts made ground and the ball was switched inside to Gray who turned on the afterburners to race over to round off a splendid pacy bout of play. Conversion points were added (0-13).
Two minutes later and the same again. Smith powered through from the restart and fed the three-quarters. In came Bird from full-back and passed inside to Gray, who cruised through for another converted try (0-20).
Two goals, 14 points, inside a couple of minutes delivered a shattering blow to Gosforth, though a penalty on half-time pulled back three points (3-20).
Alnwick swept into the home half following the kick-off. A powerful run from Dobson, who was having an excellent game, set down a very solid marker but Alnwick lost Nick Mather to a knee injury. He was replaced by Davidson.
Gosforth hammered away and the visitors survived a very torrid time but eased themselves back up to the home 22 through solid scrummaging.
Gosforth flanker Stirling was caught offside, but Bird’s kick bounced off the upright and back into play, Jones ran the ball out, failed to clear it downfield and was caught in possession. Alnwick won the ball back through Dobson, who found Sordy then Dunn and it shifted quickly out to the waiting three-quarters where Shell finished off a slick move, with Bird converting (3-27).
Gosforth mounted a series of pounding attacks and sat on the Alnwick five-metre line, finally driving over for a well-worked forward try (8-27).
Alnwick were comfortably holding the Gosforth three-quarters, but let themselves down when giving away silly penalties, mainly for handling at the rucks. Gosforth drove into the Alnwick 22 and quick scrum ball found Jones then Anderson. The outside-half slipped past Alnwick’s cover for an unconverted try at the posts (13-27).
Alnwick swept into the Gosforth 22 area on the restart, took a penalty line-out ball through Adam Alexander, transferred out along the three-quarters and only a desperate final tap-tackle prevented a further try.
A cracking match with both sides rising to the occasion with Alnwick showing more cohesive play and ideas.
Alnwick: J Bird, G Potts, N Mather, F Hutchinson, A Shell, N O’Grady, A Gray, B Boothman, H Sordy, A Armstrong, J Hamilton, A Alexander, G Smith, T Dunn, P Dobson, T Davidson, D Smith.