Durham & Northumberland Division One
ALNWICK came out on top in this battle between the fourth and fifth-placed teams in the league.
After absorbing early Acklam pressure, Alnwick were forced back into their 22 area and penalised for driving early at a scrum. The Acklam outside-half goaled to put the home team into the lead (3-0).
Alnwick powered back through Ali Gray and Peter Brown. Up came the pack to drive play to the Acklam five metre line. Two probing breaks were halted, the last being adjudged high and James Bird brought the score level with a successful penalty (3-3).
Alnwick were working quick ball out along their three-quarters, Ed Shell broke wide early but run out of room at the touch-line.
They continued to drive forward with the ball being worked out to Ali Gray, whose sizzling run took him well into the home 22 area. Desperate tackling held him back and, with Acklam driving in from an offside position, the penalty was goaled by Bird to ease Alnwick into the lead (3-6).
From the restart, the Alnwick three-quarters swept play from one wing to the other and a mazy run by Bird saw the full-back halted short of the try-line.
Alnwick won scrum ball. Brown drove away from the pack to link with Ian Gray and Andy Shell, whose pace took him through the Acklam cover to touch down at the posts for a converted try to end the half with Alnwick secured firmly in the driving seat (3-13).
Acklam made a number of changes in the pack and this showed, for in the opening minutes the forwards battered their way to the Alnwick five-metre line and were awarded a penalty. A quick tap and pass out to the wing saw him crash over for a try in the corner (8-13).
Stung by this, Alnwick swept back through a pounding run by Ed Shell. Great support from the forwards drove the Acklam pack off the ball, forcing a home flanker offside for an easy penalty.Bird added the goal points. (8-16).
Alnwick made a change in the back row with Campbell Blakey replacing Dan Stewart.
The visitors pushed their way to the centre line through some angled kicks from Nick Mather. Another penalty line-out saw Alnwick up to the Acklam 22 area, gaining scrum ball out into the backs. Bird came through at pace to take a short pass to race over for a converted try under the posts (8-23).
Acklam took advantage of a penalty line-out inside the Alnwick 22.
Alnwick defended strongly but lost Bell to a yellow card and a 10-minute penalty for pulling down the scrum.
Acklam powered their way to the Alnwick try-line and lost the ball to give the visitors scrum ball on the five line. The forwards held firm, Harry Sordy raked the ball back to Ian Gray then Mather, and out to Ed Shell on their own try-line. They were living a bit dangerously but it worked superbly.
Shell broke up the touch-line and kicked ahead when challenged. The forwards streamed at an outnumbered defence and popped up the ball for Bob Bootham to crash over for an unconverted try (8-28).
Alnwick brought on Graeme Potts to replace Ed Shell and Charlie Davies for Bell. Their defence was well marshalled and snuffing out any attacks that Acklam tried to develop.
The back row were on top form particularly round the maul and ruck.
Alnwick won good ball back for Bird to come through at pace. His pass to Andy Shell, though, was too quick and bounced away. But with Alnwick spinning the ball wide at pace, the wings were drawing a rapidly-tiring defence wide. A cracking move saw forwards and backs combine to send Ali Gray streaking through an opening to leave any Acklam cover totally flat-footed for a touch-down at the posts, which was converted.
Acklam by now were shattered and it was on the cards that Alnwick would go over for another try.
It came after Aaron Armstrong broke away, out went the ball to Graeme Potts who powered through for a touch-down, again at the posts, giving Bird yet another easy conversion for Alnwick to record another bonus-point win (8-42).
An excellent, whole-team effort.
Alnwick: J Bird, A Shell, A Gray, F Hutchinson, Ed Shell, N Mather, I Gray, D Hamblin, H Sordy, B Boothman, A Armstrong, AR Bell, G Smith, D Stewart, P Brown, G Potts, C Blakey, C Davies.
Saturday’s league match at Greensfield against Sunderland will kick off at 1.30pm.