Alnwick quick off the mark to shock Sunderland

DURHAM & NORTHUMBERLAND DIVISION ONE

Alnwick...34 Sunderland...19

ALNWICK stunned visitors Sunderland on Saturday, racing into an early lead, capitalising on errors with three first-half tries to hold a 19-5 advantage at the break.

And they never looked back. Alnwick’s points came from tries from Nick Mather, Frank Hutchinson, Andy Shell and a brace for Ian Gray, goal points being added through James Bird (one) and Toby Davidson (two), and one penalty.

In the early skirmishes, Alnwick forced their way into the Sunderland 22 and from a line-out Ed Shell made a powerful break. In came forward support, only for Alnwick to concede a penalty. The Sunderland clearance was poorly directed, failed to make touch and was seized on by Andy Shell who brought the ball across midfield.

Good scrum possession was taken on by Peter Brown, who linked up with Ed Shell, back inside to Bird and out for Andy Shell to find Mather, who went through for the opening try, goal points being added by Bird (7-0).

Sunderland struck back quickly, both centres worked a miss-pass move that saw Littlewood’s angled run take him over wide out for an conversion try (7-5).

Alnwick clobbered the Sunderland challenge for the restart ball and took the scrum following a knock-on. Out went the ball sharply across the three-quarters to Graeme Potts who made ground up the touch-line, bringing the ball back for Frank Hutchinson to go over for an unconverted try (12-5).

Some loose play from the Sunderland forwards saw Andy Shell kick the ball deep, racing through with a clear lead over the Sunderland defenders, right up to the try-line only to knock the ball forward just as a try was imminent.

Alnwick made a change, with Toby Davidson replacing Bird at full-back. He was soon in action after the three-quarters made ground. Ian Gray was up to streak over for the final try before half-time. Toby Davidson goaled with a well-judged kick (19-5).

Alnwick caught Sunderland cold from the restart, a sharp run by Ian Gray linked up with James Cowan and Dan Stewart, who passed back for Ian Gray to romp over for his second try. The conversion was missed (24-5).

Sunderland were stung and mounted a series of aggressive plays by the forwards that forced Alnwick deep into their 22 area. A forward change was made when Aaron Armstrong was replaced by Dave Whitehead.

Sunderland drove for the try-line from a series of pick-and-drives that finally resulted in Harrison forcing his way over for a well-worked try, Littlewood adding the conversion (24-12).

Alnwick then drifted away from their tight play and this resulted in Sunderland gaining 60 metres from a quickly-taken tap-penalty. The ball was swept out to winger Henry, whose pace took him through before being hauled down near the corner flagHe3 popped up the ball for the supporting Littlewood to go through for a try and goal points (24-19).

These two quick scores shook Alnwick, who settled back into tight forward play to work the ball back into the Sunderland half. A sharp move by Andy Shell, Cowan and Gordon Smith punched a hole in the visitors’ defence.

Sunderland were penalised for illegally stopping Alnwick’s advance and Davidson punished them with a successful penalty (27-19).

Alnwick had no problem with dealing with some rather loose kicking, any ground that Sunderland made was returned with interest.

Finally, Alnwick broke away following a Sunderland hack through. The ball was picked off by prop Bob Boothman, who slipped it to Andy Shell. A typically mazy run saw him streak through a tired Sunderland defence, to go over for a touchdown, converted by Toby Davidson right on time (34-19).

Alnwick: J Bird, A Shell, Ed Shell, F Hutchinson, G Potts, N Mather, I Gray, D Hamblin, J Cowan, R Boothman, A Armstrong, A Alexander, G Smith, D Stewart, P Brown, D Whitehead, T Davidson.

Saturday’s league match is at Medicals, kick-off 2.15pm.