Alnwick came into this County Cup match, generously sponsored by Pumphrey’s Coffee, on the back of encouraging performances in three warm-up matches against Horden, Kelso and an RAF side.
But Northern apparently had not had the benefit of any pre-season games and as they had narrowly failed to stay up in the North One East League last season, this would be the only encounter between the sides for a while.
Nonetheless, there was still a lot of pride at stake for these old local rivals, in addition to the Andrew Bell Memorial Trophy which goes to the winners of the first match between the sides each season.
Alnwick set out their stall early,but Northern stand-off Williams missed a relatively easy penalty. before Bird kicked a well judged penalty across the wind for 3 – 0 after 15 minutes.
A degree of ring rustiness was evident in the handling by the backs of both sides , but apart from Alnwick having the better of the line-outs, the contest between the packs was fairly even and on 23 minutes Northern drew level through a Williams penalty and he then added a further penalty to make it 3 – 6 with half an hour gone.
A Bird penalty just before the interval levelled the scores at 6 – 6 which fairly reflected the overall scrappy quality of play in an uninspired first half.
Alnwick were penalised for getting in front of the kicker as they kicked off the second half but escaped unscathed and aided by a couple of penalties and another powerful burst by Hamilton they pressed to Northern’s 22. An attack up the centre ended with a knock-on but from further pressure, scrum-half Todd was ever alert and scored a smart try with a with sniping run from some 22 metres with Bird adding the conversion for 13 – 6, after 11 minutes.
Alnwick were penalised immediately after the re-start and Williams slotted the kick for 13 – 9 and despite the occasional threat which Alnwick’s defence dealt with capably, that was to be their last score as Alnwick began to dictate matters.
Continuing Alnwick pressure was rewarded with a penalty and from the ensuing 5m line-out Hamish Burn drove through a gap and stretched over for a try which Bird converted comfortably for 20 – 9.
Alnwick’s best was yet to come as their backs now began to click. Northern made a bad error as a miscued penalty touch-kick went dead, and from the scrum in Alnwick’s half the ball was moved swiftly along the backs for Bird to take the final pass on the left and stride imperiously over from 40m for a classically executed try which he then converted for 27 – 9.
Alnwick’s superior fitness was evident in their final try. A massive kick from Calum Burn was gathered by a Northern defender near his own line and as he looked for an exit he was confronted by three Alnwick players who had sprinted 60m. The ball was spilled backwards over the line and Warcup was quickest to react and claim the touch down. Bird’s conversion attempt hit the post, spoiling his 100% record for the day but leaving Alnwick with a very satisfactory 32 – 9 victory.