POWERGEN NORTH DIVISION TWO PLAY-OFF Alnwick 25 Pontefract 18
ALNWICK sealed promotion back to North 2 Division East with a stunning comeback victory over Pontefract in a tough end of season play-off.
The runners-up in the Durham and Northumberland League 1 and Yorkshire League 1 went head to head at Greensfield on Saturday afternoon, where the home side clinched an instant return to the higher league following last season's relegation.
A vociferous crowd turned out to see Alnwick claw back a 10-18 deficit to claim a thrilling 25-18 victory, Alan Moses' late 40-yard drop goal and a last gasp try from Jon Snaith condemning the visitors to another season in the Yorkshire league.
Firm going and sunshine made for a perfect stage.
The Yorkshire outfit started off with a bang, using the wind to their advantage. Their outside half Dean fired away long touch finders to keep pushing the home side back.
A penalty lineout was followed by a scrum, Pontefract won the ball and caught Alnwick offisde. Dean's kick hit the post.
A hint of obstruction by the Pontefract centres checked Alnwick's defence and out went the ball to winger Spears who just made the touchdown to put the visitors 5-0 ahead.
Following the restart, both sets of backs got involved in some sloppy ping-pong kicking before Fletcher misjudged the strength of the wind and kicked the ball dead.
Pontefract won the restart ball and Alnwick's defence went over offside, giving Dean the easiest of penalty kicks to make the score 8-0.
Alnwick fought back hard with a surging maul, Manners put in a neat chip for Ian Gray to follow up and drive Oates into touch.
A lineout knock-on gave Pontefract a scrum. The ball went out to Fletcher then Williamson who put in a long clearance.
The ball was returned at pace by Moses, but he ran out of support. The visitors' back row came up offside preventing Alnwick from working the ball out.
From the lineout and forward drive Alnwick made ground, a chip kick ahead went dead but the Pontefract drop out was charged down by Currie.
In swarmed the forwards, David Smith linked with Malherbe then Archer to Currie. Pontefract killed the ball, but were penalised, Moses goaling the penalty to put Alnwick onto the board, making the score 8-3.
Pontrefract crashed back, good scrummaging was giving them a great attacking platform. A scrum on the Alnwick put-in gave the visitors a chance. Out went the ball left field before Dykes changed the angle of attack, throwing a long pass out to the right wing, back inside with the ball being juggled around before Watson stretched for the tryline to get the touchdown at the corner flag.
Dean's conversion was a beauty to push Pontefract further ahead, 15-3.
Alnwick struck back from the restart, Currie made a break followed by Kirkup. A flicked short pass to Scott saw him go over for a try at the posts – Moses goaling as the first half ended 10-18.
Alnwick pushed hard as the second half opened, They had a great chance from a penalty lineout only for the ball to go loose on the Pontefract side where it was safely kicked back to the centre line.
Spears made a break up the short side when Pontefract moved the ball out, making ground but being halted. Alnwick gave away a penalty that Dean knocked home to increase the Pontefract lead to 18-10.
Alnwick made a change with Doug Gray coming on for Archer. Play was fast and furious and a chip through from Manners had full back Willaimson in trouble.
Alnwick's pack drove to the line but was held. Another lineout, another drive – this was held up but Pontefract had to give ground back to their tryline where Manners wriggled and fought his way over for a try in the corner.
A great conversion from Moses brought the sides to a single point difference at 18-17.
Armstrong was replaced by veteran prop Micky Hall with 20 minutes to go.
Pontefract thereatened strongly – a crosskick by Dean looked good but Spears was well offside. Moses kicked deep for a penalty lineout on the Pontefract 22. The ball went too long and was gratefully taken by Vaughan who made a sharp break.
A penalty attempt from Moses drifted across the face of the posts but from the drop out Alnwick's forwards powered through, passing the ball back to Manners.
He kicked through but into touch. Wilson robbed Williams at the lineout, a Currie charge with Kirkup's support then saw the forwards rumble forward to give Manners good ball.
A swift pass to Moses saw him drill over a 40 metre drop goal to put Alnwick ahead for the first time in the match, at 20-18.
Scott pumped the restart dropout into touch. At the lineout Currie gave and demanded from the forwards more and more effort.
With only a score separating the teams, the pace grew frenetic. Alnwick were on a roll, Pontefract looked shattered as they fought to hold back wave after wave of attack.
Currie robbed Williams of a lineout ball, a long kick through from Scott put Alnwick into the driving seat with the forwards smashing their way and hammering back the Pontefract backs.
Manners put in a chip over with Snaith finishing off this purple patch of play when he dived over for a try which made the score 25-18. Moses goal attempt hit the post.
Pontefract were totally unmanned by that stage - so much so that the restart dropout went straight into touch giving Alnwick the centre scrum.
The ball went to Moses and a thirty metre rolling kick pushed Pontefract back to their 22 line. Allen made a half break, Currie put in a drive from the loose ball with the match ending with Alnwick now thoroughly outplaying Pontefract in all departments.
Alnwick have had a tough season and deserve congratulations for winning promotion. But next year, back in North 2 East, promises to be even harder.
Team: A Moses, J Snaith, T Kirkup, A Gray, I Gray, C Scott, S Manners, Aa Armstrong, S Allen, E Cripps, M Currie, P Wilson, D Smith, A Malherbe, S Archer, J Turner, M Hall, D Gray.