Alnwick made to work hard for their victory over Cleckheaton

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Cleckheaton 15-23 Alnwick RFC

Alnwick made the long trip south to Cleckheaton on Saturday looking to continue their good league form against a side relegated from National Three North last season.

The game kicked off with the home side retaining good possession and looking dangerous when in behind the Alnwick defence, which they were allowed rather too frequently after a number of uncharacteristic missed tackles.

Alnwick scrambled very well though and after turning the ball over, a great break from centre Cuthbert down the left wing was turned into the opening try of the match.

Hutchinson ran a good support line taking the ball deep into the 22 and passed to Davies, who unselfishly put Hamish Burn into the corner, Bird missing the conversion (0-5).

From this point on Alnwick took control of the game, a combination of great open-play kicking from Warcup, which consistently pinned back their opposition, and forward dominance in the scrum and line out brought a number of penalties.

Bird kicked two of these from challenging positions to establish an 11-0 lead before a long range reply from Cleckheaton’s fly half Swetman (3-11).

After half time Cleckheaton fought their way back into the game, keeping Alnwick deep in their half for long periods. Now able to successfully secure their own line out ball a driving maul took the Yorkshireman to within 5m of the Alnwick line, Swetman threw a dummy and strolled under the posts for a converted try (10-11).

Now on top Cleck’s backs were causing Alnwick problems in the three quarters. From a scrum on the 22 the ball was passed out to Haywood, in from the opposite wing, who was too quick for the cover and scored in the corner (15-11). Swetman missed the conversion but for the first time the home side had the lead with 12 minutes to go.

Alnwick have been made of stern stuff in recent years and they lived up to that reputation here also. From a good kick chase they forced a scrum in the Cleckheaton 22 which ever-improving number 8 Courty picked from the base. Stepping inside the openside flanker he drew in two defenders and offloaded well to fellow back row Gray who went through untouched. Bird missed the conversion but Alnwick now had something to hang on to (15-16).

From the restart an excellent box kick from substitute J Burn was well chased down and winger Haywood turned over in the ruck. With little cover in behind Burn kicked once more which was very well collected by Moralee down the right wing.

The ball was quickly recycled and put through the hands for opposite wing C. Burn to touch down, with Bird adding the extras to round off a very good away victory (15-23).

* Both the 2nd and 3rd XV’s had excellent home wins also against Gateshead.

*This Saturday Alnwick host neighbours Morpeth in the semi -final of the County Cup.

When the two teams met earlier in the season at Greensfield the score was 16 all. This also promises to be a close and exciting game.

Alnwick: D Smith, H Burn, C Phillips, J Young, O Sutheran, M Gray, C Davies, B Courty, S Ord, J Warcup, C Burn, F Hutchinson, R Cuthbert, P Moralee, J Bird. Subs: J Grey, G Smith, J Burn.