Makeshift Alnwick earn a draw on the road against West Leeds
West Leeds 10-10 Alnwick RFC
Alnwick travelled to West Leeds on Saturday after a week of some disruption due to injuries, but managed to return with a draw.
Centre Cuthbert was unavailable due to a broken hand sustained against Cleckheaton, Ord and Gray bad hamstrings, and second row Gray missing with concussion. Atkinson and Todd stepped up onto the wings, with Moralee at scrum half, and Gothorp starting in the second row, making room for Davies on the flank.
The pitch, rather wet and soggy, was always going to mean Alnwick’s preferred style of running rugby was going to be difficult to play, and so it proved.
After withstanding heavy West Leeds pressure in the opening minutes C. Burn had the first real chance of the game, but when chasing his own kick through wasn’t able to get a good connection on the ball and the home side cleared. Alnwick did win a penalty which number 8 Bird kicked for 0-3 on 10 minutes.
The game become one of a battle for territory and looking to force a mistake to make ground. Kicks from both Moralee and Burn in the first quarter were well executed but unfortunately Alnwick could not make their opponents pay.
A great break from Burn through the centre was thwarted only by an excellent covering tackle from Leeds fullback Breakwell.
Leeds forced a couple of penalties and kicked deep into their visitors’ 22, and after a couple of collapsed mauls, Alnwick’s Clayton was yellow carded on 25 minutes and eventually the pressure told.
Despite being unable to break down the resolute defence facing them for the majority of this period, the home side eventually forced their way over from another driving maul, and Breakwell made it 7-3 to the home side at half time.
Clayton returned to the fray in the second row with Gothorp shuffling back for the now-injured Davies. Testament to the front row of Philips, Green and Smith, Alnwick’s scrum was now gaining the upper hand against a much heavier pack, and around the park Young, Bird and Courty were also contributing a mammoth defensive effort.
Early in the second period Moralee sniped through around the breakdown and threw a long pass to Todd on the left wing. Perhaps daunted by his opposite man, an ex-Super League regular, he kicked through for Burn to chase, but agonisingly the ball beat him to the line for a 22 dropout.
Next Warcup made a good break, again looking for Todd out wide. When Leeds knocked on in their scramble defence, Alnwick set another excellent scrum marching forwards. From here they made ground to the right through the forwards and then spun it quickly left, Hutchinson throwing the final pass for J Burn to score wide, his first involvement in a tense and tactical affair. Bird had a very tough conversion but executed it perfectly from the touchline for 7 - 10.
West Leeds came back at Alnwick, who for the third time in the game successfully defended for 25-plus phases; unfortunately the referee was about the only man in the ground who missed a knock on, instead awarding West Leeds a penalty in front of the posts for an unknown misdemeanour, Breakwell was only too happy to even the score at 10 - 10.
From this point Alnwick again got on the front foot, excellent carries from Gothorp off an attacking scrum as well as the rest of the pack made it seem as though they would soon be rewarded. Moralee was very harshly adjudged to have knocked on at the base of the ruck, however, and Leeds had to defend a scrum under their own posts last play.
It is credit to this Alnwick side’s fitness and mentality that they were able to drive the West Leeds pack backwards as quickly as they did. With props going down, flankers leaving early and number eight Salter collapsing onto the ball with little intention of playing it, there was any number of things that should have brought the reward of what would surely be he winning penalty; however, to the surprise of supporters of both sides, it simply never came, and the referee’s final whistle brought the game to a drawn conclusion.
Alnwick can be very proud of their display and encouraged at their performance away from home, in poor conditions and with a much-changed team.
Next week another challenging game at Huddersfield YMCA is on the cards - and a first ever league victory over them required, if they are to maintain a good chase on the sides above them.
Alnwick: Smith, Green, Clayton, Young, Gothorp, Courty, Davies, Bird, Moralee, Warcup, Atkinson, Hutchinson, Burn, Todd, Smales. Subs: Philips, Burn.