Alnwick just one point away from league championship

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Alnwick RFC 76-7 Percy Park

Alnwick welcomed northern neighbours Percy Park to Greensfield on Saturday looking to go unbeaten at home at this level for the first time in the clubs’ history, and more importantly take another step towards the North One East league title.

The Tynemouth team emerged with a changed side from the first league encounter, only a few weeks ago, and with what looked a much-bolstered pack. Alnwick made a couple of changes from their side which lost at Malton last week; Sutheran replacing the injured Gray in the engine room, Ellis in for the injured Bird at number eight, Hutchinson at inside centre and Smales to full back with birthday boy Callum Burn switched to wing; Atkinson unfortunate to miss out.

Knowing a bonus point victory gave them a chance to secure the league title if other results went their way, Alnwick set about hungry and eager to get on the scoreboard. The opening scrum set the tone for the afternoon, Alnwick’s eight bulldozing their visitors off their own ball and mounting a dangerous attack.

The opening score came after just five minutes when stand-out centre Cuthbert broke the line and gave Hutchinson an angled run to the corner. Warcup, on kicking duties couldn’t convert, but would get many more opportunities (5-0).

The next try belonged to flanker Hamilton, who showed excellent power to pick up from a ruck 15 metres out and break two tackles to score a converted try near the posts (12-0).

After another excellent scrummage platform in the Park twenty-two, Cuthbert half broke the line and put Smales in for a short-range effort, again converted, (19-0) and not a quarter of the game had passed before Alnwick had the bonus point try they sought. This time, after a number of phases and stretching of the away defence across the field, it was Moralee who touched down from a ruck on the line after excellent carries from Smith, Young, Philips, and Hutchinson. Again Warcup added the extras (26-0).

Percy Park got their only score of the game after this, taking advantage of a narrow Alnwick defence. This try was converted for 26-7 but would be virtually the end of their threat to the home side’s line for the day.

Alnwick’s lineout takes credit for the next score, an accurate throw enabled a sound platform for hooker Green to emerge with the ball at the back and collapse over the line for his second try in two Greensfield outings (31-7). It can also take some credit for the final Alnwick try of the half, although in truth soft tackling on Cuthbert in midfield allowed him to crash through on first phase, drawing the full back to put J. Burn in; his score well converted by Warcup.

With the score 38-7 at half time, Alnwick aimed to keep the scores coming on their final outing in front of their excellent home crowd.

In the engine room, Young, Alnwick’s own “Big Red Bus” did not stop to check any tickets as he raced clear from the 10m line. With the winger coming across he timed the pass perfectly to veteran Ellis who beat the final defender to score near the posts, again converted (45-7).

Park did their best to mount attacks but the Alnwick defence was rarely stretched, and when a ball was kicked loosely through to Callum Burn the home side capitalised again. Blackett carried well and offloaded to Hamilton who burst up the middle with support inside. He couldn’t get the ball away but Moralee picked up from the tackle and beat everyone to the line for 50-7.

Sutheran dominated the restart and Burn caught an excellent kick from Moralee on the full, getting Alnwick in behind the defence again. Quick ball meant Percy Park didn’t have time to re-group and Smales popped up in the corner after slick handing in the backs (55-7).

More promising play from Percy Park ended with a knock on in Alnwick’s twenty two and another excellent scrum, coupled with the pace of Moralee, Smales & Burn saw the latter break clear and give Courty a gentle jog to the line from 30 metres out – something which the young pack leader fully embraced; Warcup converted (62-7).

Another rolling maul from the lineout brought the next score. Won in the air by Sutheran and controlled at the back by Philips, Alnwick marched Percy Park a staggering distance upfield, then released the ball for the backs; a lovely pass from Warcup put Callum Burn into space and he raced away for a very-well deserved try on the day he celebrated his 21st birthday. Warcup added the extras for 69-7.

The final score of the day came when after a strong run from Mallaburn. Flanker Hamilton carried a short pass close to the ruck and beat off two tacklers as he raced clear. Drawing the full back he put captain Moralee in for his hat-trick, ensuring the 38 points amassed in the first half were duplicated in the second,

A resounding victory and one that was never in doubt from the early stages, Alnwick now have a very different task when they travel to Morpeth next week, looking to retain the Brett Horse Trophy for an eighth consecutive game, and collect the solitary point needed to be crowned Champions of North One East.