Alnwick emerge on top in close encounter

Alnwick RUFC U15...22 Novocastrians U15...19

ON a perfect day for rugby, home side Alnwick U15s took to the pitch to face the Novocastrian squad.

The Alnwick team knew it was going to be a close encounter as the away fixture was a closely-fought battle. And on this occasion, due to injury and county commitments, the squad was down to a core and the players would all face a full term on the field without substitutes.

The Alnwick squad was firing on all cylinders from the kick-off, with forwards mauling and rucking the ball well and the backs driving it into the Novos 22.

A succession of attacks into the Novos 22 were strongly defended, leading to a number of Novos long defensive kicks into Alnwick half.

From a line-out just inside the Alnwick 10-metre mark, the ball was taken in the air by Scott Harvey and smuggled by Danny Sinton and Mathew Ginger to scrum-half Alex Robson, who fired it out to fly-half Tom Pattinson.

Pattinson evaded the attentions of the Novos fly-half and inside-centre, then popped it to Ben Courty whose rapid acceleration left the first tackler grasping for his shadow. He handed off the attention of the Novos wing-man. It was then a race from half-way to the touch-line, with only the Novos full-back with any chance of preventing Courty from scoring.

The two met 10 metres from the Novos line but Courty was at full pace and the Novos full-back’s attention only slowed his progress to the line. Courty took the kick for the conversion.

The support and persistence of the Alnwick forwards rewarded them with a scrum just outside the Novos 22.

As the ball came back in the scrum, Scott Harvey, captain, playing number eight, picked up the ball and, seeing the line, drove hard through the Novos flankers’ and scrum-half’s attempts to stop him.

Novos’ fly-half and full-back came across to stop Harvey getting to the line but the power and angle of the Alnwick player moved them aside and he went over the try-line diving horizontally.

Novos reacted with an excellently worked back move with their fast wingman clearing the line, making his way over the line and under the post. Novos converted the try.

Just inside their half, Novos pressed the attack and the ball went to their blisteringly fast wing-man with space down the line in which to accelerate.

Supporters on both sides thought he was away free and a try was inevitable. But as he went over the Alnwick 10-metre line, the hosts’ own speedster, Alex Sweeney, was inbound and outstripping the Novos player with every stride.

Sweeney caught up with the surprised Novos wing-man and took him to ground with a solid tackle.

The ball was retrieved by the supporting Alnwick forwards and fed through Pattinson, who accelerated up the park and passed it to Courty. Seeing a large gap in the Novos defence, Courty sent a long probing kick into their 22.

The Novos full-back raced across the pitch to secure the ball but it was running and bouncing quickly towards his try-line. At the same time, Alnwick second-row Tom Curry was flying down the pitch in pursuit.

The ball went over the try-line with the Novos player struggling to reach it, but Curry was approaching with missile speed and aligned with the ball and, with an inspired dive, he placed his hand on the ball, only one bounce from being out. It was a fantastic try and a solid reward for the support work he provided throughout the game.

The last Alnwick try went to Brad Samson. The ball was just outside the Novos 22 and Samson picked it up, put his shoulders down and drove for the line. From the reporter’s side of the pitch, it looked like a game of skittles with Novos players bouncing off the charging Samson, however, he was taken to ground just a metre away from the try-line and, with an outstretched arm, he placed the ball over the line for a well-deserved try.

The latter part of the second half saw the Alnwick players defending strongly as the fatigue of playing without substitutes and the physicality of the game started to show.

Novos scored two further tries, converted one and were pressing right up to the whistle.

There were many individual inspired plays during this period to relieve pressure and defend the line.

The back-row of Scott Matthews on Callum Milling and Scott Harvey made life hard for the Novos back-line. Wing-men Alex Sweeney and Aiden Reed dug in deep to defend the Novos main threat.

When Alnwick were being pressed into their 22, hooker Toby McWilliams seized the ball, drove forward, hit two much larger Novos forwards trying to stop his advance and then pushed them back a further seven metres before going to ground and recycling the ball for his supporting forwards.

The irrepressible Harry Ash, making his debut at full-back, played a superb game and made significant yardage joining the line occasionally. Alnwick’s props and power houses Mathew Ginger and Danny Sinton delivered solid tackling and forward momentum at critical times.

It was a close game with Novos dominating the attack in the latter stages of the second half. But Alnwick finished the game, having given it their all, with a well deserved win.

Ben Courty 1T 1C ,Scott Harvey Capt 1T ,Tom Curry 1T, Brad Samson 1T.