Alnwick took the derby honours with a tight victory over rivals Morpeth in North One East yesterday. The win sees Alnwick fourth in the table, while Morpeth are eighth. The victory topped off a memorable day for Alnwick's Ian Gray, who was making his 200th league appearance for the blue 'n' golds. It also saw Alnwick lift the Brett Horse Trophy, which is always up for grabs when these two Northumberland sides meet.
The fixture, known as The Farmers Derby, is always keenly contested and this was no different, although the game was played in heavy and blustery conditions. Despite the weather not being particularly kind, the match still attracted an excellent crowd. It was the visitors who would be celebrating at the end, though.
Morpeth, kicking against the wind, immediately took the game to their opponents. An attacking scrum caused an Alnwick infringement, but full-back Brown hit the post with his first penalty chance, before hooking another one wide immediately afterwards. Sadly, Brown had to leave the field a few minutes later with a recurrence of hamstring problems and he was replaced by the lively Tait.
Alnwick opened the scoring with a simple penalty to go 0-3 up; a lead they held onto until the break. Morpeth levelled the scores after the interval, with Phillips making it 3-3.
Alnwick regained the lead 10 minutes into the second period. The visitors, deep in their own half, took advantage of a missed tackle and then with good hands and showing the pace that had always threatened, scored underneath the posts. They scored the conversion to go 3-10 up.
Alnwick were staying dogged in defence, but Morpeth eventually managed to score a try. The hosts charged down an Alnwick clearance kick to give the lively Calder just enough time to react and touch down, making the score 8-10. The conversion was missed, but after more Morpeth pressure, Phillips converted a penalty to put Morpeth 11-10 up.
Yet, Alnwick came through in the end when they finally made ground into Morpeth's half and a quickly-taken tap penalty gained another 10 metres, allowing a penalty chance to take lead and secure a valuable 11-13 victory and the bragging rights.
The day was an excellent occasion. It was a chance to look back and forward with both clubs in good health, old rivalries and friendship still very much apparent, and new ones emerging to the fore. It is also most worthy to mention the presentation in memory of the late Dave Routledge, who was a much-valued and highly-respected member of both clubs and a Nothumberland Society referee.