Alnwick left Shell-shocked after injury to long-standing player
If there was ever a list of jinxed rugby matches, then this one would surely have been near the top.
After two postponements, this, the third attempt, was shortened to 60 minutes after a sickening injury to winger Andrew Shell and an hour long wait for the ambulance.
This was Andrew’s 199th league game for Alnwick and one can only imagine how distressing it must have been for him to have his game ended in such a painful manner. It goes without saying that everyone at the club wish him a speedy and complete recovery from his injury.
With playing time reduced, match sponsors ‘youngs RPS, Chatered Surveyors & Property Consultants’ might have felt short-changed, but they shouldn’t, because in reality there was better rugby in this hour-long game than many others of longer duration.
Beverley, bottom of the league and with relegation looming, came to Alnwick determined to enjoy themselves and really give it a go. Their immediate outlook may be bleak but they showed great heart and pride and deserve credit for their contribution to an entertaining match.
Alnwick kicked off down the slope and although Beverley used the strong wind to their advantage, Alnwick had the better of the opening exchanges. Their forwards had the upper hand in the set pieces and the loose, but overall there was a tendency to force the pace early on, and opportunities were lost through wayward passing and wrong options taken.
Alnwick were relieved when a Beverley counter attack was turned over enabling Calum Burn to clear and mount pressure on Beverley’s 22.
From an Alnwick scrum in mid-field , Andrew Shell was nearly through but moments later from another scrum further to the left, the ball was moved smartly along the backs and this time the winger had enough space and speed to rip past the defenders and touch down in the right-hand corner. Bird added an excellent conversion across the wind for 7 – 0 after 13 minutes.
Capitalising on some loose ball from an untidy Beverley line-out almost immediately after the restart, Alnwick’s forwards, with the industrious trio of Smith, Gothorpe and Hamilton prominent, quickly got the ball again to Shell who was tackled almost in the act of scoring but fell awkwardly with players on top of him resulting in fractures to the lower right leg.
Play was then halted for some 90 minutes pending the arrival of an ambulance and on-field treatment, during which time it was agreed to reduce the game to 60 minutes.
The game resumed in a slightly subdued atmosphere with an Alnwick 5 metre scrum at the site of the stoppage, and Calum Burn was quick to spot a gap and nip through for a try which Bird converted for 14 – 0.
Beverley mounted pressure from the re-start, but Calum Burn spotted space on the left and backed his speed to beat the defence down the touchline and run round under the posts for a fine solo try, which Bird converted for a half-time score of 21 – 0.
From a Beverley line-out on half-way only three minutes after the resumption, Bird fielded a speculative kick short of his own 10 metre line, and put in a strong run before chipping neatly over the Beverley backs, gathering the bounce and racing over for a little gem of a try to the left of the posts for 26 – 0, but the gusty wind took his conversion wide.
Encouraged by the energetic half-back pairing of Rowrotham and Deboulay, Beverley took the game to Alnwick who conceded several penalties where Beverley opted to tap-and-go.
The third of these resulted in a turnover and Hamilton almost battered his way through before the ball found Calum Burn who neatly completed his hat-trick for 31 – 0 giving Bird a simple conversion for 33 – 0.
Still Beverley didn’t give up, but Alnwick have the best defensive record in the league and Beverley, like others before them, could find no way through, although a strong break by centre Roe was only halted by an all-consuming cover tackle by Moralee.
The attempted catch-and-drive from the ensuing line-out was held and Moralee’s 80 metre clearance from Alnwick’s scrum sent Beverley back to a line-out in their own 22.
An Alnwick attack gained them a penalty and from open play after the line-out, snappy handling by Hamilton and Calum Burn released Rory Mallaburn who powered over for a try making it 38 – 0, with Bird adding the extras for a final score of 40 – 0 .
At present it is uncertain if the result will be allowed to stand or how it might affect league points. It is understood that the matter will be discussed and adjudicated by the Competitions Committee.