DURHAM & NORTHUMBERLAND DIVISION ONE
A HEAVY pitch and the usual vocal encouragement from the home supporters promised a fair old encounter.
So it proved with a splendid match in which Alnwick opened up their speedy three-quarters after having to contend with the heavyweight Horden pack.
Matching the Horden forwards and not giving an inch showed up when they were camped a few metres off the Alnwick try-line, with all the players putting in a tremendous effort to stem the powerful pick-and-drive tactics set up by the home forwards.
Alnwick scored through two Andy Shell tries and one each from James Bird and Will Massey, whose break-out from his try-line saw him race the length of the pitch for a most cracking of tries. He also put over a drop goal, while James Bird added two conversions and a penalty.
An early ruck ball was spun out along the backs only for it to end up in touch. Good line-out ball was driven on before it was released out to Massey who was successful in landing a drop-goal to put Alnwick into the lead (0-3).
Alnwick pressured the home three-quarters and with strong support from the back, Gordon Smith, Campbell Blakey and Richard Ellis streamed through to challenge on the home five metre line. The Horden defence stood firm to hold Alnwick up.
The visitors continued to hunt and harry the Horden three-quarters. A charging run by Dave Whitehead was carried on by Gordon Smith and the ball fed along the Alnwick backs. Again the Horden defence was caught offside, James Bird goaling the penalty (0-6).
Horden surged back with their forwards taking play into the Alnwick 22. Hard tackling from a sound defence kept them out. Horden winger David Mason broke free but was brought down by a cracking tackle from Rich Ord.
Alnwick won good, quick scrum ball and pushed it out to Shell, whose mazy running took him through to score an excellent try under the post for an easy conversion by Bird right at the end of the opening half (0-13).
Horden stormed into the second half, putting Alnwick under heavy pressure. A short-lived Alnwick break out was halted.
Horden drove through from the line-out, were held up but every forward drive was flung back. Edging ever closer, the Horden forwards looked certain to drive over. Scrum-half Andrew Morton popped the pass up for number eight Craig Gilmour, only to see that Will Massey had snatched the ball out of his hands to race away, out-pacing the Horden players to run the length of the pitch to go over for an outstanding try, goaled by James Bird (0-20).
Alnwick brought on Charlie Davies as a replacement.
The visitors battled their way upfield. A chip through from Massey saw Graham Potts up to challenge Mason. Alnwick won scrum-ball after a Horden knock-on and fed the three-quarters, who advanced into the Horden five metre area where James Bird rounded off the move with an unconverted try (0-22).
Horden ran the ball back but could not make any headway against a tight-tackling Alnwick cover. A slick three-quarter move then saw Andy Shell kick on to follow up and go over for the final try (0-30).
Duncan Napier came on as a late replacement. Alnwick continued to get the ball away from the forwards, giving the backs plenty of scope to challenge constantly the home backs. It was a cracker of a game – power in the forwards, setting away a sharp performance in the backs.
Saturday’s league match against Wallsend is away on their new ground near the Rising Sun.
Alnwick: J Bird, A Shell, I Gray, A Gaines, G Potts, W Massey, P Moralee, M Milburn, H Sordy, Z Armstrong, D Whitehead, O Sutheran, G Smith, C Blakey, R Ellis, Rich Ord, D Napier, C Davies.