Alnwick 39-19 Bridlington
Alnwick held their first home game of the new year on Saturday, hosting fellow high flyers Bridlington in an entertaining match played in good conditions for running rugby.
Before the game a minute’s silence was held to remember club stalwart John Smith, a member of Alnwick’s 1984 cup-winning side.
Three changes to the side saw the return of C Burn at full back, after some overseas ploughing activities, Moralee shifted to wing for the injured Mallaburn with Ord starting at scrum-half, and in the pack open-side flanker Hamilton started his first game of the season in place of Fox. Ever-young Gordon Smith came onto the bench.
Bridlington made an early break straight from the kick off after a poor chase, but in truth that was as good as their first half got, until the closing minutes of it. From an attacking lineout Ord broke through and was high tackled, allowing number eight Bird to slot three points (3-0).
From the restart another Bridlington high tackle saw tighthead prop Nepia yellow-carded; Warcup kicked the ball to touch for another attacking lineout. Good carries up the middle from Bird and Hutchinson created acres of space outside, allowing Warcup to kick cross-field, Callum Burn just beating Moralee to the whitewash to touch down in the corner, expertly converted again (10-0).
Not long after the restart, a great break from J. Burn almost saw him get away, but Bridlington scrambled well and managed to usher him into touch. Winning their own lineout 5m out, the visitors kicked clear, but only found C. Burn in the middle of the field; he threw a long pass out to Moralee on the right wing, who skipped around his man and beat the covering defence up the touchline to score an unconverted try in the corner (15-0).
With the Alnwick back three looking ever more threating, only referee Handa’s whistle halted another try when the Burn brother’s combined - Jonny’s pass marginally forward when Callum was in again. However, Alnwick didn’t wait long for their third try; after some excellent tactical kicking, the ball was turned over in the Bridlington 22 and after a number of phases, Clayton continued his rich vein of try-scoring form, trundling in from eight yards out to score. Bird converted for 22-0.
Only now did Bridlington manage to get hands on the ball and control possession for a number of phases. A couple of indisciplines from the Alnwick forwards meant they were able to kick deep into the twenty-two for attacking lineouts.
The home pack did well to repel the driving maul on a couple of occasions but eventually a quick tap penalty broke the home defence as Burrows scored in the corner, converted by Mellonby (22-7).
From the restart good pressure on the catcher from second rows Grey and Young saw Alnwick win back possession at a scrum in the Bridlington half. Quick ball from Ord out to Warcup and wing J. Burn, in-field looking for work, enabled full back Callum to ghost through a gap after an unfortunately-timed slip in the home defense, and beat the cover to score wide on the right. Bird converted and Alnwick had a bonus point secured by half time (29-7).
On at half time came Philips for Clayton in the front row, with the opening period of the second half continuing as much of the first had gone. A great break from Bird out of the Alnwick twenty-two, linked with Courty in support and on to the rampaging Hamilton; a long ball out to J. Burn on the left wing looked to be the try-scoring pass, but great defence saw Burn again bundled into touch 5m from the line.
Putting real pressure on the Bridlington lineout, Alnwick secured their own throw in not far outside the twenty-two; again hooker Green hit his man and a good driving maul was established. When it looked as though the forwards would keep the ball and score out wide, it was quickly moved to Hutchinson who smashed through the midfield and deftly offloaded to full back Burn, under the posts to complete his hat-trick. Bird converted for 36-7.
From this point on the game seemed to become somewhat broken up, marred by the concession of a series of penalties by the home side. After two in as many minutes for a late tackle and then deliberate knock on, centre Cuthbert was yellow carded on 55 minutes. Gothorp came on for Courty in the back row, but couldn’t prevent Bridlington taking advantage of their extra man, utilising the cross field kick to score out wide, unconverted (36-12).
From a long re-start and breakdown, Philips was harshly adjudged to have made a high tackle, and followed Cuthbert to the sin bin on 60 minutes. Now down to thirteen players, Alnwick were under pressure from a buoyant Bridlington side, who made good inroads into the attacking half. Only good kicking from Warcup, both Burns and Moralee relieved this pressure and it was fortunate that a Bridlington infringement for crossing brought them possession back up the field.
Another successful lineout and sustained pressure in the Bridlington twenty-two saw a penalty awarded right in front of the posts, which Alnwick opted to kick at goal, both extending the lead and using up sin-bin time. Cuthbert returned on 65 minutes, the score at 39-12.
Tackle machine Gordon Smith replaced the hard-working Grey after another positive performance from the lock, Gothorp moving into the second row. Before Philips returned however Bridlingotn were to have one further foray into the Alnwick twenty-two, using their heavier pack to execute a good driving maul and score at the second attempt (39-19).
Back to 15 Alnwick again wrestled control of the game from their visitors, but could not add to the score line despite further efforts before the referees’ final whistle. A good victory for the Blue & Gold, who travel to Driffield in yet another top-of-the-table clash this weekend.
Alnwick: D. Smith, Green, Clayton, Young, Grey, Courty, Hamilton, Bird, Ord, Warcup, J. Burn, Hutchinson, Cuthbert, Moralee, C. Burn. Subs: Philips, Gothorp, G. Smith.
* Saturday’s match was kindly sponsored by Carlsberg.