Alnwick go down to league leaders and champions-elect
Alnwick RFC 8-26 Hull
Arriving at Greensfield for this match, Hull were at the top of the league some 19 points clear of their nearest rivals having lost only one game of the 20 played, so short of a major disaster in the coming weeks it is a fair bet that they will be league champions.
However, they would be only too well aware that Alnwick were an awkward unit which had given them a tough time when going down 29 – 13 at Hull in October, and that this game would not be easy.
On a mild afternoon with the pitch firm and dry, with only a moderate diagonal wind and intermittent bright sunshine, conditions favoured open rugby as Alnwick kicked off.
There was only time for a couple of powerful drives by Hull before Alnwick knocked-on giving Hull a scrum on their 10 metre line. It immediately became apparent that the bulky Hull pack were creating problems for the Alnwick eight, a dominance which would continue throughout the afternoon in the form of numerous collapsing scrums.
Elsewhere matters were more evenly contested and although Hull’s bustling forward were a constant threat, neither back division made much progress in the face of stern tackling by their counterparts.
Alnwick used the wind sensibly with some long well-judged touch kicks which pushed the visitors back and although helped by a further three penalties were not able to capitalise.
Alnwick were always ready to run the ball if the chance arose and Callum Burn came close to scoring after a searing break from loose play near half-way.
There were brief Alnwick hopes of a penalty try as the supporting player was tackled without the ball but referee Hurdley felt differently, awarding a scrum to Hull where Alnwick were rather harshly penalised as they switched props and got a yellow card as well.
Hull cleared the danger but Alnwick continued to push back until they were awarded their first penalty following a line-out on half-way. It was not an easy position on Hull’s 10 metre line in midfield, but Bird judged wind and distance perfectly and Alnwick were first on the scoreboard at 3 – 0 after 30 minutes.
Hull soon struck back as Alnwick knocked on from the re-start and as Hull moved the ball right then left, Stafford picked up loose ball at the tackle area and galloped in from 20 metres up the left touchline. Moralee unfortunately injured himself in a trade-mark tackle which was just too late to prevent the try for 3 - 5. Humberstone’s conversion attempt missed and there were no further score before the interval.
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Alnwick came under some heavy pressure as they tried to deal with a catch-and-drive from a 5m line-out but were overcome by Hull’s forward power in two 5 metre scrums and conceded a penalty try for 3 – 12.
A couple of yellow cards reduce Alnwick to 13 at one point but they withstood some sustained pressure before a drive from a 5m scrum allowed scrum-half Harding to dot the ball down for 3 – 17 with Humberstone converting for 3 – 19.
Alnwick gave themselves problems as the re-start went straight out and there was an element of luck in Hull’s next try which came as Alnwick worked their way upfield.
As play halted Alnwick didn’t gather a wayward pass and Hull’s flanker Curry was quick to gather the loose ball and cruise over from 20 metres for the bonus point try which Humberstone converted for 3 – 26.
Hull continued to run the ball but Alnwick’s defending and tackling, as it had been throughout, was heroic and there was no injustice when scrum-half Ord broke up-field and Atkinson caught a kindly bounce from Callum Burn’s neat grubber to score an un-converted try and a final score of 8 – 26.
This was a cracking game which was much closer than the score might suggest and whilst Hull will rarely have a tougher match Alnwick can be proud of what they achieved despite some inconsistent refereeing decisions.
Alnwick: S.Atkinson, P Moralee (Capt), S Hutchinson, R Cuthbert, M Holmes, C Burn, J Burn, C Greer, H Burn, D Smith, M Gray, J Young, J Bird, J Hamilton, B Gothorp. Subs: D Clayton, S Ord, O Sutheran.
Refereee: Thomas Hurdley.
Next match: Lymm (away) Saturday, March 2, KO 3pm.